Sermon 8/11/19: Where is your heart today?

Pr. Brooke Petersen

Lectionary 19c

August 10/11, 2019


Where is your heart today?

Where is your heart today?  We know a lot about hearts, our heart is often considered the center of our emotional lives.  Our hearts are in things are they are not, our hearts are turned toward what is good or they are not, our hearts are on our sleeves, or our hearts are broken or they are wounded.  Our hearts can be closed or weary, at the same time as our hearts can be set on fire or wildly beating.  So, where is your heart today?  What is captivating your heart, what sets your heart beating wildly in your chest?

I think many of us may have hearts that are numb these days- especially when we wake up to news that again, last weekend, two mass shooting left 29 people dead.  Our newsfeeds pop up with alerts about mass shootings almost every 13 days on average.  We read stories that on their second day of school in Mississipi, many children were left with no one to pick them up as ICE arrested and detained parents.  There are children in cages who still do not have access to the parents that brought them to this country seeking asylum.  These are days of broken hearts.

And yet, over this last week our denomination, at churchwide assembly voted to become a sanctuary church body, boldly declaring that we oppose inhumane policies of harassment, detention and deportation implemented by the U.S. government and commit ourselves to being an advocate and justice seeker for immigrants.  The assembly adopted a commemoration for the Emanuel 9 every June 17th, a day specifically reserved for the church to remember the 9 black siblings who died in a church shooting while praying and to specifically repent of the racism that continues to infect our own lives and churches everyday.  Hearts were set on fire as people protested at an ICE detention center and named complicity on systems of oppression.  

It is holding these things together- pieces of broken hearts, hearts that are numb and hearts that are burning within us that is the hard work of this life.  And, fortunately for us, God knows a lot about hearts.  

We begin our readings today in the book of Isaiah, and before we hear what is on God’s heart, I think we have to take a minute to locate ourselves.  Many of us have heard about Sodom and Gomorrah, and when our reading for today opens with addressing those folks, it can bring back all kinds of messages we may have heard in the past about how God’s heart isn’t full of love and delight in the lives of queer people.  So, let me say first, by invoking Sodom and Gomorrah as the opening of this passage, Isaiah isn’t saying anything about sexuality, what Isaiah is pointing to is a land that was laid bare, because the lands of Sodom and Gomorrah would bring to mind for anyone listening a wasteland that was destroyed despite it once being a place of wealth and prosperity.  Isaiah is calling out to any people who think they are rich and free from concern and reminding them that what they think will last forever may be as fleeting as the riches of Sodom and Gomorrah.

And then comes a word of conviction that is meant to break open our hearts.  God says that all the sacrifices, all the bulls and the rams and the goats are meaningless.  God doesn’t want to endure their offerings anymore.  God is weary of their festivals.  When they raise up their hands in prayer and supplication, God even says that God will turn God’s eyes from them because their hands are covered in blood.  The people they have been ignoring- the oppressed, the widow and the orphan, are close to God’s heart, and so God calls the people to give up offering the things God doesn’t want, and instead to repent, to turn around and to do good, and to seek justice.  Nearest to God’s heart are not those who can offer sacrifices, but those who have been sacrificed, those who have been ignored and abused, those who have been cast away.  And so this passage is not just a call out, it is a call in, inviting those who hear it to return to the ways of God and to set their hearts on fire for the kind of justice that is at the center of God’s very being.

Luke offers us another glimpse into God’s heart, as we encounter again this week the teachings of Jesus known as the “travel narrative,” a set of texts that seem to be basically a collection of what Jesus had to say while he travelled toward Jerusalem.  Some of these parables and quick proverbs feel almost disconnected, we move from having no fear to selling our possessions to having our lamps lit, to a dinner party where the master shows up, to a house being broken into just as unexpectedly as the Son of Man will return.  Its almost hard to focus our hearts and minds when it is as if the lessons are coming fast and furious.

But, if we encounter this text as a travel narrative with some clues about what might look like to seek after God’s heart, we may find out some new things about how we might live together on this side of the kingdom.  Our text begins by telling us not to be afraid, because God’s good pleasure is to give us the kingdom.  Every week, as we gather together to ask God to help us become the people God calls us to be, as we confront God’s commands to us in Isaiah, we are reminded that the heart of God is not one of hatred, or shame or guilt, the heart of God finds pleasure in showing us, in giving us the kingdom.  When we come before God, hearts broken numb or torn, and ask that God help us to live differently, God doesn’t look at us like we are crazy.  God doesn’t tell us to come back another time when we can get our lives together.  God says, come on down, it is my pleasure.

At the heart of God is a desire for us, a desire that we might be a people who reflect God’s heart.  At the heart of God is pleasure and delight in us, so that we might trust that we can try a million different ways to reflect God’s kingdom, and God will not give up on us or abandon us.  But this passage doesn’t just reassure us about God’s heart, it also gives us a glimpse into ways that we ought to transform our own.

We hear the words of Jesus for this day- “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  We’ve probably heard this saying before- but with Jesus it sounds a little different.  Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.  Not, whatever you throw your heart into, there is your treasure.  In Jesus words this morning we hear that where your treasure is, there your heart will be.  Our hearts follow after our treasures, not the other way around.

Most of us have heard “you know, my heart just isn’t in it anymore.”  For some of us, those words have come into conversations about our relationships, or our work, or those things we do to help those in need.  Suddenly, our heart just isn’t in it anymore, and for many of us, that is a big stop sign.  If your heart isn’t in it, than it is just plain time to quit.  If our heart isn’t in it, we might as well stop working on it, because there isn’t any point.  If our hearts aren’t in church, if our hearts aren’t in our relationships, if our hearts aren’t in our work anymore, than we might as well move on.  There isn’t any hope.

But, that isn’t what Jesus is telling us this morning.  Where our treasure is that is where our hearts will be.  Where our money and our time, where our energy and our gifts are is where our hearts will be.  And, sometimes, when our hearts just aren’t really in it, when our hearts are a little slow to follow, sometimes putting our treasures where our hearts are torn, will allow our hearts to follow.  Instead of so quickly giving up on those things that seem hard, instead of throwing in the towel when we are overwhelmed and just don’t seem ready to work anymore, we put our treasures where we want our hearts to be, and those slow moving hearts finally learn how to follow.  

Where is your heart today?  Is it numb or broken or on fire?  Does your heart reflect God’s heart?  Might this day be a call for you to take what is most precious to you- your time, your talents, your money and to put it where God calls you heart to be?  Might this be a day to take a hard look at whether our treasures reflect a view of God’s kingdom as described to us in Isaiah, a world where the oppressed are free, the widow and the orphan are ignored no more? 

Where your treasure is, there is where your heart will be.  When we release control of our treasures, when we offer to God what we’d rather clutch tightly to ourselves, when we give up the things that feel as if they give us all the security in the world, we suddenly realize that our hearts have been transformed.  What we thought was most important isn’t most important anymore.  What the world sold us as the ultimate source of life pales in comparison to the kingdom of God.  The money, the stuff, the treasures we thought would save us are merely dust, consumed by moth.  

Where is your treasure, and where is your heart?  Have no fear, broken hearted or set afire, have no fear because it is God’s pleasure and delight to reside with us.  And as God offers us God’s heart, over and over again, we are invited to imagine anew what we might do with ours.  Amen, and thanks be to God.