• Joel 2:12-13; Joshua 24:14-15
  • February 21, 2007 (Ash Wednesday)
  • Fox Valley Presbyterian Church

My husband Erik and I were raised in hiking families, and when I say hiking, I mean the kind that includes being out of touch with civilization for days at a time. We know what it’s like to loose track of your place on the map, to choose the wrong path, to get lost for two hours, and (in Erik’s case) to have the Marquette, Michigan search and rescue team come up a mountain for you in the middle of the night.

There is a thrill about the moment when you come to a crossroads—a decision to make, an opportunity, a new route: the potential for a rush when you make the right choice and come safely to camp; the potential for disappointment when you realize you’ve gone 2 miles in the wrong direction. There is a thrill, when you return to the trailhead and see your car in the parking lot, of knowing you’ve made the right choices, and you are safely on your way home.

The Bible interlaces the idea of conversion with the idea of a journey. The people of Israel, leaving Egypt, wandering in the desert for 40 years, finally crossing the Jordan to enter the promised land, they are on a journey that is as much about conversion as it is about travel. Even as they enter the land and take possession of it, their leader Joshua stops them before they scatter to their new homes, and challenges them: Choose this day whom you will serve…their travel is over, but their journey is not ended. They have arrived, but they will still face crossroads. Generations later, the prophets, when they call the people back to God, use the language of travel—the prophet Joel says: return to the Lord your God… turn around, choose your path, return to God. And when the apostles preach the gospel in Acts, when people hear and are moved by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it is the same language of turning: people repent and return to God. Over and over again, God’s people go through not just one conversion, but many: a lifetime of repenting, choosing the path, turning safely toward home, returning to God. Lent is an invitation to stand at the crossroads, to hear God’s call, to make a choice, and to turn. And all our preparation for Easter, all our actions, all our commitments for these forty days, ultimately they are symbols of the path we choose as we stand at the crossroads, signs of recommitting ourselves to God. And so, if the ash smudge on your forehead is only a reminder of death, you’re missing the point. That smudge is also a cross-roads: a reminder of where you come from, and where you are going; a reminder of who you are, and who it was that made you; a reminder that you are constantly called to make choices, to turn, and to follow. And the words—remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return—are a reminder of the Christian journey—walking alongside Jesus is a journey through life, and, yes, toward death. . . . But, along with the people of Israel, hear Joshua’s voice:

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.

And hear Joel’s reminder of God’s faithfulness:

Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love

And know that the choice is what leads us beyond death. Because we are all dust, and we will all die.

But walking on the path Jesus Christ walked means walking toward the cross, toward his death. And walking through death with Jesus means walking out of the tomb into his life. This is the crossroads—we have been here before, we will be here again.

Now is the time to choose our path.

And with each turn, we are closer to the trailhead, closer to home, closer to God.


2 Responses to “Crossroads”

  1. Mary Beth Says:

    Wow! I’m glad you posted this. It’s wonderful and much better than what I heard last night. Thank you.

  2. susan Says:

    I love that…looking at the symbol and ritual of the cross on our forehead. Yes, we are following Christ, we are recommitting, dare I say consecrating ourselves during Lent.

    Thank you for sharing Erica! Preach it!