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Sermon: Ash Wednesday

March 9, 2011

Sermon preached March 9, 2011 at St. Paul’s Church on-the-Hill, St. Paul, MN • Text: Joel 2:1-2,12-17


Are you hungry?

The people of Joel’s time were hungry. Overwhelmed by locusts and unprepared for the threat—or the promise—of the coming day of the Lord.

Did they listen to the words of the prophet? As I listened to Joel I was struck by one singular thought – They were overwhelmed but Joel never told them why. Joel never said – “You sinners!” He never told them that they brought this on themselves – He just said, “Repent!”


Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.

Lent is a time of returning. We are returning to Holy Week and Easter, and we are returning again to our ultimate reconciliation with God.
We gather to return, and we also gather to remember.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

It’s reminder of our own ephemeral nature.

To remember who we are,
and to remember who God is and what God has given.

Return and remember. Rend your hearts and not your clothes. Hunger for righteousness.

Are you hungry?

In Joel’s text – the people of Israel are called to return and remember.
To turn around, to repent – with your heart – rending your heart and not your garment.

And perhaps God will turn around and leave behind a grain offering and a drink offering.

True repentance – a complete turnaround – is a turn away from self, a turn to God – It’s more than just “I’m sorry” — It’s a break; a break with everything we knew before and leave it all behind. It is a turn to something pure, and good and holy.

Rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the LORD, your God, for God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Repent and remember the Good News.
That after repentance comes reconciliation:
restoration to harmony; renewal; removal of inconsistency; reunion; pacification; appeasement; propitiation; atonement; expiation.

Reconciliation means to change places with the other:
to walk in their shoes,
to laugh their laughter,
to weep their tears,
to hold their dreams and feel their joy.

What is the Good News?

That we are indeed reconciled to God, through Christ. Through repentance we are reconciled – and God turns around and leaves us a grain offering, a drink offering, a sacrifice.

In Joel, the locusts had consumed everything – they ate up all the grain, they consumed all the grapes. The people were hungry.

And we too are hungry. We are hungry for reconciliation.

How can WE offer a grain offering and a drink offering? How can we?
God has to offer the bread and the wine; the body and the blood.

God has to offer the sacrifice.

What do we have to offer? What is it that God wants?

Rend your hearts and not your clothes.

Are you hungry?

We will be receiving Holy Communion this morning. We will fill ourselves with the bread and slake our thirst with the cup. We will not leave hungry.

Today is a time of repentance. We will come forward and offer to God our repentance; we will offer to turn around.

Today is also a time of reconciliation. We will feel our spiritual hunger for right relationship—with God and with our fellow human beings. We will pray for God to overwhelm us with grace and love – and we will hunger for righteousness.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – for they will be filled.

Are you hungry?

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 24, 2011 8:42 pm

    Hello Father,

    I just wanted to let you know that since you sent me the email about this blog, I’ve been a regular reader.

    I have very much enjoyed the readings, especially during this time of Lent, which is very much a mystery to me.

    Please keep up the good work, and I look forward to seeing you soon.

    Yours in and through Jesus Christ,

    Richard Bonneville

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