In the Book of Joel, the prophet paints a vivid picture of the coming judgment of God, the Day of the Lord. The imagery is bold and terrifying: hordes of locusts swarming over the land and decimating everything. Joel’s prophecy has teeth even today as wars rage, natural disasters threaten and destroy, and our culture seems to be unraveling. But right in the middle of this frightening portent, we find a tender invitation from the Lord. “Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and He relents over disaster” (Joel 2:13).
God’s invitation and promise finds its fullness in Jesus Christ, who personifies and accomplishes all that God declares. During this season of Lent, we will consider the theme. “Return to the Lord” and examine how the call to return played out in practical ways for the people who walked alongside Christ as He demonstrated and carried out God’s grace and mercy on our behalf, taking God’s wrath upon Himself, setting the stage for God to “turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him” (Joel 2:14).
Ash Wednesday: “A Call to Return”
Wednesday of Lent 1: “Return to Prayer”
Wednesday of Lent 2: “Return from Betrayal”
Wednesday of Lent 3: “Return from False Witness”
Wednesday of Lent 4: “Return from Denial”
Wednesday of Lent 5: “Return to the Kingdom of God”
Holy (Maundy) Thursday: “Return to the Table”
Good Friday: “Return to Truth”
Easter Sunday: “Return and See. Return to the Church”
Each sermon in this series focuses on a particular event in the Passion, with a special focus on the people involved in the event. Studying the events and people helps to connect the hearers with their own sinful nature, to emphasize how we have turned away from the Lord, and to reinforce and rejoice in God’s call for us to return to Him with our heart.
The Hebrew word is “shoob” or “to turn back/return.” This was used first of Man because of his fall into sin in Genesis 3. Verse 19 Moses wrote,
“And to Adam God said, ‘By the sweat of your
face you shall eat bread, till you return to the
ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are
dust, and to dust you shall return.’”
We hear these words on Ash Wednesday in a day of repentance. That the Lord has never left his people but it is we who are need of return. A return from sin and death. And yet our sin is so great we are not able to. It is God who in Christ Jesus comes to us. He returns us to himself. We are to daily by the Holy Spirit put to death the works of the flesh and live by the Spirit. We are to pull, push, drag our “Old Adam” to Christ so that he may restore us by his forgiveness and mercy.
Lent is not a special season but a reminder what our daily life in repentance and faith is to be. Luther wrote in the 1st Theses of the 95 Theses, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent,” he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.”