38 - A Matter of the Heart, July 7 2019

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Hebrew 13:7-16

Romans 5:1-10

John 17:1-13

Matthew 6:22-33

“Therefore, having been justified by faith,” St Paul writes to us this morning from his epistle to the Romans. To be “justified” means in antiquity to be brought into harmony, to be aligned with the core principle of one’s being. In the vision of the Bible, that means to be brought into harmony with our having been made in the image and likeness of God. And, faith, as the turning of the face of one’s heart towards God, whose face is turned toward us, even to the point of becoming absolutely one with us in our death, is not to “believe” intellectually but to love God with all one’s heart, soul, strength and mind.

We see, then, that faith and “justification”, or shall we say the interior harmonization of our soul, are matters of the heart. Love of God from the heart is what saves us; that is, heals us deep within. This is what delivers us from the world and all the troubles it throws at us like a net of hopelessness, entangling us and binding us in worry and anxiety. The LORD made His disciples into fishers of men. Their net is the WORD of God: not just the teaching about who we are and what our destiny is, but the Mighty Deed of God incarnate on the Cross, when He rooted out from our heart the cause of our disharmony and misalignment from the image and likeness of God in which we were made.  The cause of our disharmony is faithlessness, idolatry, turning in our heart away from God to the ephemeral beauty of idols, a love that leads to heartache, anxiety, worry, fear, hopelessness because the “hope” the beauty of idols promises comes from and returns not to God, the Source of all Beauty and Goodness, but it comes from and returns to death and corruption.

In this light, perhaps we begin to understand what St Paul means in his epistle to the Hebrews this morning when he says: “It is good that the heart be established by grace;” that is, that our heart be anchored in Christ by love, or by faith, and not in “foods”, or in rules and regulations “which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.” For, it is possible to keep all the rules and regulations outwardly while in one’s heart, one is turned away from God and to idols, as the LORD complains through His prophet: “This people draws to me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Isa 29:13).

This may help us understand the LORD’s WORD to us this morning: “No man can serve two masters.” In one’s mind, one may serve one master and in one’s heart, secretly, another. And so, we can be very religious outwardly while inwardly we are completely of the world—so much so, that we can deceive even ourselves into thinking we are “believers” who have been “justified”.

But, in the heart, one can serve only one master. One cannot love God and mammon—worldly wealth, fame and fortune—at the same time. For, even the “secret” love of idols—the love of anger, of lust, of gluttony, of people’s good opinion, and so on—darkens the eye, this is the heart, that is the lamp of the body. And so, we can be idolaters believing we are “believers”, for an idolater has (spiritual) eyes that cannot see, (spiritual) ears that cannot hear, (spiritual) hands that cannot feel; that is hands that observe very “faithfully” all the rules and regulations, the rubrics and liturgics of the Church’s worship, but cannot feel the heart’s deep desire for God because the heart is dead to God; it is alive, instead, to pride and to the wisdom, the correctness, of one’s own opinions. It is alive to the faults and mistakes of everyone else, but blind to its own blindness. Such a “believer” has feet that cannot walk; that is, even as his feet come to Church, let’s say, in his heart and mind he still walks in the ways of the world, wholly embracing and embraced by love of the world.

St Paul goes on to say in the epistle to the Hebrews that the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the High Priest, are burned outside the camp. “Therefore,” he says, “Jesus, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.” The mystery of faith or the love of the heart goes beyond the gates of the “camp,” beyond the perfunctory, external performance of rules and regulations; for, in our heart, we are deep, beyond all things (Ps 63:6, Jer 17:9 LXX). In our heart, we exist “outside the camp.” We exist “outside the world,” in the deep. We exist in God. We move and have our being in the love of God. And it is through faith, through the heart’s love of God, that we are caught in the net of the LORD’s disciples and raised up into the Mighty River of God’s love and carried by its mighty current “outside the gates, beyond the camp.” “Out there”, or should we say, “within here, deep within” our secret heart is where we come “face to face” with Jesus. And, in the light of His face, we begin to see, perhaps for the first time, our idolatry, the extent to which it has become embodied in us, and how it has darkened the “eye” of our body, how profoundly it has crippled us, paralyzed us, thrown us out of harmony.

How, then, do we “go forth to Jesus, outside the camp,” outside the cities of this world to find the City of God that is to come? How do we break beyond that false faith which believes in Jesus as a religious idea while the heart continues in her idolatry? How do we come “face to face” with Jesus so that we come to “know” Him not as a religious idea but as the only true God and we begin to live in Him and experience Him as the eternal, living Reality of the Heart’s deepest longings beyond all words, all ideas?

The Father has not left us orphans. He has manifested His Name to us both as a doctrine but even more as a “work” which goes far beyond the “camp”, far beyond the words and ideas of this world’s wisdom. That work, of course, was the Incarnation of His Son, who united Himself to us even to the point of death on the Cross so that He became absolutely one with us even in our death. And so He “harmonized” Himself with our disharmony; and, if we, through the work of faith, which is the work of love, unite our disharmony with Him, He harmonizes us with Himself; and, here is the wonder: He heals us precisely in our dying. For, when we turn in faith, in love, to love Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, our dying becomes a dying to our disharmony; our death becomes the death of our separation from God and the beginning of our union with Him. For, He is Himself the Resurrection and the Life, so if we unite ourselves to Him in the likeness of His death, we find ourselves united with Him in the likeness of His Resurrection. So it is that precisely as we die in union with Christ, we live. And, our dying thus becomes our healing of our disharmony, our “justification, the beginning of our resurrection up into eternal life.

But, our question is not yet fully answered. How do we “go forth to Jesus outside the camp,” into the bridal chamber of our heart, that we may get caught up in the powerful current of the Mighty River of His love and carried up to the Heavenly City that is to come?

In this world, we walk in the Way of the Church. The Church is the “work” of the Savior’s Incarnation in this world; for, the Church is the Body of Christ, the fullness of Him who is all in all. In the Church are found the words of Christ, which He received directly from the Father and which He gave directly to His disciples, and which are given to us in the Church’s doctrines, in her liturgical and sacramental worship, and in her ascetic disciplines. In these words, we find instructions on how to walk in this world, both outwardly and inwardly. For example, husbands and wives, love each other in mutual submission; children, honor your parents. For example, let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus, the mind of self-denial and humility in love for the Father.

These words of the Church are healing words, for they carry the healing grace of the Holy Spirit. As we walk in these words of the Church, the eye of our body begins to grow light. The darkness of our idolatry is chased away as our heart begins to soften in her love for the Savior; for, walking in all these words of the WORD of God, we are walking in the Mighty Work of God that is beyond all words, the work of His death on the Cross, whose root is His love for us sown in our hearts. Amen!