Friday, April 1, 2011

Rending Hearts?

I ended my last post…many moons ago…with the following paragraph from the Daily Episcopalian about the line in the Prayer of Manasseh about bending the knee of the heart:

Then, in a beautiful mixed metaphor, the poet “bends the knee of my heart,” not in excuses or self-justification, but in pure supplication.

And it is the sentiment about “not in excuses or self justification, but in pure supplication” that brings me to the verse in Joel.

Rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil. Joel 2:13

“Rend” is not a word that comes up very often in day to day conversation. In fact, even though I had a pretty good idea of what it meant, I looked up the meaning just to be sure. Same gives the following synonyms:

"break, divide, rip, rive, sever, slit, split, sunder"

When God instructs them (and by implication…us) to rend their hearts and not their garments he is talking about a mindset of supplication…(as the Daily Episcopalian points out) The directive from God is all about inward rending…and not the ripping of clothing in mock remorse. Rending garments was a tradition of the Jewish people.  A good example? The Pharisees were good at putting on a show…at outward wailing in false repentance. But it was all fake.  They were “posers” putting on a front. They, of course, did not fool Jesus.  And he told them so. 

Matthew 23:25 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.26 "You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. 27 "Woe  to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. 28 "So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Jesus saw their hearts. Being God and all, he could see right through their pretence.  They didn’t fool him.  Neither do we. If only our garments are rent…in an outward show of piety…an outward show of repentance then God really does not have the opportunity to “write his laws on our hearts.”  We have to open ourselves to his prodding and guidance as he shines the spotlight of awareness on our heart.  It is not meant to beat us down but rather to build us up. 

We can be assured that each step deeper into the Lord's Presence will reveal areas in our hearts which need to be cleansed. Do not be afraid. When the Spirit shows you areas of sin, it is not to condemn you, but to cleanse you. Francis Frangipane

Rend your hearts and not your garments.  Bend the knee of your heart.  God will replace your heart of stone with a heart of flesh.  And he will write his laws there……

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