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 he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing. ~ Joel 2:12-13
Taking a break from the Book of Acts as we enter into Lent. This reading from Joel is one of the ones that is traditionally read on Ash Wednesday. It captures I think the very heart of both Ash Wednesday and Lent.
What does it mean that God wants us to rend our hearts? It is easy to picture the rending of clothing - almost every film about Jesus has the image of Caiphas tearing or rending his garment as Jesus is brought before him.
But our hearts? To rend is to split apart or in pieces by violence.
To actively break our own hearts?
Our heart, God knows, is already divided and to return to God with a full and complete heart is going to mean a civil war within ourselves. It means acknowledging the brokenness already there. It acknowledges the shell around our hearts that needs to be broken open for God to use our flesh and blood.
It perhaps is ironic that it is the times in my life that I've thought I was the most together that I was not: that it was a veneer covering the brokenness underneath.
Lent is upon us and we have a chance to return to the Lord our God. To begin a slow turning back. To be marked today or tonight with ashes, acknowledging God's claim on us and our need for forgiveness.
To begin to heal our hearts and lives.
And as we begin this Lenten season together, our focus both at Grace and in these devotions will be "In the Margins," using as a framework Jesus' Sermon on the Plain from the Gospel of Luke. I hope you will join us on this journey!
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy. We are broken and in need of your healing. We humbly repent. Pardon us and heal us through your son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.