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Spiritual Growth

A Rendezvous with God Part 2: Turning Our Hearts Inward

By Glory E. Dharmaraj

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 God is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing.
Who knows whether God will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind God,
a grain offering and a drink offering
for the Lord, your God?
Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sanctify a fast;
call a solemn assembly;
gather the people.
Sanctify the congregation;
assemble the aged;
gather the children,
even infants at the breast.
Let the bridgegroom leave his room,
and the bride her canopy.

Between the vestibule and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep.
Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord,
and do not make your heritage a mockery,
a byword among the nations.
Why should it be said among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”
Joel 2:12-17

Ash Wednesday is a call to empty ourselves and put our hearts out for the falling dew of God’s renewal. It is a gentle reminder to gather our different selves, integrate them in God’s presence, and wait for God to restore us to a primary relationship with God.

The Bible is a desperate love story of God urging God’s people saying:

“Return to me with all your heart. Be filled with the dew from above.”

The call to return to God is an appeal from the love-haunted heart of God. It is a Gospel demand. It is the sum and substance of the biblical understanding of repentance.

Repentance, in biblical understanding, is reconnecting with God by deepening our identity as children of God. It is personal and social. Rene Padilla, a contemporary theologian from Argentina, lifts up the personal and social dimensions of what he calls “repentance ethics,” which demand a new mentality and a reorientation. Mr. Padilla writes:

“It is the complete reorientation of life in the world…in response to the work of God in Jesus Christ.”

Create in me a clean heart O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take away your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit. Amen.
Psalm 51:10-12
*Glory E. Dharmaraj, Ph.D., is director of spiritual formation and mission theology for the Women’s Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.
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Last Updated: 04/08/2010

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