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Rend Your Hearts … What’s that mean?
Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 • 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10 • Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
On Sunday I told you Lent is 40 days long, yet it kinda isn’t.
If you count the days between Ash Wednesday and Easter on a calendar, you’ll notice the season of Lent lasts for 46 days … “But, Pastor Chris, I’ve been told my whole life that Lent was 40 days … because of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness before he started his ministry.”
Well, that’s because Lent TECHNICALLY is 40 days.
Lent is a time of mourning and grieving our sin, so that we can be better prepared for Easter.
But there are 6 Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.
And in the Christian tradition, every Sunday is considered a “miniature Easter”.
Sundays are not days for mourning or grieving.
Most Christian churches won’t host funerals on Sundays … and that’s why.
So Lent is 40 days long, because Sundays are technically not part of Lent.
This hint is very subtle, but if you follow the Christian calendar,
The Sundays in Advent are called the first thru fourth Sundays OF Advent.
Easter is a season that lasts 7 weeks.
Those seven Sundays are called the first thru seventh Sundays OF Easter.
The Sundays during Lent are not called the Sundays OF Lent.
They’re called the first thru sixth Sundays IN Lent.
So, we may talk about Lent on Sundays during this season, but technically, Sundays are not part of Lent.
So Lent is indeed 40 days … even though it lasts 46 days.
Tonight, we began with a prophetic reading from Joel:
Day of the Lord…
Darkness and gloom
Clouds and thick darkness
Never been anything like it, nor will there be again…
So, Joel calls us to “rend your heart and not your garments”
Rending garments is an old Jewish sign:
Mourning (Gen.
37:34; Lev.
10:6; 21:10; 1Sam 4:12; 2Sam 3:31)
Repentance (Gen.
37:29; Josh 7:6; 2Chron 34:27; Joel 2:13)
Response to the rejection of God’s plan (Num.
Blasphemy (Mat.
26:65; Mark 14:63; Acts 14:14)
So why is that meaningful for Ash Wednesday, why do we read Joel 2 every Ash Wednesday?
Today begins the season of Lent, and as I said before Lent is a time of mourning and repentance.
Joel warns his nation to not allow God to be just another god among the landscape.
In the reading from 2 Corinthians, Paul “begs” us to “be reconciled to God.”
He tells us the “favorable time” is now, and today is the “day of salvation”!
Both of them are telling us to prepare ourselves for God’s coming (return).
Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6, that external works of penance have no value in themselves.
They only serve to draw attention to us, instead of indicating an internal change.
We must relate them to actual penitence ... our conversion to God.
One of those outward signs is fasting.
Jesus tells his followers, “Now whenever you fast, do not make a gloomy face…”
His phrasing confirms that we are expected to fast, and Lent is one of those times the Church historically has fasted together.
Fasting is a discipline!
Disciplines are a part of our faith tradition because disciplines teach us obedience.
Discipline trains us for faithful responses to God.
Tradition of giving things up for Lent:
Sugar – caffeine – alcohol – smoking
Many times we give up something we should do without in the first place.
What would you REALLY miss?
Try to think of something that would do you good, but would be difficult for you.
Also, try to find something that will regularly remind you that you’re fasting something.
When we fast food, we have a physical reminder when we feel hunger pangs.
If you select something that has a regular reminder like that, you’ll be more likely to use this time to connect deeper and focus more on your relationship with God.
Perhaps you’d rather DEVELOP a habit rather than interrupting one.
While most people know about GIVING UP things for Lent, some people TAKE UP practices for Lent.
Both are appropriate forms of sacrifice for this season.
I’ll give you a couple of examples.
This year, I will fast or GIVE UP two things:
It doesn’t sound like much, but I go to Facebook as a habit throughout the day, so I will miss it.
I have also moved apps around on my phone, so the spot where my finger instinctively goes for Facebook is now held by the Bible app.
So, every morning, when I wake up … Bible app.
In the afternoon, when my mind starts to wander … Bible app.
When the day is wrapping up and I wonder what’s going on in the world … Bible app.
I’ll be reminded throughout the day that my focus is shifted for Lent.
The other thing I’ll fast is audio when I’m driving.
I’ve done this one before, and it is incredibly difficult for me.
I like noise!
So when I get in the van or truck, if the radio is off, I will automatically reach for the power button.
This one is so strong, I have to put a reminder on the power button.
So every time I get behind the wheel … I will be tweaked to focus on my relationship with the Lord instead of reaching for whatever ‘filler’ I usually listen to in my vehicles.
In addition to fasting something, I will also be PICKING UP something this year:
I am committing to tell at least one person “You Matter” every day of Lent.
This is another one that sounds easy … but it forces me to look beyond my usual focus as I go about my day.
For example, I’m usually a man shopper … go in, get what was on my list, use self-check, get out.
But if I go to a cashier, I am forced to notice another human being.
And my commitment to deliver the Truth forces me to see other people and to engage them with the truth of their value to God.
Some of these times may open the door to deeper conversation.
Some won’t.
But doing this will hopefully change ME.
So my outward sacrifices are Facebook; radio; and “You Matter”.
Another outward sign are the ashes we use tonight.
Why ashes?
Byproduct of burning something away.
The “left overs” after fire passes
Waste after the heat and light are gone
Symbolic of death (“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust”)
Ashes are only good for one use:
Basically trash except…
Soil treatment (gardening) to help growth happen
And so we place ashes on our foreheads to remind us:
We are mortal - Dust to dust
Repentance (death to self)
And we use the forehead because it’s a mark of ownership – according to Revelation
We are Christ's - he died so that we might live.
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