Sunday, July 03, 2005

Heart Knowledge: sermon

Sunday in Ordinary Time 14 A proclamation
Sunday between July 3 and 9

Sunday, 03 July 2005

Let’s begin by hearing a Word of Life
from the Gospel according to

Matthew, chapter 11:16-19; 28-30
Jesus exclaimed:
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 Jesus, 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!”
Jesus continued,
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.”
Let’s pray together (more and less from Psalm 145:8-14):

God, for your gracious, compassionate, loving goodness to all creation, we thank You! Draw us to Yourself and let us learn from You, so we will be able to enter Your dance and show the world the glorious splendor of Your constant presence among all people of every generation. In the Name of the Living Word, Jesus Christ, Amen!
Sermon title: Heart Knowledge

Grace, mercy and peace to you from our Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer God!

How can you know someone and say something true about a person unless you know that person's heart? How can any of us say anything about God unless we know God’s heart?

Our central Christian message to the world is the way God reveals Himself to us most clearly in the human, Jesus of Nazareth; one of the primary ways we learn about God is by reading the Bible. Especially in the Gospel accounts we find in the Bible, we learn how God in Christ Jesus lived a human life like ours and learned the human heart from the experience of living human. In Jesus Christ, God learned the heart of a human person, but as humans, can we know God’s heart?

A great deal of the Bible was a product of Jewish life and culture, and in Hebrew biology, above all, the heart is the seat of the will.

Throughout all of the Bible’s witness, in the demonstration of Jesus’ life and today, in the life of the contemporary people of God, the Church, we encounter the heart of God. Maybe you know the story of Abram or Abraham from the Old Testament book of Genesis? The Bible’s text informs us Abraham was an Ivri – a Hebrew: someone from the other side! You don’t need to know formal theology or have spent time in church to realize that God is very much the Other-than-us, God is way beyond time and space, God comes from that exceedingly “other side!” However, the Bible tells us and the Church always has taught how God became incarnate, God became enfleshed as one of us, God lived as a human, in Jesus of Nazareth. From what we read in the gospels, Jesus spent most of his earthly life and ministry outside of the religious establishment and outside of the high-end social establishment; Jesus lived most of his life on the conventional systems’ and accredited authorities’ “other sides,” all the while inviting everyone to become part of his insider circle, always inviting everyone to belong to the people of God.

Back to how we can know God’s heart; from his words recorded in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus said:
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.’ 19 Jesus, the Human One, 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!”
In Hebrew biology the heart is the seat of the will; in this passage from Matthew 11, Jesus identifies with Wisdom in the Old Testament book of Proverbs; here’s part of the Wisdom text:
Proverbs 8
1 Does not wisdom call out?
Does not understanding raise her voice?
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.
35 For whoever finds Wisdom finds life
and receives favor from the LORD.”
According to these words, in justice and righteousness, a wise person grabs hold of this moment, this right now; according to Jesus’ example the God-like gentle-hearted wise person invites everyone to the meal, whether it’s a banquet or a simple spread on a picnic table, helping sustain them on every life level with food and companionship, in friendship helping carry their sorrows and rejoicings.

We know Jesus as the best-ever image of God, and Jesus asks us to behave the way he did! In other words, if we’re going to be like God, one of the ways we need to imitate Jesus is by not intentionally excluding anyone...but how can we do that? We’ve already learned the heart is where the will resides, and every one of us knows how many times we fail to do what we intend to do, no matter how hard we try. A prominent author of part of the Bible, Paul, or Saul, from the city of Tarsus, has an answer for us; in the book of Romans, the letter to the Church at Rome, Paul sounds a lot like us when he says in chapter 7:
Romans 7:21a-25a

21 ...even when I want to do good, evil is right there alongside the good; 22 while in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 I see another law at work in my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my body. 24 What a deplorable person I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God, Who rescues me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Paul insists God rescues “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” However, for people who haven’t spent much time in church, that needs some explaining. There’s a ton of theology connected with it, but the basic truth is that in Jesus’ death on the cross of Good Friday and God raising Jesus to new life on Easter Sunday, God has done everything necessary to deliver us, to save, rescue us and forgive us from our own frustrating and often highly self-defeating behaviors, such as not feeling like bringing others into our circles, frequently wanting to put our own desires before the needs of others, constantly repeating behavior we already know leads to negative outcomes. In other words, in Jesus Christ, God rescues us from the worst parts of ourselves by re-newing and re-forming us into people who live according to Jesus’ example!

In Hebrew biology, the heart is the seat of the will! Throughout the gospels’ narrative we encounter Jesus feasting with friends, outsiders and strangers, showing the world the heart of God that wills to include, renew and restore all people into a community where everyone belongs, where there is no outsider! According to Jesus, the wise person’s - wisdom’s - practice of including everyone at meals helps lead to righteousness. We celebrate righteousness or justness as one of God’s attributes or qualities, and we recognize righteousness as one of God’s qualities Christ gives us! Does this happen when we come to faith in Jesus and in baptism? Yes, of course! But also as we continue following the gracious and inclusive Way of Jesus every day.

Via the gospel-writer Matthew, Jesus recommends, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you a break. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

During his earth-walk, Jesus found many of his examples in everyday life; in biblical days a yoke spanned the shoulders of oxen so they could share the weight of a load by pulling together. Jesus knows we need a yoke; we need to be linked together in community and connected together with Jesus, in order to lighten the many loads every one of us carries.

I can assure you – from my own experience, from other people’s testimony and from the witness of the biblical record – God knows the human heart because in Jesus Christ God has lived as one of us, God has lived a fully human life. I reassure you – from my own experience, from other people’s testimony and because of God’s faithful and unbreakable promises – as the Holy Spirit, God still lives with us, within us and among us, most specifically in the gathered assembly of the Church. In the Church we call this time in the history of the world Pentecost, meaning the days of the Reign or Sovereignty of the Holy Spirit of God.

Because the Holy Spirit of God and of the Christ is with us, we can know God’s heart as we continue fully becoming people who show the world the heart of God, including others in our insider circle. Because the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus is here, right now, we can be yoked with Jesus and yoked into community, helping friends and sometimes strangers carry their heavy loads as in turn they help bear ours. May we trust God and Jesus as together we follow the Way of Jesus!

To God Alone be Glory!!!
Amen!!!!!

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