Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Return to Me with Your Whole Heart

Yet even now—oracle of the LORD—return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God, For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment.  Joel 2:12-13

We are ambassadors for Christ as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake, he made him to be sin who did not know sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21

But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. Matthew 6:6

Father, we know that we are not here to do everything on our own.  Working together, with you and each other, may our words and work find favor in you.  “Behold now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 COR 6:2D)

If all of salvation history can be explained in one sentence, then a strong competitor would be this one: “Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people.”  I am sure there will be a spirited debate put forth by the John 3:16 crowd.  However, from Eden to Bethlehem, from Nazareth to Jerusalem, from Rome to Thessalonica, God was moved to help us out of pure, raw, human emotion. 

Whether that is pity or love, the question we must ponder every day – but especially over Lent – is what are we going to do about God’s love for us?  St. Paul, in the second reading, provides one suggestion.  St. Paul suggests that we should be ambassadors.  As Christ became our righteousness (1 Cor 1:30), we become God’s righteousness and carry that message out into the world.[i]

If we are to represent God to the world, let’s first make sure that our credentials are in order. For when a new ambassador first goes to a strange land, she or he first presents his portfolio to the others.  While the modern language may lead you to think that an ambassador is a diplomat with a fancy car, embassy office and more, the word comes from the Latin root “ambactus” for a servant. St. Paul is challenging us to consider ourselves servants of Christ.  That is, after all, one of the top titles of the Pope: (Latin: 'servus servorum Dei') Servant of the Servants of God.  How is that for a lesson in humility?

On this “Ask” Wednesday, how are you going to respond to your appointment?  What are you planning to do over Lent to act out your duties, Sir or Madam Ambassador as you represent God to the people of Virginia, or New Jersey, or North Carolina, or to whatever strange land you are sent?

Long after the ashes wear off your forehead, God’s “ask” remains. God wants us to be God’s own righteous representative asking all people to return as if they were the Prodigal offspring.  

[i] From the notes in the New American Bible.

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