a sermon on aligning our hearts with God’s heart
Back in 2010 my wife and I bought a new to us, used 2004, Hyundai Santa Fe. We went to the dealership without having in mind what we were looking for and after test driving the car we really loved it. Now I didn’t know anything about Hyundai Santa Fe’s and to my best recollection I had absolutely no idea what they looked like before we drove off the lot with one. After driving the car around town for a little bit, the strangest thing started to happen: I started to see Santa Fe’s everywhere. I started to see them all the time.
So this begs this interesting question: did something happen right around the same time we bought our car? Did a million other people go out and buy the same make and model? Probably not right? Most likely the thing that happened is that all those people were driving Santa Fes before. What changed is that we had purchased one and started to love the car more and more.
Maybe you have experienced this phenomenon in your own life. You buy something new, like a car, and then suddenly you start seeing that thing out there in the world over and over and over again. So this is a version of what is called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, which basically says that we are hard wired to find patterns and make connections in our existence. It’s just part of who we are as a people, that we seek out ways to connect things in our world to thing that are happening within our lives and within our very being.
So how does this relate to our gospel lesson for today? Just bear with me a little bit, I hope it will become clear.
In the gospel for today Jesus is continuing a series of teachings as a large crowd has gathered. As we talked about last week, one of the major themes from this set of teachings if our relationship to our stuff and our money. This theme of course continues in todays teaching. But it is worth noting that right before our scripture passage for today Jesus offers us this wonderful and inspiring teaching about releasing our worry, our anxiety, the things that we keep bottled up within us, all that stuff that eats away at us and keeps us up at night, he tells us to not worry about anything, because God loves us so dearly that God will in fact take care of us, even if it appears as though things are crumbling around us.
I find this part of Jesus’ teaching to be both comforting and challenging, mostly because it means that I have to give up some of the control I think I have over my own life and trust that God is in fact at work within my life and the lives of those around me, for the good. That is tough spiritual work, but it is truly at the core of what we are called to as Christians.
I remember when we were preparing for our move, before I knew about you all here at Mt. Healthy United Methodist Church. I was pretty anxious about whether or not I would be able to serve the church here in West Ohio. There was some uncertainty as I sat in this anxiety with my wife and some trusted friends and mentors. I remember talking with one of those mentors about my anxiety, sharing with him that I had yet to receive any news about a possible appointment and that I was concerned that I may not be able to serve a church here in West Ohio. My mentor kindly said to me- ‘ Robert, when has God ever NOT taken care of you?’
When has God ever NOT taken care of you? That’s a great question for us to ask ourselves when we walk through challenging times of anxiety, when we feel that weight of uncertainty, when we don’t know where we are or where we are going, to remember that question- when has God ever NOT taken care of you?
Our scripture passage for today picks up right after this teaching about giving our worry and our concern over to God, so that we can allow God into every part of our life, resisting that temptation we might have- to go it alone, or do it by ourselves.
And our passage starts off with this beautiful verse, Jesus says, ‘Do not be afraid little flock, for it is your Father’s good please to give you the kingdom.’
I want to pause right there and just soak in that. Do not be afraid little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Man that is some good stuff! I mean just think about this: when you think about God is this the image that comes to mind. It is God’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom, do not be afraid? I hope so.
I hope that after coming here for even just one week you will know that we believe that God is love and that this love is for you and for me and for all people before we even have the words to ask. I hope that you will see in the worship, the prayers and in this beloved community that we do in fact believe in a God who loves to give us the kingdom of hope, of mercy and grace. I hope that is the case.
But if I’m being honest, as Christians at large, we don’t always act like this is who our God is, we don’t always hold this belief in our own lives. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that there are some people in the church who believe that our God is a God of judgement and exclusion and not a God of life-giving, all embracing love.
