by Bob Wickizer

Ash Wednesday
Rev. Bob Wickizer
Joel 2:1-2,12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-12; Psalm 103; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6,16-21

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. . . Only one other time in the life of a Christian besides Ash Wednesday do you hear these words. Of course if you are the one being buried, by the time the priest says these words it is too late for you to do anything about it. The prophet Joel announces to the city as if a battle is expected. ''Sound the trumpet'' that military instrument used to rouse the troops' spirits during battle. ''The Day of the Lord is coming near.'' We are to prepare for a battle with the most difficult enemy of all - us.

Joel encourages the people of Israel to return the Lord with all your heart. In the midst of many peoples, cultures and foreign influences Israel grew more and more like the cultures around her than the people of the covenant God had led out of Egypt. This steady erosion of Israel's faith and identity led the prophet Joel to conclude with a question, ''Why should other people [other nations] ask about Israel, 'Where is their God?''' - a question worth asking even today.

Is God to be found in a job, a building, a church, a lifestyle, a relationship or a car? If you believe the advertising messages around you, most of which try to associate ultimate human happiness with a job, building, lifestyle or car, you will find that we are not too different than the Israel of Joel's time. Christians have simply become too watered down living in our surrounding culture just like the Israelites of Joel's era.

In order to reassert their identity the Israelites return to the Lord with fasting, weeping and ...

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