Epiphany 4: Blessing for a Whole Heart

In Every Chamber of the Heart
Image: In Every Chamber of the Heart © Jan Richardson

Readings for Epiphany 4, Year B:
Deuteronomy 18.15-20Psalm 111, 1 Corinthians 8.1-13, Mark 1.21-28

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.
–Psalm 111.1

For the past year and a half I have been carrying a small piece of art in my purse. The size of a playing card, it’s a collage created by my friend Priscilla. Within the collage is a single word, printed in her handwriting:


When Priscilla gave me the collage six months before Gary’s death, she could hardly have imagined how much I would need it, and how soon. I continue to carry it as a reminder and a prayer—not simply that my heart will be mended, but that even in the shattering, I will know there is a hidden wholeness that has already taken hold. This wholeness is a mystery I catch only in glimpses. But when I look at Priscilla’s word, I see not only a plea but also a blessing, a declaration of something that, in God’s strange timing, has already come about, and that I hope to live into.

This week, the lectionary gives us these same kinds of glimpses. Each reading offers a window onto what it means to have a whole heart, to live in a way that recognizes that, broken though we may be, God sees us complete and is about the work of helping us live into that completeness, not just for ourselves but for and with one another. Deuteronomy’s injunction against any prophet whose heart turns toward false gods, the psalmist’s wholehearted cry of thanksgiving to the God who sends redemption, Paul’s words that call the church at Corinth to be mindful of how their individual choices have consequences for the health of the whole community, and Jesus’ healing of a man with an unclean spirit: each of these passages shows us something of the wholeness in which God created us, and is working out within us.

This week, how might it be to open your heart—no matter how broken—to the One who sees you whole?

Blessing for a Whole Heart

You think
if you could just
imagine it,
that would be a beginning;
that if you could envision
what it would look like,
that would be a step
toward a heart
made whole.

This blessing
is for when
you cannot imagine.
This is for when
it is difficult to dream
of what could lie beyond
the fracture, the rupture,
the cleaving through which
has come a life
you do not recognize
as your own.

When all that inhabits you
feels foreign,
your heart made strange
and beating a broken
and unfamiliar cadence,
let there come
a word of solace,
a voice that speaks
into the shattering,

reminding you
that who you are
is here,
every shard
somehow holding
the whole of you
that you cannot see
but is taking shape
even now,
piece joining to piece
in an ancient,
remembered rhythm

that bears you
not toward restoration,
not toward return—
as if you could somehow
become unchanged—
but steadily deeper
into the heart of the one
who has already dreamed you

– Jan Richardson

For previous reflections on this week’s gospel reading, visit these posts:

Epiphany 4: Blessing in the Chaos
Epiphany 4: In the Realm of the Spirits

Registration now open!

Beloved Lenten Retreat

Beloved Retreat: Are you hungry for an experience that draws you into Lent without feeling like it’s just one more thing to add to your schedule? Join us for this online retreat that easily fits into the rhythm (or chaos!) of your days, offering you an elegantly simple space to reflect on your journey and receive sustenance for your path. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, this retreat is a great way to travel toward Easter, from anywhere you are. Click Online Lenten Retreat for details and registration. Individual, group, & congregational rates available.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “In Every Chamber of the Heart,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

3 Responses to “Epiphany 4: Blessing for a Whole Heart”

  1. Jill Kidman Says:

    Thank you Jan – as ever your words are breathtakingly helpful and the picture is beautiful. Jill

  2. Manuela Meier Says:

    Just discovered your site and beautiful poetry – thank you! I thought you might to visit us!
    . http://gentleartofblessing.com/blessing-messages-read-by-pierre-pradervand/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *