Based on Joel 2:12-13, 15-19
Ash Wednesday is considered the threshold into which we enter the season of Lent. The focus of Ash Wednesday and Lent appears to be the call to individual followers of Jesus to “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping and mourning.” We receive the ashen cross on our foreheads as a personal, visible reminder that without the cross of Christ, we are but dust and ashes. On the one hand, our journey through Lent is intensely personal, as you and I are called and encouraged to take stock of our lives, consider our sin and disobedience, availing ourselves of the opportunity, day by day, to “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love…”
At the same time, our reading from the prophet Joel reminds us that Ash Wednesday and Lent also have a “communal” or corporate dimension. Here we mean “corporate” as in “corpus” — of the body. The prophet begins by warning the people that because of their sin, there would be a time of judgement, their nation would be laid waste by a foreign power, God’s instrument of wrath against disobedience. It is clear, however, that there is both an individual and a corporate aspect to both their sin and their need for repentance. Individuals are called to “rend your hearts” and return to the Lord, yet a trumpet is sounded in Zion calling the whole people of God, sanctifying a fast, consecrating the whole body of God’s people, for repentance and restoration.
The word of the Lord, through Joel, makes it clear — sin and disobedience affect more than the individual. The sins of the one person bring consequences upon the third and fourth generation (Ex. 34:7). Sin within a congregation, a community, a denomination or a nation affects the whole, hence the need, at times, for corporate repentance and returning to the Lord, as well as individual. As we enter into the season of Lent, consider how you are stepping over the threshold of Ash Wednesday, not alone, but together, with the whole congregation, with your family, perhaps, and yes, with the whole Body of Christ on earth.
Prayer: Lord God, create in us new and honest hearts, so that we may obtain from you full pardon and forgiveness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lenten response: Ask a friend, family member or fellow church member to partner with you on your Lenten journey — offering each other support, encouragement and accountability.
This year’s devotional was prepared by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, NALC assistant to the bishop for ministry and ecumenism. To learn more about A Lenten Walk Through the Word, visit thenalc.org/lent.
Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
2:12 “Yet even now,” the Lord says,
“return to me with all your heart –
with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
13Tear your hearts,
not just your garments!”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to anger and boundless in loyal love – often relenting from calamitous punishment.
Perhaps he will be compassionate and grant a reprieve,
and leave blessing in his wake –
a meal offering and a drink offering for you to offer to the Lord your God!
15Blow the trumpet in Zion.
Announce a holy fast;
proclaim a sacred assembly!
16Gather the people;
sanctify an assembly!
Gather the elders;
gather the children and the nursing infants.
Let the bridegroom come out from his bedroom
and the bride from her private quarters.
17Let the priests, those who serve the Lord, weep
from the vestibule all the way back to the altar.
Let them say, “Have pity, O Lord, on your people;
please do not turn over your inheritance to be mocked,
to become a proverb among the nations.
Why should it be said among the peoples,
“Where is their God?”
18Then the Lord became zealous for his land;
he had compassion on his people.
19The Lord responded to his people,
“Look! I am about to restore your grain
as well as fresh wine and olive oil.
You will be fully satisfied.
I will never again make you an object of mockery among the nations.(NET Bible)
51:1 For the music director; a psalm of David, written when Nathan the prophet confronted him after David’s affair with Bathsheba.
Have mercy on me, O God, because of your loyal love!
Because of your great compassion, wipe away my rebellious acts!
2Wash away my wrongdoing!
Cleanse me of my sin!
3For I am aware of my rebellious acts;
I am forever conscious of my sin.
4Against you – you above all – I have sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
So you are just when you confront me;
you are right when you condemn me.
5Look, I was guilty of sin from birth,
a sinner the moment my mother conceived me.
6Look, you desire integrity in the inner man;
you want me to possess wisdom.
7Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be pure;
wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
8Grant me the ultimate joy of being forgiven!
May the bones you crushed rejoice!
9Hide your face from my sins!
Wipe away all my guilt!
10Create for me a pure heart, O God!
Renew a resolute spirit within me!
11Do not reject me!
Do not take your holy Spirit away from me!
12Let me again experience the joy of your deliverance!
Sustain me by giving me the desire to obey!
13Then I will teach rebels your merciful ways,
and sinners will turn to you.
14Rescue me from the guilt of murder, O God, the God who delivers me!
Then my tongue will shout for joy because of your righteousness.
15O Lord, give me the words!
Then my mouth will praise you.
16Certainly you do not want a sacrifice, or else I would offer it;
you do not desire a burnt sacrifice.
17The sacrifices God desires are a humble spirit –
O God, a humble and repentant heart you will not reject.
18Because you favor Zion, do what is good for her!
Fortify the walls of Jerusalem!
19Then you will accept the proper sacrifices, burnt sacrifices and whole offerings;
then bulls will be sacrificed on your altar.(NET Bible)
2 Cor. 5:20–6:10
5:20 Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making his plea through us. We plead with you on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God!” 21God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.
6:1 Now because we are fellow workers, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2For he says, “I heard you at the acceptable time, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” Look, now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation! 3We do not give anyone an occasion for taking an offense in anything, so that no fault may be found with our ministry. 4But as God’s servants, we have commended ourselves in every way, with great endurance, in persecutions, in difficulties, in distresses, 5in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots, in troubles, in sleepless nights, in hunger, 6by purity, by knowledge, by patience, by benevolence, by the Holy Spirit, by genuine love, 7by truthful teaching, by the power of God, with weapons of righteousness both for the right hand and for the left, 8through glory and dishonor, through slander and praise; regarded as impostors, and yet true; 9as unknown, and yet well-known; as dying and yet – see! – we continue to live; as those who are scourged and yet not executed; 10as sorrowful, but always rejoicing, as poor, but making many rich, as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.(NET Bible)
6:1 “Be careful not to display your righteousness merely to be seen by people. Otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven. 2Thus whenever you do charitable giving, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in synagogues and on streets so that people will praise them. I tell you the truth, they have their reward! 3But when you do your giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your gift may be in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
5 “Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward! 6But whenever you pray, go into your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you. (NET Bible)
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.
The disputation with Eck, 1519, especially led Luther even farther on this course. Now he also divorced himself from the authority of the Councils. When he denied their infallibility he advanced from their fallibility to the infallible Scripture as the sole decisive norm for everything that wanted to be accepted as divine truth, and thereby without more ado he identified Scripture and the Word of God. Thus in his Disputatio J. Eckii et Mart. Lutheri he applied the admonition of Paul, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good,” to the decrees of Popes and Councils and expressly said of them that they have erred, but that Holy Scripture is the inerrant Word of God (verbum Dei infallibile). (16)
–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures
This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.