Between the prophet Joel and Psalm 95 this morning, I find it impossible to resist the invitation I hear from the God who never gives up on us. Come, sings the psalmist, calling us to be in God’s presence. Come and bow in worship before the one who made us and guides us as a shepherd. And as if that were not enough, verse 8 pleads with us: Oh, that today you would hear God’s voice! Harden not your hearts…! It’s as if God is saying, “Yes, of course I know everything: the good, the bad and the ugly! Your past is totally open to me, but I can’t resist you, can’t let you go! Even in your darkest moments, I have loved you and you belong to me. So in this present moment, come!”
It’s Joel that seals the deal with those two enticing words. When we feel at our lowest, least lovable, Joel speaks God’s message: Even now, return to me with your whole heart, for I am gracious and merciful.
This season of Lent is one that has traditionally called Christians to repentance for past failings and to a “firm purpose of amendment” – actually something we ought to commit to every day of the year. This determination is not, however, something that should depress us because of our lack of perfection but rather encourage us because God’s expectations are probably more reasonable than our own. Waking up each morning to a God whose first word to us is “Come!” ought to be enough to move us toward the day with a heart full of gratitude and hope, of longing and confidence toward the God who turns toward us with open arms.