Sermon: Ash Wednesday (OT)
The First Day of Lent
Title: Return to the Lord Your God (MP3 Audio)
Summary: God commands His people, “Return to the Lord your God (Joel 2:13)” — Yet He knows that we cannot do so through our own actions. As we confess in the Small Catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. (Explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed)” Yet if we do not return from our sins, we are doomed.
How do we solve this? We don’t! God does it for us — sending the Holy Spirit to call us by the Gospel, to forgive our sins and to create and sustain faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
When the Law crushes us and we realize our lost and condemned state, the Spirit holds the cross of Christ before us, reminding us that Jesus died for us and that all is right with God. How can we now be terrified of our Father in heaven? He sent His Son to die for us that we might live.
Though we might still tremble before God’s divine wrath, the Spirit calls, invites, coaxes, and woos us into the Lord’s presence. We find ourselves returning because God picks us up and returns us. Not our effort, but His plucks us out of Satan’s clutches, snatches us from the grave, and redeems us from the pit of hell.
Yes, He is “gracious and merciful.” We rejoice in the Son’s ransom and joyfully anticipate that Day when we will no longer need to be called to return to the Lord but will witness His glorious, bodily return to earth to take us to live with Him forever.
Text: “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
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. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God?
Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber.
Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep and say, “Spare your people, O Lord, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”
Then the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people. Joel 2:12-19
Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of Return to the Lord Your God.
NB: For some reason, a few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio if Windows Media is their default MP3 player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.
Other Readings: Psalm 51:1-13 (14-19); 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
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