Chapel - Monica Kay

Monica Kay

Continuing our Lenten theme of service, sacrifice, and abiding in Christ, we are honoured to welcome Monica Kay to the Community Chapel pulpit this week. Monica's message based on Joel 2:12-13 is entitled "Rend Your Heart".

Monica is a long-time friend of Tyndale’s and is currently studying for her DMin degree at the Seminary. A popular mentor, speaker, and collaborator, Monica is currently working with Youth Unlimited Toronto as the Director of the Launch program. She and her husband Greg, who is a co-pastor at Spring Garden Church, are parents to two girls and they live in Toronto.

Speaker: Monica Kay
Chapel Date: Tuesday March 22, 2022
Download MP3 File of Chapel - Monica Kay
View All Chapel Podcasts
Subscribe to Podcast Feed

Podcast Transcript

Thank you so much, Alexis and Isaiah, for helping to connect our hearts to God. There is so much going on in the world, and I was so grateful to hear that Tyndale was able to have a special time of prayer yesterday with this focus. But this morning, we will be pausing to look a bit more inward for some self-examination of the heart, though this truly does impact how we interact with the world, doesn't it?

I'm going to begin by reading the passage for this morning, which is Joel two, verses 12 and 13. And as I do, take note, what word, what expression, what part of this Scripture stands out most to you? "Rend your heart, even now, declares the Lord. Return to me, with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart, not your garments, return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity."

As I began to prepare for this chapel, the word that stuck out the most for me from the scripture, was the word rend. I actually love words, though I cannot compete with my mom and her sisters in crossword puzzles. And at this point, I have chosen to keep my Wordle scores private. But I love my giant dictionary when I get to use it. And let's be honest, more recently, I love the dictionary app on my phone. So I knew, I kind of knew the general sense of the word rend. But I wanted to look it up to be sure I didn't miss any nuances. And I am so grateful I did, because I would have missed a great deal. According to Webster's dictionary, the verb "to rend" means one, to remove from place by violence. Two, to split or tear apart or in pieces by violence. Three, to tear hair or clothing, as a sign of anger, grief or despair. This is no casual word. Lizzie Reynolds commented to me that it makes us think a bit differently about the band RenD Collective. And then my husband later made the joke that perhaps we should report them as an Irish terrorist group. I think that's going a bit far. But this is a strong word. The Hebrew word for rend is qara, and it is often associated with the rending of garments. The first time we read this act in the Old Testament is in Genesis 37, and it's done by Ruben, the oldest of the 11 brothers, that betrayed Joseph. Ruben hadn't fully stood up to his other brothers when they wanted to kill Joseph. But he did convince them to throw him in a pit, in a cistern, with the plan to return to save him. However, as you know, likely, the other brothers sold him as a slave. And when Ruben returns to that cistern, and sees that Joseph is not there, he tore his clothes. Few verses later, Jacob, the father of all 12 Brothers, responds the same way when he hears, or is led to believe, that his precious son Joseph was killed by a wild animal. Later in Scripture in Second Samuel, King David tears his clothes when he learns that Saul, and his dear friend Jonathan, have been killed.

So when we think of these scenarios, the violence, the intensity of the word rend makes sense. The rending of garments is a physical expression and response to the pain and anger of profound loss. And for Ruben, likely a deep grief that he hadn't spoken up more, earlier. Rendering, or rending one's garments, has become a traditional Jewish act, or ceremony, at funerals to symbolize mourning. Today, there may be a symbolic cutting or tearing of a piece of cloth, which is then put close to the heart as an external symbol of the internal deep sorrow, or of a broken heart. Have you ever experienced such grief, one that nearly tears your heart out. Perhaps this is something that's occurred to you in the season of the pandemic, where there has been much loss. Or perhaps, and guard your heart as this comes to mind, but perhaps it is a memory of a deep loss of someone you you loved so much, or the loss of someone with whom there was unfinished business. Perhaps it's a breakup with a person you thought you might marry, or a seemingly irreconcilable difference with a friend, with a son or a daughter, a child, or a sibling. I'm sure on some level, many of us have experienced this type of ache, and that desire for the loss to be undone, for restoration, where possible. It is, at times, a feeling beyond words. And again, this rending of the garment could help express this intense emotion. And yet, in this passage, the Scripture says rend your hearts, not your garments. It could be, that this Act, which was meant to be an expression from the heart had, in fact become detached. Detached from true grieving and authenticity, when it came to the Israelites relationship with God. Rend your heart. Remember the intensity of that word? A word where violence is an essence of the definition.

