Doing theology and living theology: how do you speak a valid word about a person without knowing that person's heart? How can you speak the word about God unless you know the Divine Essence from live experience? How does one - how do you, how do I, how does anyone - faithfully, authentically and with just plain reality talk about a person unless you know their experiences and especially their heart? During one of our online book discussions I’m remembering because recently I posted a lot of what I’d written, after mentioning how God in Christ Jesus shared our common lot and learned the human heart from the experience of living human, semi-rhetorically I asked, “As humans, can we know God’s heart?”
In Hebrew biology the heart is the seat of the will.
Throughout the Bible’s witness, the demonstration of Jesus’ life and the life of the Church we encounter the heart of God, which is the heart of a stranger, the heart of the *other*, the exiles, the outcast, the different ones: the anawim, least of these. Inside presupposes an outside (center/periphery? interior/exterior? probably both). Considered one of our most major progenitors in faith, Abram/Abraham was an Ivri - a Hebrew: one from the other side! In Jesus of Nazareth, God the Truly Other-than-us, God beyond time and space, from that exceedingly “other side,” became incarnate, spending most of his earthly life and ministry on the religious and social establishment’s geographic and functional peripheries and exteriors, on the conventional systems’ and accredited authorities’ “other sides.”
Remember imperial religion with its futile and fruitless quest to control and keep God at a distance (on the other side of human affairs and concerns) and at humanity’s beck and call (only coming close when humanity allowed)? As in the Jerusalem Temple, as in a lot of today’s institutional ecclesiastical entities? To shape God into exactly the *what* people wanted their god(s) to be?
Back to how we can know God’s heart: in Hebrew biology the heart is the seat of the will. Our central Christian hermeneutic is God’s definitive self-revelation in the human Jesus of Nazareth; in Christ Jesus - and in this present Pentecost, Sovereignty of the Spirit, Rain of God, in glory, grace, mercy and surprising vulnerability, the heavens are open to all the earth!
For Sunday, July 3rd (Sunday in Ordinary Time 14 A), one of the mix of at least eight Revised Common Lectionary texts is from Matthew 11; part of the part of Matthew 11 I’m planning to preach on includes:
Matthew 11:16-19; 25-30To the jumble of lections for that Sunday, from Proverbs 8 I’m adding:
16 “To what can I compare this age group? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to others:
17 “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a sad song and you did not lament.’ 18 John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Human One, Jesus, came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by wisdom’s deeds!”
28 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you a break. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for my heart is gentle and unpretentious, and in me you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Proverbs 8In Hebrew biology the heart is the seat of the will; in the Matthew 11 passage, Jesus identifies with Proverbs’ Wisdom. In justice and righteousness, the wise person grabs hold of this right now and feasts with friends; the gentle- and unpretentious-hearted wise one invites everyone to the banquet (or sometimes to the simple meal spread on our own picnic table), helping sustain them on every level with food and community, in the intimacy of friendship helping carry their sorrows and rejoicings. Throughout his earth-walk, Jesus’ close to indiscriminate table companionship with almost everyone except the insiders foreshadowed - yet was a taste of the completeness - of the final eschatological Reign of God. In the eucharist, in a single broken loaf and one shared cup, the assembled community of the church offers the Welcome Table’s Bread of Life in which the fruits of the totality of the redeemed and restored creation are gathered together in a single place and time.
1 Does not wisdom call out?
Does not understanding raise her voice?
4 “To you, O humanity, I call out;
I raise my voice to all creation.
5 You who are simple, gain prudence;
you who are foolish, gain understanding.
12 “I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;
I possess knowledge and discretion.
20 I walk in the way of righteousness,
along the paths of justice,
33 Listen to my instruction and be wise;
do not ignore it.
34 Blessed is the person who listens to me,
watching daily at my doors,
waiting at my doorway.
35 For whoever finds me finds life
and receives favor from the LORD.”
In Hebrew biology, the heart is the seat of the will! Throughout scripture’s narrative we encounter a multitude of images of Jesus’ feasting with friends, enemies, outsiders and strangers, showing the world the heart of God that wills to redeem and restore all people and all of creation into a community where everyone belongs, where there is no outsider and not any insiders, either! Jesus’ everyday practice of eating and drinking with all gave the world a foretaste of Maundy Thursday’s New Covenant announcement, Good Friday’s New Covenant enactment and Easter Sunday’s New Covenant ratification, of Jesus’ giving his life for the lively redemption of all creation. According to Jesus, wisdom’s deeds of inclusive table camaraderie lead to righteousness, which we celebrate as one of God’s attributes, and we recognize as one of God’s attributes with which Christ attires and endows us! In faith and in baptism? Yes, of course! But also as we continue following the Way of Jesus every day.