S-1237 Ash Wednesday/3A 03/09/11, (O) #323; (S) #143 v 1-3; LS #151 v 1-2; #388 (C) #416
Text: Psalm 51; Joel 2:12-14
Theme: “Broken Heart!” (Psalm 51:17).
Question: “Have you ever experienced a broken heart?”1st in Sermon series Broken…But NOT Broke
SOLI DEO GLORIA, Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! The text for our Ash Wednesday is from the Psalm of David: The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps. 51:17).
Introduction: In Nomine IESU
It is all a matter of the heart. Anyway you look at things; you must look at them through the lens of the heart. The heart is sensitive, tender, and easily broken. The heart is what makes your body clicks and what makes your heart aches. The heart is where it all begins and where it all ends. So on this Ash Wednesday, we contemplate the words of David in his penitential Psalm as we deal with a Broken Heart.
David the man who loved God, a man after His own heart – (1 Samuel 13:14) wrote this Psalm with a broken heart after the sinful act he had performed with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. In brokenness David writes this Psalm of repentance and restoration. He acknowledges his guilt (v. 2-4). He begs for the cleansing that God alone can do (v. 7). He requests restoration of his broken life, broken heart and broken relationship with His heavenly Father (v. 17). He is begging the Almighty Father to take His broken heart and mend it again and make it new.
Tonight, as we gather in the presence of Him who is Holy, Just and Righteous, we beg the same thing. Because there is not one among us here who has not, or is now experiencing a broken heart. In a sinful and broken world, life does that to us. Hearts are tender things. They are easily bruised, and easily broken. I know from being your pastor for the past 17 years that you experienced it. Everyone has. Maybe you found out what a broken heart was back in Middle school when your dream of being a part of a certain group of kids or being a star in a particular sport but it didn’t come to pass. Perhaps it was in high school that you tasted the reality of a broken heart when your feelings of caring for another were met with rejection or even ridicule. Or perhaps, your heart was crushed when your spouse left and divorce became part of your life. Maybe it came at the Dr’s office when the announcement came, “So sorry IT IS CANCER! There is nothing we can do.” (I’m speaking of personal experience here about my father’s news) Or maybe it was when your life’s partner was called home unexpectedly and your heart fell to pieces. Hearts are sensitive things, aren’t they? A relationship can make your heart soar on the wings of joy—and a relationship can break a heart mercilessly.
But the truth of the matter is that our hearts are not only vulnerable to broken relationships, but are broken by the ravages of sin. Probably nothing brings more heartache to a parent than the realization that his own bad choices brought suffering to his children. And it is certainly heartbreaking to watch an individual with great talent and potential squander her gifts and fail to use them. It’s devastating when people you love and care for make foolish decisions—it breaks your heart. It’s such devastation when you look deep within your heart and find there the ugly, unwanted stain of sin—SIN in all of its manifestations. Sin breaks our hearts; it breaks God’s heart and those we love. We are crushed by own failure—laid low by sin and know the pain and hurt that our hearts experience. Our Father, yes, Father, He has a heart that breaks because of our sin, the way we have squandered His gifts, His grace… that is why He sent His Only-Begotten Son to the Cross. Dust we are, to dust we shall return…. And… and He, breathes anew into that dust the breath of life (cf. Gen 2:7)!} PAUSE.
This is why tonight we find ourselves in the house of Lord observing Ash Wednesday. After all, this is not really a fun day because we are reminded of sin and the consequences of sin—death; your own and those around you. On Ash Wednesday, we are encouraged and indeed exhorted to look inward—at least for as long as you can endure it—and see what actually lives in your own heart. And when you are honest at what you see, you recoil in disgust and distaste. No one knows your heart like you—except God. Despite your best efforts to put a good face on things, you know the reality—don’t you? My father-in-law would often say, “You can fool yourself, you can even fool some people, but you can’t fool God.” Oh, how we try. But deep down in the dark crevasses of the heart lies and lives SIN.
Sin is functioning far too freely. Its reach extends far too deeply. You begrudge the good fortune of others. You resent the joys that are denied you but enjoyed by others. You lust for what is not yours, and neglect what is yours. You reject what God gives you to do and insist that there must be something else to life. You see the suffering of others and turn away. You try to do what’s right, but you always fall short; you never quite measure up. You see it all, there, in your own heart, and your heart breaks. It breaks in shame, regret and sorrow. It breaks for what could have been and is NOT. It breaks at the staggering cost of sin. Ash Wednesday is all about broken hearts. And the truth of the matter is this: BROKEN HEARTS AREN’T FUN!
