Where is your heart today?

(Adapted from the sermon for Ash Wednesday)

This year, Ash Wednesday happened to fall on February 14—Valentine’s Day. That might seem strange, and it could cause us to read the texts for today a little differently. We might notice just how many times the heart is mentioned.[1]

12Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Joel 2:2-13

 10Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:21

On Ash Wednesday, we are reminded of God’s love, but we also hear that call to reflect on what we are putting our hearts into. That whole passage from the Gospel of Matthew invites us to dig deep and understand ourselves. It’s a challenge to reflect on what we value and emphasize the most in our lives—where our hearts are—and how our actions show that.

The message is there over and over again: “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them…” Jesus warns the people to not be like the hypocrites who are giving alms so that they may be praised by others, praying so that they may be seen by others, or fasting and making faces about it to show others they are fasting.[2]

Jesus cautions against doing good deeds for the sake of notoriety and praise from others. We need to do good deeds, yes, but we need to do good deeds because they are good to do. We need to do good for the sake of the difference it makes in us and our world.

Where is your heart today? Where are all of our hearts today?

The reading from Joel also invites us to consider this question. God calls the people to return. The reading calls for fasting, weeping, and mourning—these things are good to do. It is good to take care of our faith, to pray, to repent, to give, to even do that together. We just need to remember why we do all of these things.

The Season of Lent calls us to take an honest look at ourselves, remembering what’s really important and naming our tendencies towards temptation. We are humbled as we pause to reflect on our mortality and salvation and to repent of the ways we can wander from where we want our hearts to be.

Through this day, through these readings, through the season, we are reminded of this truth.

We repent. We reflect. We remember.

[1]The Ash Wednesday Readings in the Revised Common Lectionary are Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51:1-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; and Matthew 6:1-6,16-21.

[2] Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21.