Thursday, July 30, 2009

What's the heart of the matter?

After I read the Scriptures, I like to sit for just a few minutes and reflect, and sometimes, I'll write a response in my journal. I did so today, taking as my prompt the Daily Office Gospel, Mark 7.1-23.

Jesus is disputing with a group of Pharisees, who reproach him and his disciples for eating without washing their hands.

The Pharisees are serious about their Jewish faith. They want to do the right thing, at least the majority of them do, I believe.

They're just wrong about the right thing.

The right thing, Jesus says, the heart of the matter, is not the external, but the internal. It's not dirty hands, but a dirty hearts.

Jesus knows these Pharisees, that their hearts are filthy.

To paraphrase Him: "Moses says you must set aside some resources for God. But you invoke Moses and set aside all your resources, including those that Moses says should be used for the care of your aged parents, for your own selfish purposes."

Jesus sees through the Pharisees's empty words and practices to their hearts and challenges them, teaching them that what counts with His Heavenly Father.

What's important is a person's heart, which reflects the quality of his or her relationship with God.

Jesus wants these Pharisees to examine their hearts:

Are you loyal to God above all? Have you given your lives to God completely, including the uses of your resources? Do you seek God and God alone, live for God and God alone?

They aren't and don't. Jesus may not have reached all of them, but perhaps He reached some of them with the truth.

Today, as I entered into a conversation with Jesus, I examined my own heart and found it unclean. The Gospel led me to repentence and deeper conversion of life.

And the gospel prompted me to think about how this text might speak to the church today and specifically about our clash over human sexuality, homosexuality in particular.

Aren't many of us focused on the wrong thing? Concerned, sometimes obsessively, about externals, not internals, about outward things, not inward things, about washed or unwashed hands, not washed or unwashed hearts.

We've made this debate about sex, when it should appropriately be about relationships--about
the people involved in heterosexual or homosexual relationships: the character of the people involved, the quality of their relationships, and their commitment to Christ.

Whether we're gay or straight, are we truly committed to Christ and to following Him as our Savior and Lord, especially in all our relationships? Gay or straight, does our love for others, including that physical expression of love, reflect the love of Jesus Christ?

The Gospels and the New Testament, together with the Prayer Book sacramental rite of Holy Matrimony uphold Jesus as the standard and measure of love.

Jesus showed His love for humanity by serving us, by suffering and dying and rising from the grave for our salvation, by teaching us and empowering by the Holy Spirit to love, even giving up our lives for others, friends and enemies alike.

His heart was pure. His love was pure.

Whatever our sexuality, our love for others should reflect this pure, Christly love. The heart of the matter is not clean hands, but a clean heart. A heart that is wholly God's and loves out of it.

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