Rend Your Heart
12 “Even now,” declares the Lord,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
13 Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
I am indebted to commentary on these verses from Joel for this week’s message .These words should make us shake our heads in disbelief. We shake our heads at the relentless love of someone we constantly disappoint. "Return to me," God says and "I will be gracious to you." When we, if in his position, would consider it to be right to cut the cord and save ourselves the future disappointment, God extends a welcoming hand and invites us into a restored relationship. Isn’t that what this season of Lent tries to help us understand?
Why are Joel’s words so apt for today? Well, it’s true that often we only rehearse remorse; we pretend repentance. We think we should feel bad so we learn how to lower our head or say I'm sorry when in reality we're just pacifying the people we've offended -- our spouse, our friend and even our God. We know how to tear our clothes very well and seem really sorry. But on days when we feel the weight of our sin, nights when we acknowledge our deserved destruction, God sees something he wants: a broken heart. A heart that's broken over sin is a heart ready for the remedy of sin: the grace of a good and patient God. Again, that's why Lent is so important. When we come in repentance toward God, it is not only an act of contrition but an act of hope. We mark ourselves with an ashen cross as a declaration of our need, but also as a sign of our trust in God's ability to restore us, to forgive us, to continue walking with us on account of Christ. It's a way of humbly proclaiming that though we deserve to be crushed on the Day of the Lord, we will have life through Christ on the cross, whom we trust as our forgiving Lord. And that kind of broken -- yet hopeful -- heart, God will not deny. God welcomes us home.
Wrestle with that for a moment.
It makes no sense that God would forgive us.
It makes no sense that God would still love us.
It makes no sense that God would offer us grace and mercy.
It makes no sense that God would call us his child.
It makes no sense that God would receive us back simply because we have a broken heart clinging to Christ.
Yet that's exactly what God does.
Hymn 200: Tell Out, My Soul
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!
Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice;
tender to me the promise of God’s word;
in God my Savior shall my heart rejoice.
O God, help us understand the depth, height, and wideness of your mercy. Let us share the hope of that love to a world in great need of the encouragement it represents. We pray in the name of Jesus, and to the Glory of your fullness. Amen.
Pastor David Brosnan