Windsor Community United Methodist Church
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Mike Turgeon “What is your heart?” 3-25-12
God said, "The man has become like one of us, capable of knowing everything, ranging from good to evil. What if he now should reach out and take fruit from the tree of life and eat, and live forever? Never—this cannot happen!"
So God expelled them from the Garden of Eden and sent them to work the ground, the same dirt out of which they'd been made. He threw them out of the garden and stationed angel-cherubim and a revolving sword of fire east of it, guarding the path to the tree of life.
Leaving Eden: What is your heart?
The final question in the Leaving Eden series is what is your heart? Previously we’ve asked what is your Eden? Your time or place of innocence. A time when you didn’t know that something could be broken.
Next, we asked, what is your apple? What is it that is taking you out of Eden, or taking Eden out of you? Where are you crossing boundaries and over-stepping limits that cause you destructive consequences or distress?
Your Eden is a remembrance of your past; your apple represents the temptations of the present. Your heart, though, is the very center of your being; your heart is what your life revolves around. So what is that?
When we encounter heart in scripture it means authenticity. Your heart is where you desire and decide things; and, most importantly, your heart is that place where God meets you. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus gave us deep wisdom about the geography of our hearts when he said:
“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:21
The lesson being, pay real close attention to what it is you treasure in this life. Your heart can only be in one place. Choose wisely.
My knowledge of the mechanics of the heart is pretty meager. Other than 4th grade science, I had one biology class throughout my entire education. I don’t know how that happened. The class I did have was in the first year of college and all I remember was learning the intimate details of the sex-life of the fruit fly. Believe me, that was not a romance novel. That’s all the anatomy or biology I got. So to learn more about how the heart works, I Googled Wikipedia.
Did you know the heart has four chambers, two for receiving and two for discharging blood?
If you knew that then you’re way ahead of me. And I learned the average heart beats about 3 billion times in a lifetime.
My main understanding of how the heart works has come from a lifetime of opening my heart and getting it stomped on. Am I talking to the right people here?
What is your heart?
From what I’ve learned, the heart really has six chambers. Two of them don’t process blood or anything like it. One of those is a chamber of passion and the other one is a chamber of fear. I still remember the first time I went quickly from the one to the other. This is the story of Becky White, the first girl that ever kissed me. We were about thirteen years old. I was a complete nerd and she was awesome.
It was a Friday night before a football game and there was a bonfire going to happen. The first important ingredient was in place, the dark of night. The event was not far from my house and as I walked over there, my plan was simple--find Becky, ask her to step back from the people, and kiss her. Well, as soon I found her she asked me to step over by the trees and she kissed me.
A week later, at least this is how I remember it, Becky White took up with the captain of the football team. I had lived for weeks in the heart chamber of passion and within minutes was cowering in the chamber of fear. I knew for a fact that no one would ever find me attractive again. I also learned there is risk to exposing one’s heart.
Passion and fear drive us. Which chamber are you living in?
Where is your heart?
It’s the question that is being asked of us every waking moment of our lives. What does your life revolve around?
The English writer Aldous Huxley once wrote:
“Every moment of our human life is a moment of crisis; for at every moment we are called upon to make an all-important decision-- to choose between the way that leads to spiritual darkness and the way that leads toward light and life” Aldous Huxley
Adam and Eve learned, as do we, the ABCs of decision-making and desire. Make no mistake, we do make some decisions with our heads, but only a very few; mostly our heart leads the way. Adam and Eve had the desire to be God-like and that desire over-ruled their understanding of the cost of that decision.
Blaise Pascal, French mathematician, philosopher and theologian once said:
“The heart has its reasons that reason does not know.”
meaning to say that your passion or your fear, what is in your heart, has a say in how the rest of the brain goes about its business. All the more reason to keep our heart in the right place and in the proper shape.
What is your heart it is not an intellectual question, you don’t answer with your mind; we answer it with how we live our lives.
A heart-less and fear-full God?
I find our scripture this morning to be a very curious one. Does it not look to you like the God who banishes Adam and Eve from the garden is living in the fear chamber of the heart? What are we to make of a God who is threatened by a pair of mortals who now know the difference between good and evil? God seems rather insecure and threatened, no?
I believe the entire story of Adam and Eve tells us more about who we are than about who God is. Portraying God as petty and insecure here represents the best understanding of God at the time. Remember, up until this time, there were lots of gods being worshipped; gods that were hurling thunderbolts out of the sky, no less.
And those who wrote Genesis were saying, God must be petty and insecure like us, right? If God is not like us, how will we ever be able to explain what is happening to us; and if this God is not like us, how will we be able to control this God? Wait a minute, that sounds like you and me talking today, trying to control God. Man’s understanding of God evolves, but it never attains the certain wisdom that belongs to God alone.
God did become like us, but it sure wasn’t what we expected, was it? How far have we evolved beyond the writers of Genesis?
The more we have changed, the more we have stayed the same. Someone has said that if Jesus returned today we wouldn’t crucify him; we would invite him to dinner and then laugh at him behind his back. Cynicism is the cross on which we crucify Christ today.
Should we take the avenging God of the Garden seriously? Good question. The answer is “no” and “yes.” No, God is not just another one of us. That is especially not true in Jesus. And yes, the God of the Garden is serious that Eden is closed for good. We must work the ground, the same dirt out of which we were made, and we must choose which chamber of the heart we will occupy, the chamber of passion or the chamber of fear.
It is important to get it that Jesus meets us in both places. The person we claim as Christ was not a stranger to passion, his life was lived as a burning flame. Interestingly, the root meaning of passion (pascho) means suffering.
passion = suffering
Is that s strange-sounding definition? Hardly. As followers of Jesus, we invest in the Passion of Jesus Christ, whom we refer to as the Paschal Lamb. In this instance, passion refers to the trial and tribulations Jesus faced on his final journey, the path that led to Calvary, where the Paschal Lamb was sacrificed.
Passion as suffering means that the walls of the heart’s chambers may not be so rigid. In our surrender to Christ on Calvary we offer our very worst fears to be transformed into the fuel for a life in his service.
We, all of us, from Adam and Eve on down, sit next to a great pool of tears. The grace, mercy, love and promise of Jesus Christ is that in and with him, we will never drown in that pool.
So what is your heart? What is your plan A? What is the content of your passion chamber? Living the Gospel is a crossroad. That crossroad is the place where your great passion meets the world’s great suffering.
There is one other way to ask the question what is your heart? And that is
What would you do if you were not afraid?
A woman was so afraid of dentists that when she got to the office, she wrote down “wimp” for her middle name on the information form. The receptionist played along with her, and announced “The doctor will now see the wimp.” Immediately, four out of the five people in the office stood up.
To be human is to know the depths of fear as well as the heights of passion.
Cardinal Newman, the great cleric and Catholic educator, once wrote in his journal:
“Fear not that thy life shall come to an end, but rather fear that it shall not have a beginning.”
The message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that he will lead you from your fear into your passion, at any time of your life, in any hour of your life, and in any challenge of your life.