In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Even now, even after everything you and I have done and left undone—even after broken commandments, broken families, broken promises—“‘Yet, even now,’ declares [Yahweh], ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments’” (Joel 2:12-13a, ESV). Even now, repent, turn away from your sin. Weep over your sin: weep out of the guilt from which you cannot free yourself; weep because death has taken those you love and death will take your breath, too, because your sin and my sin has death as its proper end. Mourn the lost chances, lost opportunities, lost gifts. “Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast” (Joel 2:15, ESV). Fast, if you will; remind yourself that you do not live by bread alone. Fast from everything to which you are addicted; fast from the things that sap your time and your energy, but give nothing but cheap entertainment in return. Fast from the junk we all consume in super-sized portions, but that damage our bodies and souls. Do we call these things life? Much of what makes up life is really the detritus on the road to death. And just so that we do not forget, we have ashes on our forehead. Ashes from the palms of the Triumphal Entry. Ashes from the palms of rejoicing. It is fitting to burn the palms of rejoicing to make the ashes of sorrow. There is no rejoicing unless sin is done away with. Unless sin is done away with, we are mere ash and dust, and our rejoicing is nothing but smoke in the wind.