“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. (Joel 2:12-13)
A few weeks ago (at the time of writing this) I traveled to my home town of Seattle, Washington, because my mother had died. This was a time of reflection, a time to think about my early years, and especially a time to remember my Mom. I returned home, I went back to my roots, I remembered where I came from and much of what made me the person I am today.
A Christian funeral or memorial service has two main themes running through it. One of those themes is sorrow. We come with our grief and mourning, because we see so vividly the power of sin and death. Those we love are no longer with us, and we miss them. We see how powerless we are to stop the advances of aging, diseases, and especially time.
However, a second and more powerful theme of a Christian memorial service is the theme of life and joy in the Messiah, Jesus! We may be powerless against sin and death, but Jesus isn’t! We may endure times of grief and separation, but the Lord Jesus will draw His people back to Himself on the last day! We may face death, but Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, and He will raise us from the dead also. Funerals call us back to the basics, back to the foundation of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
Lent has some similarities to this. Lent calls on us to return, to go back to the basics, as we see in the words from the prophet Joel above. God was calling on disobedient Israel to return to Him. Even though they had strayed far from him, it wasn’t too late to return to the Lord with all their hearts.
What about you? Have you strayed from God? Have you picked up some bad habits, or forgotten some good ones? Are you spending adequate time in prayer? When was the last time you fasted?
While Lent calls on us to return with mourning over our sin, there is much good news that comes out of the season of Lent. We are reminded that God is gracious and compassionate, that he is slow to anger and abounding in love. We are reminded during Lent that instead of punishing us for our sins, God punished His own Son.
Let’s return to the Lord together. Let’s mourn over sin, yes, but also rejoice in the compassion and love of the Savior.