14th Sunday After Pentecost; Year B; August 30, 2015
Deut. 4.1-2, 6-9; Psalm 15; James 1.17-27; Mark 7.1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Pastor Renee Splichal Larson
Grace and peace to you from the One who gives us a new heart, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
While in college I worked at Bible camp each summer. Every night there would be a campfire and at the campfire there would always be a skit, which is sort of like a mini play to simply entertain or communicate a message. I never liked to be in skits, personally, because I thought I was bad at acting, but I really enjoyed watching them. There was one skit in particular that I found quite moving no matter how many times I saw it performed. It was called the apple skit.
There was one person in the skit who carried around an apple. He or she made it clear that the apple represented their heart. At the beginning of the skit they were in a really good mood ready for the day and as time went on a few things happened, as life often does.
For example, people they thought were their friends came along and said bad things about them. The person became sad and along came another person who represented devil. That person took the apple that represented their heart and took a bite out of the apple and handed it back.
Another thing would happen, like the person goes into a store and sees something they want and they steal it instead of pay for it. Then the devil figure would come and take the apple again and wrap it with tape.
The person’s heart became hard and wounded as other not so great things happened in their life through decisions they made or things that happened to them. Eventually the devil figure shoves a knife deep into the center of the apple and [THIS] is what the person was left with.
Jesus speaks of the human heart in our Gospel reading today, and there is not much good news in it to be honest. For centuries and still today, people wonder and talk about the origin of evil.
Did God create evil? Is only the devil evil and tempt people to do evil? Evil is certainly a complex issue with no easy answer, but if any of us have done any self-searching and reflection, we know that evil can and does arise in each one of us…starting with our own heart.
The heart in Scripture has to do with all of who we are, the seat of our intentions, how we act and what we say, is driven by the heart.
So Jesus says, “For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come… and they defile a person.” What Jesus is saying is that evil comes from each one of us, from our own heart. It’s not the devil; it’s not God, there is no one else to blame.
Jesus stands in the marketplace, surrounded by people he just healed, surrounded by poor people and rich people, religious authorities that were seen to be perfect, even his disciples, and passersby, and Jesus says, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand…it is from within!”
I’ll never forget the first time I said this in worship with the rest of my brothers and sisters in Christ around me in corporate confession: “I have sinned by my fault, by my own fault, by my own most grievous fault.”
Okay, woah, I got it. I am responsible for the evil intentions that arise within my heart, within me…I have sinned by my own fault.
Once we understand that this is true…that all of the evil human beings are capable of is present also in me, that I am capable of all kinds of horrible things that destroy community and hurt the people around me and hurt myself, then you and I can finally recognize our need for Christ and what he offers us.
In the skit the person was left with a battered heart. They sat down and could do nothing to fix what was broken. They knew they couldn’t pull the knife out or transform their own heart.
The person, with their damaged heart in hand, got down on their knees and prayed. They spoke to Jesus, telling him what they had done that caused pain and the suffering others had caused them. They asked Jesus to help them, to mend their heart and change it.
Next what happened in the skit is another person came along and asked the person to give him their wounded heart. Hesitant, the person hands it over. Then this person, the person who was Jesus in the skit, takes their heart and says, “Here…you can have mine.”
Jesus comes into our lives and offers each one of us the very heart of God, no matter how broken we feel, no matter the evil we have done. The Gospel of Jesus Christ literally gets to the heart of the matter.
Faith and religion are not about following rules or being perfect, it is about the transformation of your heart…and only Jesus can do that.
In Scripture we have story after story of how Jesus changes and transforms the hearts of people, but sometimes we need real life examples.
Last Sunday in worship there was a man named, Jon, who told part of his story. As you know he came into relationship with a homeless man and they eventually became friends and have stayed good friends for over 10 years. You didn’t hear this part of the story because Jon told it to me and a few others later in the week.
He said that a couple years ago he and his friend that used to be homeless were driving in a car and he felt he needed to confess something to him. He said, “Ernie, I need to share with you that a number of years ago I would have driven right by you. I would have judged you and I never would have paid you any attention.”
Ernie then looked at him and said, “I don’t believe it for a minute, Jon.”
Jon then told us, “Ernie’s response to me sharing with him what I used to be like, made me realize how much I had been transformed by Jesus, because Ernie could not even see me any other way, something other than loving and kind.”
Jesus changes hearts. Jesus puts the Kingdom of God right in our chest in such a way that it defines us, and transforms us, and makes us new. We need to be made new every single day because life happens and evil intentions well up within us.
Ezekiel 18.31 says: “…get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!”
The Psalmist prays in Psalm 51: “Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
There is something to be said concerning the phrase: “Accepting Jesus into your heart.” I don’t always love that phrase because often times it can come with judgment and condemnation, like, “Accept Jesus into your heart or else…”
But when we think about letting Jesus into one’s own heart, it’s really a beautiful thing. It’s really about Jesus transforming your heart to the heart of God, giving you a new heart, in order that you might have good and abundant life, in order that good God intentions come from your heart.
Then, indeed, we are doers of the Word that brings forth light and life. “Here,” Jesus says, “you can have my heart.”