In the western world-view, at least, we see our hearts as the core of our being. It's what keeps us alive. We connect feelings with our heart as when we say "I could feel it deep down in my heart." And we say things such as "heart and soul" to mean "completely", or what is the essential element of something, as in the heart and soul of the matter is such-and-such.
We take things to heart. We learn things by heart. We say that things do our heart good. If you have your heart in your mouth it means you're frightened or very anxious. Losing your heart to someone means you've won someone's deep affection. When we say a person is close to our heart, it means they are very dear to us. If you have your heart in the right place, it means your intentions are good.
A lot of expressions use the word "heart" to convey special meaning.
It's in the gospel reading for Ash Wednesday, the day we begin the journey of Lent.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
We talk about putting our heart into something, putting our heart into what we value. Jesus switches things around. He says that what we value, what we treasure, that's where our heart will be. Where your treasure is that's where your heart will be also.
Jesus points out another reality. He says that earthly things wear out; they rust or are eaten up somehow or taken away from us. They don't last. We don't have them forever. While they may be comforting or fun to have, Jesus points to a new way of looking at things that is different. "Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal."
The thing is that what we have on earth is temporal. Earthly things have a time-limit. They have a best before date. They have an expiry date. And the thing is that you and I have expiry dates too. Ash Wednesday literally makes that mark on us in the imposition of ashes.
There are higher things some of which are gifts. And in this Season Lent the higher gift is forgiveness and our being forgiven.
By knowing deep in the heart about being forgivable and being forgiven, we can have an attitude of forgiveness which is a new way of relating one to the other. Out of being forgiven, a person can seek higher things in relationships with others. A person who is forgiven knows about forgiving. A community that knows about forgiving, forgives.
Being forgiven is a way of being empowered to learn from the ups-and-downs of the experiences of life.
Forgiving is a way of empowering another to learn from their ups-and-downs in their experiences of life. It's the same among communities. It's a treasure to hold in the heart. It's a treasure to practise from the heart.
You'll know it's a treasure of the heart because it endures. And when given out of the heart it's a treasure that makes a difference that endures.
It's a treasure that changes lives as it changes yours.
That why Jesus says it's a treasure in your heart. And maybe that's why it is the gospel on the very first day in Lent.
In the Holy Season of Lent, help us, O Lord, to be seeking the treasures of your kingdom. Help us to recognize those treasures in the world and in our hearts. Guide us always by the flow of your Holy Spirit. Amen
The Rev'd W Glenn Empey