Summary: Fifth Sermon in the 2009 Lenten Series, ‘The Body of Christ,’ and the communion meditation for Sunday, April 5, 2009
I begin this morning with this question: (Slide 1) How is your heart this morning?
How many here think that when you hear that question, immediately think of your physical heart? How many of your ‘inner’ heart? We can interpret this question in two ways. The first way has to do with the state of your physical heart. The second way has to do with the state of your being, your emotions, or your soul.
In our Lenten reading a few moments ago, we heard several different passages out of the gospels with the word ‘heart’ appearing in all of them. Here they are again:
(Slide 2) Mark 7:21 "For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come…” (NRSV)
Then there is Matthew 5:8 that says, (Slide 3) "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
Next we heard the words of Jesus in a key passage of Luke 10:27 (Slide 3a) "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,…”
Then in Matthew 11:29 Jesus is quoted as saying, (Slide 4) "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls…”
Mark 11:23 reads, (Slide 5) “…if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you."
Jesus also made another important point about our hearts in Luke 11:24 (Slide 6) "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
And finally, Jesus mentions the issue of the heart, to His increasingly troubled followers in John 14:1 (Slide 6a) "Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.
I believe there is two important aspects of these seven passages out of the New Testament that deal with our heart, which is the spiritual dimension of our lives.
(Slide 7) The first aspect has to do with the disposition of our heart. By disposition, I mean the outlook or mindset of heart.
What is it that a parent has often says to a child who is misbehaving? ‘Straighten up and fly right!’
What might a coach say, often with great intensity, to his team in the locker during half-time when they are having their hats handed to them on the field or court and they look already defeated? ‘Quitters never win!’
We are talking attitude here because our attitude, our disposition comes out of that part of us deep within us – our heart. This attitude, this disposition of our heart was something that Jesus paid very close attention to and called people out on from time to time.
It was notably the Pharisees who Jesus did this to, because He observed that their hearts were hard and dead. In other words, their disposition was one of legalism and rigidity.
Purity of heart, humility of heart, and peace of heart, or not, is evidence of the disposition of our heart. It is the evidence of the choices we make regarding how we are going to reply to our circumstances.
Our disposition, when it comes to the issue of faith likewise has a corporate dimension. This is mentioned the places like 1 Corinthians and Revelation chapters 2 and 3. I would in fact suggest that Paul’s writings to the various Christian communities of his day, address the issue of those communities’ inner dispositions.
For example, in situation after situation in 1 Corinthians, Paul addresses attitudes of self-centeredness and selfishness. He calls the Corinthian community to task for their pride and constant conflict as evidence of the lack of pure and holy heart.
In St. John’s vision, the Holy Spirit calls seven churches to account for their spiritual state of affairs. One is doing well but the rest need to make some changes by allowing God to change their hearts.
(Slide 8) The second aspect has to do with the expression of our heart. As the Mark 7:21 passage indicates, it is out of the heart a whole host of evil intentions come.
The two aspects are linked together. The disposition of our heart influences and directs the expressions of our heart.
In other words, what comes out of our heart affects what our ears hear, our eyes see, our feet walk, and our hands do. Our heart disposition and expression affects the lives of others and makes our faith plausible or implausible.
Likewise what goes into our hearts through our eyes, ears, hands, and feet, influences our inner disposition. I would simply remind us of what Jesus said was the cure for lust – ‘cutting off’ the offending hands or feet. In other words, to stop doing or seeing or hearing or going to people and places that cause us to sin.