When a challenge presents itself, when an enemy stands before us, we are tend to stand our ground and fight. That’s the American way. “Never give up. Never surrender.” We love stories that show the underdog standing valiantly against an insurmountable force and prevailing. Whether right or wrong, when confronted our tendency is to fight. But sometimes, maybe that’s not the way to win. To win, we may have to lose.
As we enter the season of Lent, we hear the words of the prophet Joel challenging us to give up our violent ways and surrender to God. But like our forbears, we often use the horns of self-righteousness and stubborn pride to close ourselves to God’s transforming power. Instead, we believe that we can achieve our own brand of justice and self-worth. If we muster enough strength, enough will, we won’t have to admit our failure. However, the prophet calls us to a different response. Rather than blow horns for battle, he suggests we should call others to prayer. This is the essence of Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent.
So, as we undertake this journey, we gather together. We admit that both individually and as a community we have failed to live up to God’s standard. Though we believe we can face any challenge on our own, we are weak and powerless without God. But that is why we have been given to one another. When we blow the horn of community and sound the cry of repentance, God hears us. Suddenly the foes that surround us disappear and we find peace and rest. If we chose to fight alone, God will let us. But our strength, our victory comes in allowing ourselves to give up, and surrender and let God fight for us.