And I don’t mean to separate myself as if I am above this- it’s hard sometimes to remember that it is God’s good pleasure to give you and me the kingdom, it’s hard because I know my heart and the heart of those around me, I know the challenges we face in loving one another, I know the challenges we face in loving ourselves and we project those challenges onto God and remake God into our image instead of looking to Jesus who is constantly pointing us to this truth- do not be afraid little flock, God loves you, God loves to give you gifts, God loves to give you a place to belong and be made whole.
Jesus then goes on to call us to sell our possession and give our money away to the poor and Jesus says that we should do this because of this, he says- ‘for where your treasure is there your heart will be also.’
For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.
You may have heard this quote from Jesus before. It’s one of the many that people are familiar with so we hear it pretty regularly. It’s an interesting little bit of teaching because like so many things that Jesus gives us it seems to upset the apple cart, it seems to just kind of flip everything over, it challenges the way that we often think things are supposed to work in our lives as spiritual people.
Let me explain. If you are like me then you like to think a lot about all the different things you do in this world. I like to plan and dissect and discern all the different ways that I am supposed to act. Sometimes this works out ok. Sometimes I can discern my way into being more like Jesus, more compassionate, more loving, sometimes thinking takes me out of myself in loving service of another human being. But if I’m being honest, more often than not I spend a lot of time stuck up in my head trying to figure things out instead of actually doing what I could be doing to make a better life for another person, or a better world for our neighborhood.
What Jesus says here is- for where your treasure is, there your heart will also be. Jesus says start putting your treasure where your heart should be and then your heart will slowly come into alignment. Start putting your time, your talent, and your treasure, where Jesus’ heart is, then your heart will slowly become more like Jesus’ heart.
See, it’s backwards. Jesus says act first and your heart will change because of your action. To put it another way- Father Richard Rohr once said- ‘“We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.” We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.
Ok so what does that mean? It’s like that Baader- Meinhoff Phenomenon. When you start to put your treasure into things in this world, when you give something value, you start to see it reflected back to you everywhere. So I never saw Hyundai Santa Fe’s before we bought one because I never knew that I liked them and that they were great cars. Once I knew the value of the car, I started to see it everywhere.
So what if we did this with our spiritual life? What if we did this with how we give of our money in this world? What if we did this with how we use our talents, our gifts and our energy in this world? What if we did this with our precious time?
When we start to give away our money, trying to align that giving with the heart of Jesus, we start to see the world differently. We start to see the abundance in this world and this life, instead of having that mindset of scarcity- i.e. there isn’t enough. We start to look for the ways that the kingdom of God, which our Father is giving to us because it is God’s good pleasure, is bubbling up all around us, all the time, and how our financial resources can under gird that work in making a better world.
When we start to give our time and our talent in service of the poor in our city, we start to grow a more compassionate heart. When you spend time learning someone’s story, when you spend time learning to love someone and to meet them where they are and receive them just as they are, you go from a place of judgement to a place of grace.
It is amazing how God can in fact work within us to grow a more compassionate heart, God can unlock new worlds of love within our heart that we never knew were possible. It happens when we are in solidarity with the poor, when we start to serve first because Jesus commands us to, and our view, our world our perspective gets a little bit bigger, and bigger and bigger. This is the way it works. It’s like Mother Teresa once said, “if you judge people you have no time to love them.’ If you make time to love them, if you put your treasure there, there your heart will also be.
It happens, sometimes it happens slowly over time and sometimes it happens quickly, overnight, but it will happen if we are intentional about how we live in this world, if we follow the example of Jesus.
So the question is what can we do? Maybe a more direct way of putting it is, what will we do? What will you do to put your treasure where you think Jesus wants your heart? What will you do to give of your time, your talent and your financial resources to make a difference in this world and in the life of another person? If you feel like you just don’t know, maybe you feel like you’re in the dark, like you don’t know the way, or maybe you feel like you don’t have anything to offer, just take it to prayer and do the next right indicated action, the next right faithful step you can take in this world, give it to God and let God do the rest. Thanks be to God. Amen.