The Prophet Joel's recommendation here is not easy. Now, we're not exactly sure when this book was written. It could be some time around sixth century BC. But we do know the event that gave rise to the writing. There was a terrible locust plague, destroying massive amounts of crop and vegetation needed to feed both humans and cattle. Locusts, I learned, can travel up to 3000 miles in their lifetime. And a swarm, in one day, can devour what 40,000 people could eat in a year. This was a devastating time for Judah. And Joel, as a prophet, interpreted these times, perceiving the locuts not only as a natural disaster, but also an announcement that the day of the Lord was coming, the Day of Judgment. Joel shares the Lord's invitation. "Even now," declares the Lord "return to me with all of your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning." There is an element of surrendering to brokenness, as we get right with God. In my mid 20’s, I worked for Athletes in Action, a Christian sports organization. And I did so in Montreal, and I had the joy of God, like, seeing God move mightily in many young people's lives. And there was one young woman I befriended quite early in my time there. I'm gonna call her Jackie. And we became good friends. We worked out all the time, we'd make homemade pizza, we'd have great spiritual conversations, and she'd start coming to our weekly meetings, were much like a Bible study, and one time she even came to one of our Athletes in Action retreats. I got the sense, it was time for the DTR, determine the relationship, between Jackie and Jesus, where we at. And as we talked, she was not ready. She could not say yes to Jesus. And the reason was, was that she did not want to experience brokenness. Or the deep emotion that she'd witnessed in others on their spiritual journey. It was too scary for her. Even though she saw, it could lead to good and beauty. As an observer, Jackie had noticed that pattern that I hadn't even really been aware of at the time. Though I had experienced it, in my own journey, with Athletes in Action. I found out about them, and someone kindly mentored me like Lizzie Reynolds, mentored me for a couple of meetings. And then I went to their training camp that was all about integrating faith and sport. And God did some amazing things in my heart that week, and I was blown away by how much He was showing me, and what I was learning. And I went over to the woman that I'd had coffee with a few times and said, "Listen, like I am crying before the sessions even start like, am I okay, what's wrong with me?" And her response was, "Oh, good. I've been praying for brokenness." Now, I have to be honest. I was not impressed. I was like, "Do you know how much pain I'm in right now?" But down the road, this is the week that I see that God broke me, and rebuilt me, with Him at the centre. In this time of Lent, as we give things up, we're invited to reflect on, and join Christ in His suffering. We also have this invitation to rend our hearts, which may involve deep sorrow or suffering, as we take time for quiet in God's presence, for self-examination, tearing our hearts apart to see where we are amiss. But this suffering is not pointless. It is a sorrowful suffering for restoration, and the return of our hearts to Jesus, who, for the joy set before him, suffered for us.

When I was first thinking of rending our hearts, what came to mind was actually expression to tear away. For example, for me, it is near impossible to tear away my 11 year old daughter from her Minecraft Empire YouTube videos. This expression had me asking "What do I need to tear away from?" What might you need to tear away from? Lent is a time where we can intentionally reflect on the state of our heart. Often we have given pieces of our heart away to things that keep us away from God, keep us from putting Him first, or from being our first love. These could be things that consume our time, our energy, our money, things that distract us, or, and this would be my case, things that we turn to for comfort, for value or identity, rather than turning or relying on God. In "You are what you Love", James Smith notes that many times we don't even really know what we love, where we've stuck pieces of our heart. Lent is a time to take inventory of what, he refers to as our personal liturgies, our habits. This spiritual discipline is an invitation to quiet, to simplify, to maybe say no to something so that we can hear from God and ask Him to show us what we might need to tear away from. I would like to acknowledge that this can be very difficult. But most things in life that are worthwhile, take effort. Building and maintaining friendships. Writing an essay, how many of us are in the middle of that. Getting in shape. Parenting. Though hard, there is great beauty in rending our hearts. As we tear our hearts away from these lesser places and things. As we address the scattered, distracted broken pieces of our heart, there can be a return to the Lord, with all of our heart. Ironically, in this tearing, there can be a return to wholeness. And I do want to note that God gives us the strength to do this. Joel's messages evoke the covenant relationship between God and His people. Per usual, God is very loyal, and the Israelites may not have been so. But even now, they have this invitation to return to him. You know, in our relational losses with people, it can be complex. And even at times, thinking of some of those breakups, it might be for the best. But with God, we know what we are returning to, you know whom we are returning to. Our Lord, who's gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love. This invitation also brings to mind, to me, Moses' renewal of the Covenant of the Lord, the end of Deuteronomy. And he says to the Israelites, now choose life, so that you and your children may live, and that you may love the Lord your God. Listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. That is where we want our heart, all of our heart, to hold fast to God. May our habits, our relationships, and way of being, choose life help us to choose life.

So as I close today, may I encourage you, though it may be difficult, to rend your heart. With the Lord as lead, and guide, book a divine appointment with Him. Do so this week, even today. And as you're going through your daily Lenten practice, remember this as well. Spend time in God's loving presence, to tear your heart away from the things that keep you from him, so that you may return and rest and dwell in him. And as you heard in previous Chapels, His place that has strength and joy. Rest in whom you live and move and have your being. Rend your hearts and choose life.

So as we pray and close, if you'd like to, place your hand on your heart, just a reminder of God's presence with you, and this invitation for your heart to experience wholeness in Him.

Lord, may You grant us courage, and discipline, and strength to examine our hearts with you, to rend our hearts. Thank you that this is a response to your love, and your invitation to return our whole hearts to you God. Thank You that You love us, the creator and refiner of our hearts. Thank you, Lord.

Go in peace as you carry on today.

Thank you.

— End of transcript —