The last couple days have been some of the most trying days of my personal life and professional career. Between the presbytery, my church, and my life, it has been big decisions, and crunched time. Sorry you haven’t heard from me in a few days. I simply ran out of time.
In the midst of it, one of my friends said, “How do you keep going, doing such difficult work for these churches? You obviously have a heart for ministry.”
And that is true. I think it’s amazing the kind of energy one can have when you truly love what you are doing.
Today, that word pops up in a number of our readings – heart.
“The Lord saw …that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually …, and it grieved him to his heart.” Genesis 6:5b, 6b
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” Hebrews 3:15
The wedding at Cana in John, while it doesn’t say these words, could be interpreted as, “their hearts were filled with joy.”
In scripture, the word heart is used quite differently than our usage. While we often think of the heart as the center of emotions, and the head as center of intellect. People of this time used bowels as the place thought to be the center of emotions. The heart was where one’s own soul resided. And soul was different for them as well, a representation of their whole self: body, mind, spirit, and emotions. A soul was not separated from the body, but the very essence of it. From it comes blood, the essential fabric of life. Without the heart, the center of life, one loses the breath of God, given at the time of Adam by God himself.
Jeremiah later speaks a promise of God to put the law of God within us, and to write it on our hearts. So hearts are where reason reside. Even today we say, “Does that feel right in your heart?” an indication of full satisfaction.
One’s true self came out through the heart, and to have a hardened heart meant being frozen and impenetrable to God’s grace – self-centered and distant.
Hearts can be hard, shut, made of stone, proud, or hurt. In places in the Bible, hearts are covered, an awkward phrase which may indicate a protective shield, defending from outside hostilities or danger.
Hearts also change. They can become open and refreshed. Hard hearts can be thawed by the awesome grace of God. (Of course in our Genesis passage, the hardened hearts of the people are unsalvageable to God, and destruction of the whole creation is begun, with only Noah finding favor, a righteous remnant).
We are called to the joy of the wedding at Cana, when hearts danced and were filled with joy. God invites us to have open hearts, surprised by the joy and grace offered each day. An open heart is one which bursts with joy, responding to God in thanksgiving. An open heart is also one filled with passion and compassion. This means a special burden to the open heart, one that is concerned with justice, peace, and goodwill.
Having an open heart means not only fully experiencing the joy of the wedding at Cana, but being compelled to show up and share in the revealed glory of Christ. It means being open to others in need, a welcoming, trusting, and listening heart.
Is this an invitation to attend the wild and crazy parties? Absolutely, if that is where one can minister to the outcast and brokenhearted. What a better place to shine the light of Christ, see a non-judgmental open heart, and work for the end of suffering, loneliness, and ache for justice to prevail!
So let us live this day with an OPEN HEART, listening and living a life of invitation.