Rend our Hearts

Ash Wednesday

Rend our Hearts

“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.” – Joel 2:12-13a

As we begin Lent, many of us are taking time to intentionally reflect on our sins. We are taking note of the ways that we have damaged our relationships with each other, ourselves and God. 

Some sins are easy to see; others come veiled. Racism is a sin that can be hard to see sometimes. We may not realize all the false beliefs of superiority and inferiority that we have taken to heart and internalized. When we do recognize these lies, we’re rightfully repulsed. 

But getting rid of racism is not as easy as saying that we wish it weren’t so. 

We need the prophets of Scripture, like Joel, to nudge us to look beyond the surface, to trace out the real and honest shape of our brokenness. Racist ways of being have come to shape not only individuals but entire institutions, from business to government to policing to even church itself. Racism is so much part of our day-to-day that this grievous sin has come to seem normal, simply “the way things are,” almost invisible as it is hidden within seemingly polite institutions. 

We must seek a clearer vision. 

Martin Luther King, Jr.

This year, Lent coincides with the lead-up to the 50th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. This gives us a much needed reminder to re-check and re-commit.

God’s words in Joel become crucial: don’t rend “your clothing,” because a superficial, cosmetic fix will not help. Instead, God asks us to dig deep, beyond the visible outside  down to the foundational, systemic layers to “rend your hearts” and really wrestle with sin.

Repentance means more than saying, “I’m sorry.” When we truly repent, we seek to understand the harm done, and we allow ourselves to be converted to new ways of being. True repentance means allowing “all our heart” to be changed by God. 

The good news is that God wants to do just that. Our miracle-working God still longs to heal us, free us and save us from the sin of racism. Still today, the words of Joel are calling us: “Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart…” 

How will we respond?

Emily Jones is Executive for Racial Justice for United Methodist Women.

Posted or updated: 2/13/2018 12:00:00 AM
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