I do a lot of driving. I do a lot of driving to places that I have never been before. And since my family and I have only been in Ocala for a little over seven months and since most roads in Ocala have four different names, I frequently require the help of maps. And in today's age we have this wonderful little device called a GPS that will pinpoint your location via satellite and tell you the best way to get where you are going...usually.
Sometimes, either because I missed a turn or because common sense tells me I cannot drive through a lake, I do not always follow the advice of my GPS. When that happens I can always count of the sweet voice of my satellite guide, “Please make a legal U-turn”. She will even give me several chances to make that legal U-turn. That is the nice thing about driving, if you make a navigational mistake you can make a U-turn. It is also the nice thing about serving the God we do because, He too allows for us to make U-turns.
A Call to Repent
The setting of our Scripture lesson this evening tells us that the people of Judah have turned away from God through complacency and self indulgence. Their priorities had shifted from worshiping God to worshiping themselves. Sin had become paramount in their lives and we can understand sin as that which separates us from God, ourselves, and those around us, we can see how the people of Judah were not in a very good situation. God was not happy with the people of Judah and was planning an invasion of locusts on the people as punishment.
The action of our story opens with the prophet Joel pleading with the people to change their ways, adjust their priorities, and save themselves. However, it is important for us to understand that Joel is only the messenger and these words, this pleading, is directly from God. Listen to what God says through Joel, “Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing” (Joel 2:12-13).
Joel focuses on God's attributes of being "slow to anger," "rich in kindness," and "relenting in punishment." But those attributes are not enough. The people must show some outward sign they are changing, they must pray, they must repent. They must go through a process of returning to God, shifting their priorities back to God, of making that U-Turn away from their mistakes and strive to earnestly get back on the right track.
Today we are beginning the season of Lent, a special period in the Christian year where we examine where we are spiritually. Are we as close to God as we should be, want to be, need to be? Does our actions and the life we lead truly and properly reflect Christ as our Lord and Savior?
As we go through Lent and remember the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, let us remember why those acts were necessary. Let us remember that these were all incredible acts of love and compassion on the part of our Triune God and that they were done so that we could be forever reconciled to our Creator. God allows for U-turns, is eager for us to make U-turns, and will always take us back with open arms, a loving heart, and a complete acceptance like we have never known. God is waiting...all you have to do is turn around!