Fifty years ago this month, Neil Young recorded ‘Heart of Gold’, a song that topped the charts in both Canada and the USA. Apparently he wrote it following a back injury. According to Wikipedia, “Unable to stand for long periods of time, Young could not play his electric guitar and so returned to his acoustic guitar, which he could play sitting down.” “Heart of Gold” is all acoustic guitar and, of course, it has those haunting harmonica injects.

Those familiar lyrics express a desire common to every person: “I want to live, I want to give. I've been a miner for a heart of gold”. He was only 26 years old but Neil Young grasped what was truly important, and he wanted to find it. “I've been to Hollywood; I've been to Redwood. I crossed the ocean for a heart of gold...I've been in my mind. It's such a fine line, That keeps me searching for a heart of gold...Keep me searching for a heart of gold.”

Young’s prayer (if that’s what it was) connects in a certain way with the Collect for Ash Wednesday: “Create and make in us new and contrite hearts”. The true, golden heart is a clean and contrite one. “Clean” as in “holy”; “unselfish”. These were David’s words in Psalm 51.10: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me”.

But the Collect adds “contrite” which means “broken”. It conveys the image of a piece of pottery that has to be remade. Because of its imperfection, the potter throws it down on the wheel and centers it, and begins again. And so it is with us. The Lord by His patience and mercycan take our small, divided hearts and remake them into something beautiful –even a heart of gold. But we must trust Him to center us and reshape us. As Isaiah said, “We are the clay, and You are our potter”. (64.8) And, He can use any means for His wheel, even a pandemic.