Sermon for March 4,
2014 ~ Ash Wednesday Eve
to seminary professor Joel Biermann for most of this sermon)
their married life a young man bought his new bride a special piece of
jewellery. He had saved and managed to purchase a well-made gold chain from
which dangled a small gold heart. It was a little rounded heart, nicely
contoured, puffy and hollow. The wife loved the gift and wore it all the time.
babies began to arrive. They loved the puffy heart too. As soon as they could
hold their heads up and grab with their tiny fingers, three different babies
would discover the chain and the puffy heart hanging around Mama's neck. She would
pick up one of the children, and they would find and hold the little heart.
Then the teething began and the puffy heart was the perfect, satisfying
teething tool, but the heart didn't fare so well. The hollow, puffy heart was
dented, dinged and squashed flat. It was still recognizable as a heart but was
reworked into a new shape by little teeth. The token of this marriage became a
chewed up, bent piece of gold jewellery. The puffy heart was now a broken
and contrite heart…
that to us. Hearts are tender things – easily bruised and broken. You've
experienced that. Remember in school when you hoped to be part of the group
and they wouldn't let you in. Or, when your feelings of caring for another
were met with rejection or ridicule? Maybe your heart was crushed in the
breaking of divorce. Maybe it was death that broke your heart – a loved one
suddenly gone. Hearts are sensitive things. A relationship can make your
heart soar or break your heart mercilessly.
can also be broken by sin – what has been called the "me-ness, my-ness,
mine-ness of life. Hasty life choices bring suffering; unresolved anger takes
root deep within; bitterness at hurt drains our energy, we grasp for what we
think life is, come up empty and then shut others and God out. There must be
someone to blame: others, God, ourselves? The brokenness is in our hearts.
Sin breaks us. We can be crushed by our own failure, laid low by the effects of
sin, destroyed in so many ways by our own doing.
This is a big
part of what Ash Wednesday is all about. You are encouraged today to turn your
gaze inward – at least for as long as you can endure it – and see what actually
resides in your heart. You may not like what you see. No one else knows your
heart like you do. Sin can function far too freely, reach far too deeply.
Maybe we object to the good fortune of others; or lust for what we don't have
and neglect what is ours. Perhaps we reject what God has provided and insist
that there must be something else to life. Do we see the suffering of others
and turn away? You can see the pain there, often with shame, regret and
sorrow. Hearts break. They break at the cost of sin. They break with the
ravages of life. Ash Wednesday is about broken hearts.
will not despise."
No one wants
to deal with a broken heart. So when a heart breaks, we try to stop the pain
and end the hurt by fixing it. I try to fix things sometimes but it often
doesn't work. Sometimes I make it worse. There are broken hearts that can't
be fixed too…and it can be a mistake to try. The hearts of some people, maybe
yours, just need to be cared for – not fixed.
broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Did you hear that? A broken
heart – God wants broken hearts… not hearts that are whole and perfect, not
hearts that have a patch up job, not fixed… but broken. He invites us to come
as we really are, broken hearts and all. It's hard to do. It's hard to carry
a broken heart. We didn't think God would be interested in that. When your
heart is broken, don't try to fix it. Don't try to shine it up. That can be
like giving a gift of a broken vase pathetically put back together with glue
and tape. We can't always mend what is broken or destroyed. What is broken is
broken. God welcomes the broken.
passed since those teething children crushed and bent the little gold heart
that was a symbol of new love. Even though the children were all grown up, the
wife still wore that heart. It was around her neck all the time – still bent
and misshapen. Now it hangs as a reminder of the three children who left the
marks on her heart. The beauty of that heart is in its brokenness. Fix it?
You've got to be kidding. That would be the worst thing to do. Replace it?
Of course not. You can't replace something like that.
your broken heart whether shattered by sin, trampled by injustice, or bruised
and torn by the indifference of others. God receives that heart… still
beautiful to God.
heart is a wonderful tool in the hands of God. It can tell a story of the
journey toward hope and restoration. It has infinite value because it is
helpless and able to receive what God gives. Broken hearts know their need.
God calls for
your broken heart. God can gently take it and bind it up. God can bless it
with forgiveness and grace and pour love out of it for others. One day there
will be healing and wholeness. One day God will make all things new, sin will
be finished, tears wiped away, and hearts restored … but not yet.
broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Ash Wednesday tells us: you are
dust, you are ashes, you are broken. God receives you that way. It's a
promise. You are loved that much. It's the story of Jesus as we follow him to