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Preacher: The Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel Assisting Bishop of SE Florida, TEC
Date: 30 July 2023, Eighth Sunday after Trinity
Good morning I bring you all greetings from the Episcopal Church which comprises
the United States, as well as many countries and places outside of it. We rejoice in our
connections in this, our Anglican family. I bring you particular greetings from the Diocese of Southeast Florida where I serve as Assisting Bishop and from our Bishop Diocesan Bishop Peter Eaton.
Now, I realize, many of you have already picked up that I am not from around here, I have a rather peculiar and funny way of speaking, and indeed it might have been helpful to have an interpreter this morning, to interpret my Southern USA drawl, but alas we do not have that so I promise I will try to do my very best. As I do that I also wish to thank Dean Barrington, a true mentor and friend, for the invitation and blessing of standing here in this amazingly beautiful and
Today I would like to focus on “heart.” Both the word, but mostly the concept. The heart
is of course a real thing and yet also a theme well beyond that reality. This is what our
collect for the day points to so well when we prayed.
We beseech you to direct, sanctify and govern both our hearts and bodies in the ways of your laws
and the works of your commandments;
Paul points to it in his letter to the Romans today when he speaks of our God, who
searches our heart.
Most of us understand body, it is pretty clear, and we can see it and know it. Heart, however, is both physical and real, and yet far more than that. Here, when heart is used, it is, of course, not suggesting our actual beating heart, that organ we all have right about here. Of course, that organ is real, and also real important to each of us, but that is not what heart here means.
No, in these words, from Jesus, “heart,” refers to those things we cannot, for the most part, see at all.
If you think about it, none of us absolutely know we have a heart right here, except that we can feel it beating, we can feel it when it is hurting, but in the end it is a matter of faith to a degree, that one is right here, and is working to keep us alive. Most of us intellectually know that we cannot live without it working, day in, day out, minute to minute, literally as they say, and
hopefully for each us, not missing a beat.
Most often, if we are truly fortunate, we don’t think about it at all, but it keeps always, doing its work. It’s consistency, its persistence, is absolutely crucial to our continued survival. We can live without many other things, but not without a heart.
So we can say it is absolutely central, crucial, primary to life.
With that idea, and understanding, Jesus and so many others use this image, heart, meaning everything that makes you you, me me, anybody anybody.
That is what makes this image so mysterious and yet so powerful. It is one reason Jesus,
and so many others, use the image so often.
In fact, in Scripture we find the word “heart” used in just this manner, over 1000 times,
making it therefore, one of, if not the most common anthropological theme in Scripture.
Love God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength, and with all thy mind…
Where your treasure is, there your heart will
be also. Matthew 6:21
Heart as it is used here, means all those things that fall outside our physical reality. It
is, you might say, the air that we breath, the feelings that we have, the love that we share,
or that we don’t. You might even say it is how we navigate the world, and interact with our community, and our planet. We hear sayings every day that pick up on this.
His or her heart is just not in it. Home is where the heart is. The heart of the story. Getting to the heart of the matter.
And it is far from just Jesus or religion that believes this. Carl Jung once said, Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside it, dreams; who looks inside it, awakens. Jesus is saying much the same. In a sense, he is telling a truth, we all know, and also asking us a question and that is a simple and yet
deeply challenging one: What is primary in your life? What is central to your being?
What is the heart of your life? What is it in your life, that like our physical real heart,
beating inside us, drives you, motivates you, moves you, causes you to act.
It is summed up for me in a much paraphrased comment by GK Chesterton, who basically said “it’s not that Christianity is all that bad, its just that no one has ever really tried it yet!”
Because it is not always easy, and Jesus didn’t promise it would be, but he did promise a God of Love, that would be with us in every beat of our heart, in every step we ever take, and God, in turn, asks us to essentially love others, just as God Loved us, which I would say is to love completely,
recklessly, wastefully, not something this world encourages of us, and not something our mind tells us is reasonable, and that is why heart is so important. That is why heart is what Jesus asks us to give completely. Because heart is everything, mind, soul, body.
What is primary in your life? What is your heart?
I don’t believe following Christ means you must live an oppressive life, or somehow live removed from this world. I don’t believe that following Christ means you have to leave everything you own on the street corner and walk away. I do believe it means realigning how you see all of those things, what the priority of all those things are in your life. I do believe we have to let go of them, in the sense that they are no longer things we own, be it money, or possessions, or even those we
love, to let go of them, in the sense that they are not our heart, they are not the central reason for our being, or for our actions in this world, and instead care and love all those
things for God, and as God loves us, fully, completely, abundantly, recklessly, wastefully. When Jesus spoke of freedom, that is what he was talking about. When he spoke of heart, I believe this was what he was speaking of.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
That is God’s wish for this world, and for each and every one of us. That is the heart of this faith. That is the heart of Jesus’s way, and it is a free gift, available to each and every one of us. We
must only accept it, follow it, and live it, from our heart.
My beloved I have said these words to you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit.
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