March 1, 2017

AshWednesday

Ash Wednesday

A Sermon Preached by Rev. Ian Delinger

 

I remember at the 1996 Episcopal Youth Event, there was a great song called “Day of the Lord” (by Marc Chopinsky). Its chorus was “Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound it from the mountains; Blow a trumpet in Zion, for the day of the Lord is come.” The lyrics were straight from our reading from Joel. It was very upbeat, and all the kids loved it! The song was a cornerstone of the whole event. It illustrated how being and doing church didn’t have to be dull, boring and Victorian. But I didn’t know then what I know now.

 

The Day of the Lord is a warning, as are most proclamations of the prophets. One commentary describes this section of Joel as “The Lord at the head of his dreadful army”. It’s not pretty. It’s not a trumpet call to gather the city for a celebration. The Prophet is sounding a warning, the strongest warning yet. Enough of you have lived in the Midwest to know about the public tornado warning system. This is it! The trumpet is warning the people of the coming of God's wrath. The trumpet is the warning to evacuate, to take up arms or to gather in the Temple to pray for your life!!!

 

Lent is a time of reflection, for prayer, fasting and almsgiving. In previous centuries, the Wrath of God was something much more palpable than it is now. To stand in the pulpit and tell the congregation to pray for your life during Lent, for the Day of the Lord, the Wrath of God is near, and that they would be rewarded for pious prayer, fasting and almsgiving, would have driven many to focus their attention on Godly things rather than earthly things, as best they could.

 

Jesus also references the trumpet, but in a different way. Jesus is advocating private prayer, fasting and almsgiving, without any fanfare. Jesus, too, is calling the people to repentance and prayer. Joel is calling a people; Jesus is more focused on the spiritual life of the individual. Both are calling us to look heavenward. Joel is clear, and Jesus is suggesting to their audiences that their relationships with God are impaired, are troubled, are less than they could be.

 

All of us have triggers in our lives which remind us of why we need to pray and ask for repentance. These triggers are our trumpets that are calling us to turn to God, to restore, repair or deepen our relationships with God. These are trumpets that we should be listening to with the urgency that Joel expresses.

 

With Joel and Jesus side-by-side, we can see that the warnings are complementary. From Jesus, we are told that public displays of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are futile and unimportant, and that is because we learn from Joel that the Day of the Lord is upon us. Joel’s message is one of urgency because God is nigh; Jesus’ message is one of being with God.

 

Let your inner trumpets blow during Lent, reminding you to deepen your relationship with God. You do not need to then blow your own trumpet to let people know. What’s going on between you and God is between you and God. As we hear Joel’s trumpets blowing, and as we heed the call to restore our relationships with God, we find that the trumpets get quieter the more we work on that restoration of relationships. But we also discover at the end,

 

  • we discover when we turn the page in the Book of Joel,
  • we discover at the end of Lent, we discover at Easter,
  • we discover at the end of time,

that God has already restored
His relationship with Humanity.
He has done so through the
Death and Resurrection of
Jesus Christ.

This Lent, let your inner trumpet blow. It is your call to work on your relationship with God. And know that The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger and of great kindness. As a father cares for his children, so does the Lord care for you.

© 2017 St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
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