Consider the Trumpet Blown.
Without question one of the most special holy days for me is the Church’s observance of Ash Wednesday. Every year I go to a 7:30am service at an Episcopal Church. Every year the same Scriptures are read, the same prayers prayed, etc. We kneel at the same time, are silent at the same, receive the ashes at the same time, etc. The only thing that changes is the content of the brief message offered by the priest.
And I love it. The repetition, the tradition welcome me in to the season of Lent. If it were altered every year, I am not sure my body could be ushered into this time of reflection and repentance so gently nor so palatably. Changing it would be like undoing and redoing one’s whole set of Christmas traditions every year. Without that certain ornament, song, meal, etc., we would say, “It just isn’t Christmas.”
For the next few weeks, I plan to betray myself on this blog. Using the prayers for the Ash Wednesday service from the Book of Common Prayer as a staring point, I will be offering my own self-betraying confession and meditations on this solemn season of denial and repentance.
The part of the tradition that stuns and stills my soul every year is the reading from the prophet Joel, which begins like this:
"Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near…"
The prophet goes on to describe the reason for this trumpet blast. It is to call a “solemn assembly” and to “sanctify a fast.” The prophet is calling the whole nation to a grand, holy worship event. The theme is repentance. Hearts are to be torn before God. And this sacred gathering is so urgent that mothers are to stop nursing and grooms are to leave weddings. Nothing else matters but this time of confession.
In an age when every church has a praise team or a praise band or a praise & worship hour… where are the lament teams, the confession bands, the repentance hours?
I am writing to say that the trumpet has been blown in my own life. I need to betray my own security and pride. There are many schemes afoot about my future, my plans, my needs, my goals, my projects, etc. If I am to keep company with Joel, however, I must make this season of renewal priority one.
For that to happen, though, I must pray a prayer that appears in the BCP for this event: “Grant us true repentance.” You see, repentance is not something I can come to on my own that, once achieved, merits a response from God. Even the act of repentance is a gift of grace, an initiative of God. Only God can bring me to a place of true confession.
May I understand that no other sacrifice will be pleasing to God in this time other than a contrite heart.
May the trumpet be blown in my life that I may come to His holy mountain for a sacred fast.