Sunday Sermon 18 May 2014 – about your heart

Readings: Acts 7:55-60; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14


John 14:1  “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me

I built a coat and hat stand last week. While the ladies were arranging flowers, I spent the day catching up on unfinished things at home.

The coat and hat stand had been sitting sadly in a box for many many months. A present that required serious action – no one had dared open it as it meant “doing it yourself” with the certainty that the instructions would be in Chinese. They were – and my daughter would have been able to read them had she kept up her Chinese!

Ok I didn’t really build it. I tried to assemble it – many times – and after much assembling and un-assembling – there it was – complete and standing tall in the hall way!

Now you may think that a random story. And on its own it could merely be the application of the verse in James in which we are told “Confess your sins to each another, (and pray for each other) so that you may be healed!” (James 5:16) With our wedding anniversary approaching, it was a good project to complete.

But here’s the thing. We talked at length last week in church about the heart (in the sermon I preached anyway for Mothers’ day) – how it needed some serious healing – almost a transplant – for us to love one another deeply – from the heart – with a sincere love. Remember? What a waste if you forget these gems – just as well you can read it on the web page again.

Today’s Gospel carries on about the same thing – the same heart – not the organ (so that the demise of poached eggs and the provision of fried eggs should bring about such cheers at a men’s breakfast and people might fret about cholesterol again and heart problems – not that heart)

–          No, not the seat of health issues but the centre of one’s passion, love, commitment, and spiritual verve, energy – life – the heart that we are to love God with – ALL OF IT and so forth…

–          It’s the heart which causes us untold anxiety and stress – that emotional base which drives us to do great things, or on the other hand if wounded – makes us retreat into our own safe world of isolation and self-absorption. Or if broken – may cause us to want to blot ourselves out completely.

 “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Says Jesus.  “Trust in God; trust also in me.”

Martin Luther helps us link this passage to my coat stand!

In response to the First Commandment, Luther asks what it means to have a God and answers that God is what you hang your heart upon.1

[See Paul Lehmann’s discussion in The Decalogue and a Human Future (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995).] As in  Bartlett, David L.; Barbara Brown Bartlett (2011-05-31). Feasting on the Word: Year A, Volume 2, Lent through Eastertide (Kindle Locations 17078-17079). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.

Cynthia Jarvis put it like this:

The heart that is troubled is a heart not hung upon God but hung rather on all the things the world peddles to soothe a troubled heart. Jesus tells the disciples in their time of deep uncertainty, Hang your hearts on God; hang your hearts on me.

 Bartlett, David L.; Barbara Brown Bartlett (2011-05-31). Feasting on the Word: Year A, Volume 2, Lent through Eastertide (Kindle Locations 17012-17024). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.

Luther speaks for God in these words: “I myself will give you enough and help you out of trouble; just do not let your heart rest or hang on any other.” He goes on to talk about those for whom their God is money – or mammon (wealth).

So the message is really simple today.

Where are you hanging your heart?

John 14 speaks to the whole of life – and is not just a passage for funerals – it certainly does speak to the promises of God after death – but it is about life!

It surely would have mattered to Stephen – had he known these words of Jesus – when those stones came crashing down crushing his skull. He certainly knew the attitude of Jesus on the cross when he cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” – and fell asleep (died). (Acts 7:60).

It certainly would have mattered to Peter –who was also destined to surrender his life up in a troublesome way. (Remember John 21: after Jesus restored Peter He says this:

Joh 21:18  I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”

Joh 21:19  Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Peter, writing to the early church which also faced trials and persecution – had a very clear sense of their identity – because their hearts would have been hanging in the right place:

It comes through clearly when he writes:

1Pe 2:9  But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

1Pe 2:10  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

This is a description of people who had had a change of heart – and a complete makeover in the fullest way.

Earlier in the same letter he wrote about their new birth – remember? – and said this:

1Pe 1:6  In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

1Pe 1:7  These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Some of you are having your faith tested here – to see whether it is genuine!

Of course he was writing about the promise of God – that the new birth was into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (vs3) and that it was

 1Pe 1:4  (and) into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you….

I suspect that a lot of the stuff that causes us to fret – worry – live in stress and strain – and wallow in anxiety – is not worth the trouble we allow it to cause us!

Joh 14:1  “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.

Hang your heart here!

And then this great truth comes:  (Joh 14:6  Jesus answered,) “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Here you find reality and relationship. This is certainty real promise – not a vague or conditional hope:

Joh 14:7  If you really knew me, (and implied in the original language structure, YOU SURELY DO KNOW ME) you would know my Father as well.

From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

This is really the logical consequence of John 1:18 right at the beginning of John’s gospel:

Joh 1:18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.

Luther was able to talk about hanging your heart on God because of the certainty of his Fatherly love – which he himself found through Jesus. Luther started in a relationship of fear of judgement and hell – and ended with this absolute trust so that he could great hymns of the faith like this one:

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;

The hymn ends with these words:

 Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;

The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

He knew where his heart was hanging.

How about you? God knows. And I suspect you do to – if you’re honest.


About robinpalmer

I am a Presbyterian Pastor living and working in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland in New Zealand. We moved here at the end of March 2011 after spending five years in Wellington the capital city. I am passionate about what I do - about communicating and writing. Preaching and teaching remains a joy.. More recently I have been doing some part time voluntary prison chaplaincy.

Posted on May 18, 2014, in Sunday Morning Sermons and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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