Rend Our Hearts: 2023 Lenten Sermon Seeds Series


Yet even now, says the Lord,
return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13 rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love,
and relenting from punishment.
(Joel 2:12-13 NRSVUE)

Our lives occupy inward and outward space. Christian rituals, in particular, reflect that our inward being manifests in outward doing. Baptism is a public act symbolizing and signaling new life and belonging. When Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, he demonstrated his perspective on their relationship; they surrendered to his act of servitude. The distinct names attributed to the sacred meal Jesus instituted with his companions attests to more than denominational and doctrinal differences. They point to the multiplicity of experiences engaged in the single act: community formation, thanksgiving, and remembrance are internalized aspects named Communion, Eucharist, and the Lord’s Supper.

The prophetic message often illuminates where distance exists between the inward reality and the outward expression.

The Lord said:
Because these people draw near with their mouths
and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me.
(Isaiah 29:13 NRSVUE)

The psalmist understood that both should be intertwined:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
(Psalm 19:14 NRSVUE)

The season of Lent invites introspective, an inward act, that often gets concretized through spiritual disciples, action, to reinforce their meaning and to translate them into a way of living. If the spiritual transformation is missing, however, the actions become meaningless and a mockery. Repentance, reconciliation,and repair require an inward transformation of mind, body, and spirit–represented by the heart. In ancient Hebrew tradition, the heart reflected more than emotional response; it encompasses both reason and feelings in an integrated fashion.

To rend one’s heart is to deliberately open ourselves to revitalized thoughts, attitudes, and emotions. It is to become vulnerable and malleable. Tearing one’s clothes was an outward sign of remorse and commitment to change. It’s entirely possible to go through the motions without engaging the emotions, and that’s not what God asks of us or appreciates from us.

Rend Our Hearts

*All focus scriptures will be used in conversation with the gospel passage.
February 22, 2023 Ash Wednesday | Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 | “Rend Our Hearts”
February 26, 2023 Lent 1A | Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7 | “What Have You Done?”
March 5, 2023 Lent 2A | Genesis 12:1-4a | “Called to Go”
March 12, 2023 Lent 3A | Exodus 17:1-7 | “Give Us Water”
March 19, 2023 Lent 4A | 1 Samuel 16:1-13 | “Come Peaceably”
March 26, 2023 Lent 5A | Ezekiel 37:1-14 | “Prophesy to the Bones”
April 2, 2023 Palm/Passion Sunday | Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 | “Open the Gates”
April 6, 2023 Maundy Thursday | Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 | “In the Presence of All”
April 7, 2023 Good Friday | Psalm 22 | “in the Dust of Death”

“No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.”
― John Chrysostom

Suggested Congregational Response
During this season of Lent, we invite you to engage in Courageous Conversations from Join the Movement toward Racial Justice. More information will be posted in coming weeks here, on the individual Sermon Seed entries, and on UCC social media platforms.


The Rev. Dr. Cheryl A. Lindsay, Minister for Worship and Theology (lindsayc@ucc.org), also serves as a local church pastor and worship scholar-practitioner with a particular interest in the proclamation of the word in gathered communities.