Ash Wednesday: Psalm 103, Joel 2.1-17, 2 Corinthians 5.20-6.10, Matthew 6.1-21

from Lexi Carver

As I reflect on the apocalyptic scene in Joel 2—beautifully written and terrifyingly chaotic—and wonder what meaning and implications it has for Lent, I realize anew: in order to repent, we must recognize, and not bypass, our transgressions.

Joel describes an unstoppable, devouring army arriving on the heels of a (literal or metaphorical?) locust swarm that has ravaged the land. The nation is charged with sounding the warning (trumpet) call to move people to collective repentance, which comes with the promise of water returning to the parched land, of protection, renewal, and new life.

So says the JPS Bible Commentary*, “the leitmotif of disaster…is a day when the land’s bounty is laid waste and the lights of heaven go out. By contrast, God’s grace is a time of flowing water and healthy fields. The poles of death and life are starkly registered: the dependence of human life upon divine care for existence is manifest.”

Immense need lives alongside immense blessing. This scene illustrates to me the stakes of repentance before God and dependence on God. I am reminded that, as much as I try to convince myself otherwise, I am desperately in need of God’s love and forgiveness. (Then I wince as I think about what I may need to confess.) I see that to ignore our transgressions and our need for God is to go where destruction can find us—including destruction of our own making, burning up the good stuff in ourselves. The antidote to the self-destructive path, it seems, is confession and repentance. This Lent, let us be unafraid come forward to receive his promised forgiveness, woven into his promises of mercy, nourishment, and renewal. Let us believe, as Joel cries out, that he is gracious, merciful, and steadfast in his love, even in the midst of our disasters.

* Found from a reprint on https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/joel-misplaced-prophet-of-the-locust-plague/

I live in Cambridge with my husband Connor and our cat Billboard, who often makes sounds like a wild turkey.