A broken heart hurts. A broken heart aches continually and unrelentingly. A broken heart can even manifest itself in physical symptoms and suffering. A broken heart takes huge amount of energy and it is taxing. No one wants to deal with a broken heart. So, when a heart breaks either because of a relationship that has gone sour, or from the high price of sin, we try to stop the pain and end the hurt; we try to fix the broken heart. I know that is my approach. I am an avid fixer. Give me a problem, and I’ll do my best to solve it. Give me something broken and I’ll try to fix it. It’s not a bad approach when it comes to toys and appliances or appointments. But it doesn’t always work. It’s particularly difficult lesson to accept that we can’t fix everything. It is very difficult in a marriage when a spouse is not concerned with fixing things, but for her mate to hear her heartache and care for her needs. She wants a man who loves her and listens to her instead of fixing it. I’d rather fix the problem! So, I look at a broken heart the way you probably do; they are just one more thing that needs fixing. And that’s wrong BIG TIME.
David tells us in this psalm “a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” A broken heart; that is what God wants. Listen to me saints in Christ, God is looking for hearts that are broken and bleeding, crushed and crumbled, tattered and torn. He doesn’t want hearts that have been patched up with a band-aid. He doesn’t want them fixed up. He wants them broken. In other words, He wants you to come to Him with honesty and humility. He wants you to enter His presence as you really are—broken heart and all. Just like the note in your bulletin. “God can heal a broken heart, but He has to have all the pieces.”
But that is so hard to do for us fallen creatures. It’s hard to leave a broken heart alone. We think that God surely wouldn’t be interested in getting a messed up, broken and bleeding heart from us. So we try to piece it, patch it and put it back together ourselves. We try to show Him that we are strong enough to do it without His help and care. We try to fix it and take the pain away.
This is not what the Lord wants from you. He doesn’t want your fixed up and fastened heart back. He wants it broken. Don’t go looking for new relationships to cover up your pain. Don’t try to compensate for your sin by piling up an impressive stack of really good deeds. Don’t try to salve a wounded heart by getting revenge on the one who hurt you. Offering God a heart with a patched up job is on the order of a husband giving his wife a broken vase that has been repaired with Elmer’s glue and duct tape. It’s repulsive! It’s tragic! It’s sad! How futile and pathetic it is when we try to fix our broken hearts. It can’t be done. You can’t put back what is destroyed. Don’t mend your broken heart. God will ONLY receive hearts that are broken.
It’s time to stop playing the blame game. It’s time to stop pretending. It’s time to be honest with God about Sin and its consequences. We have all fallen like a big oak tree at the sight of temptation. We have all given in because we thought we could get away with it, or we deserve it. But tonight, we are exhorted to come in mercy crawling to the God of all grace who asks us to come to Him just as we are.
The Prophet Joel put it this way in our reading tonight: “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” (Joel 2:13). David understood this well. God is not interested in a quick fix but in the truth. David confessed his sins saying: “Against You, God, You only, have I sinned, and done what is evil in Your sight.” (Ps. 51:4). But then the merciful and compassionate God utters words of healing. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”(Ps. 51:17) David begged the Lord to cleanse him with Hyssop. These words point ahead to the fulfillment of the OT sacrifices: The ONE sacrifice of Christ whose heart broke for us on the cross so that our broken hearts might be healed.
This blessed reassurance and promise is to you and to me and to every struggling, broken-hearted sinner. God will not cast away anyone who comes to Him with a broken heart and broken spirit. Through His Son Jesus Christ, we all are seen like sheep without a shepherd, helpless and destitute, with nowhere to turn, but to a gracious God. But our Good Shepherd calls out to His sheep, and He says, “I Am the Good Shepherd. I have laid down My life so that I can give you a new heart. I died carrying your guilt, your brokenness. I shed My blood so that Your every sin from wrong choices in your life are now covered. And I, the risen Christ, have destroyed all the powers of brokenness, of death, of disappointment, of heart-ache. I am with you!”
Beloved in the Lord, on this Ash Wednesday know this truth: David’s sin was covered as he believed the promise of the coming Savior. Our sins and brokenness are covered by the Savior who has come that we might have life and have it with every gift and blessing that the Father in heaven gives to those who turn to Him.
Don’t let the world fool you. Don’t let Satan steal your joy. Don’t let your past sins crush you down and crumble you. Remember well, yes our hearts are broken, but we are not broke. Remember the reason Jesus came. He came to take away our sins and open the gates of heaven for us in His death and resurrection from the grave. And as such we know the blessed assurance of the truth that is beyond any shadow of doubt. God can and does take what is broken, especially broken heart. He makes and remakes that heart into a new heart, a heart filled with His grace—filled with His joy—filled with His love—the love of Christ. Your God promises to make your heart new and He has. Amen.
Now the peace of God…