Ash Wednesday-Deacon Barclay

Ash Wednesday


March 6th, 2019

Deacon Blaine Barclay

Lent is a matter of the heart. From our first reading from the prophet Joel. Hear God’s appeal to you and me. ‘Return to me with your whole heart’ And, ‘Rend your hearts and not your garments’.  Also, from Psalm 51, the great psalm of lament, of repentance. ‘A clean heart create for me, O God.’ There is a song by The Monks of Weston Priory that has always been close to my heart, that comes back to me from time to time, the way songs do. The song is called ‘Hosea’ because its lyrics are taken from the prophet Hosea. It goes: ‘Come back to me with all your heart. Don’t let fear keep us apart…Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new life’. It’s about how much God is longing for relationship and intimacy with us. This is also why Lent is a matter of the heart. ‘Return to me with your whole heart’, says Joel. Not just ‘take another little piece of my heart’, as another song goes, but our whole heart. And how does the heart become whole, except by return. We return, we repent because we are not whole, because our hearts have been scattered, dissipated, fragmented. And we long for wholeness, the integrity of the heart. To recollect (re-collect) our capacity to live life from the heart. And what is the heart? In Hebrew the word for heart is LEV, it means the very centre of a person, both their capacity to know and their capacity to love, the whole person, the animating principle of their whole being, flesh and spirit. In Hebrew, we ‘know’ with the heart, and we ‘love’ with the heart. As Pascal says, ‘The heart has its reasons which reason knows not of’.  ‘Return to me with your whole heart’. And again, later from Joel, ‘Rend your hearts and not your garments’.  Other translations say, ‘tear your hearts and not your clothing’. And, ‘Let your broken heart show your sorrow’. One paraphrase says, ‘Change your life, not just your clothes’. In the Jewish tradition to tear open ones’ outer garments was a sigh of extreme emotion, sorrow, remorse, grief, anger. It is more important to break open our hearts. Elsewhere, the prophet Ezekiel says, ‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.’ You cannot tear or break open a heart of stone. But a heart of flesh can be broken, vulnerable, pierced like the heart of Jesus on the Cross. But how can I break open my heart for God and for the other? Joel calls for, ‘fasting, weeping, mourning’, Return, Return. Our culture says, ‘Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken.’ The season of Lent says, ‘give me a broken heart, a heart that has room for God and the other’. To quote Leonard Cohen, ‘There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.’ A broken and contrite heart is a heart that is turning, re-turning to the Lord. Returning for re-tuning. As our psalm says, ‘A clean heart create for me, O God.’ Because only the pure in heart can see God, can see the invisible, by living it. With simplicity of heart, and simplicity of vision, not wanting to be seen, not blowing our own horn, hidden, giving from the heart, ‘your left hand not knowing what your right hand Is doing’. Practicing, from the heart, the traditional disciplines of Lent, going right back to the teaching of Jesus. Almsgiving, Prayer, and Fasting. Not as an outward show, so as to draw attention to ourselves and our own efforts. But almsgiving from the heart, generous, genuine, generosity. Prayer from the heart, thick with interiority, not just exterior acts of piety. Fasting/abstinence from the heart, born of our desire for God, and Gods prior initiative in our lives, practicing a readiness for God’s activity in our lives. Almsgiving, Prayer, and Fasting, all hidden, in the secret of the heart. This is our Lenten path to becoming ‘Ambassadors for Christ’. Appealing to others by who we are, ‘Be reconciled to God’.