Saturday, August 29, 2015

And, They Will Know (Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23)

Recently I was talking to someone who was a little concerned about an interview she had read about in Bloomberg Politics of one of the political candidates running for president.  The candidate had been on record for proclaiming that he was a Bible-believing individual.  He had stated many times: “I believe very, very strongly.  I’m a big believer in the Bible.  The Bible!  Nothing beats the Bible.”

Knowing this, the reporter, Mark Halperin, asked this Bible-believing politician: “I’m wondering what one or two of your favorite Bible verses are.”

The response from the candidate was quick and blunt: “You know when I talk about the Bible it’s very personal.”

The reporter wasn’t going to be brushed off that easily.  He asked the candidate: “There’s no verse that means a lot to you that you think about or cite?”

The candidate replied: “The Bible means a lot to me but I don’t want to get into specifics.”

And, that was that.  End of discussion.  The candidate couldn’t or wouldn’t share a personal favorite Bible verse.  It is one thing to say that one is “big on the Bible”, but quite another to not be able to come up with at least one verse to share to show that the words being proclaim are more than lip service.  My goodness, at least he could have stated the infamous John 11:35: “He wept.”

To this scenario Jesus would say, quoting the prophet Isaiah: “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship in vain . . .”

Our scripture reading this morning is simple.  A group of Pharisees and teachers of the law are standing around watching Jesus and his disciples.  They notice that Jesus’ disciples are eating food with “unclean” hands . . . they had not ceremonially washed their hands before eating.  This goes against the Hebrew traditions . . . not the law, but the traditions.  They question Jesus about why he is allowing his disciples to break tradition . . . it sets a poor example for the people.

Of course, Jesus calls them hypocrites . . . tells them that it is not what goes into the body that defiles a person, but what comes out.  Jesus says, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this.  Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him.  Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’”

Wham . . . bam . . . slam . . . the book is closed in this argument.  It is one thing to go through the motions, it is quite another thing to live up to what one is proclaiming.  Actions speak louder than words.  What good does it do to have “clean” hands when one is a cheating, lying, immoral individual?  What good is it to do things by the book when one steals, rips people off, and treats other unfairly?  What good is it to be able to proclaim one’s self as a Bible-believing person of faith, if he or she cannot even come up with one verse from the book that is proclaimed so loved?  Yes, actions speak louder than words.

When Jesus speaks of “what comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean,’” he is referencing the actions that one takes . . . the way that one lives life.  Jesus wants his followers to “walk the walk . . . not the talk.”  When one’s actions are the opposite of one’s words . . . well, Jesus said that they were hypocrites.

I am not sure there is anyone who would disagree, but we have entered into the season of hypocrisy.  We have entered into the start of the election process for our next president of these United States . . . and, we have already heard enough words contradicting actions to last us more than a lifetime.  Politicians say what the people want to hear, but in the end they never come close to living up to the words they say they believe. 

But, it is just not politicians.  The reality show based on the Bible-believing, God-fearing Duggar family—19 Kids and Counting—we witnessed the fall of one its main characters when son, Josh Duggar was caught in lies.  For all of his proclaimed values in the sacredness of family and marriage he was caught in lies in his past life and in his present life.  Despite stumping and lobbying for a family and faith value group . . . he lived a completely different life filled with sex, affairs, cheating, lying and being just a plain old hypocrite.  The fall from grace was painful as he now attempts to right the sinking ship.  His words said one thing, his actions spoke another.

But!  Let us not be the first to throw stones!  I imagine all of us can think of moments and instances in our own lives where our words were a far cry from our actions . . . circumstances and examples of when our actions were contrary to our actions . . . moments when we were hypocritical in our faith and lives.  We have all done it.  We have all been hypocrites.  And, making it even more difficult to avoid these moment of hypocrisy is the fact that we are living in a day and age where the lines of right and wrong . . . the lines of faith . . . are constantly being blurred.  We no longer live in a world that is black and white, but we live in a world of growing gray.

Jesus said it was the actions of the individual that proclaims the faith.  It is what a person does . . . the way a person lives his or her life.  Actions speak louder than words.

So, how are we doing as the followers of Jesus?  How are you doing?

The prophet Micah proclaimed: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Jesus said, “To love the Lord, our God, completely with our whole hearts, minds, and body . . . and, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.”

These are the words that we speak as the followers of Jesus.  These are the words for which the world will judge us by the actions that we take.  To act justly . . . easier said than done, especially when we feel as if are the ones on the short end of the stick.  To love mercy . . . phtttt!  Tell that to the cut who just went speeding by and cut me off on Highway 212 as I flashed him the Hawaiian sign for good luck.  Walk humbly . . . well, if I can ever figure out how to do that while living better than most of the rest of the world, I sell you the secret and make millions.  Love God . . . do words count . . . does going to church count . . . does standing at the table receiving communion count . . . putting an offering in the collection plate . . . reading my Bible daily count?  Doesn’t that show God and everyone else that I love God?  And, to love my neighbor . . . shoot, that is why I live in Montana . . . neighbors are few and far between.  Our actions reveal our true selves.

The people of faith are exposed to the world through the way that they live their lives . . . through the actions that they take . . . by what comes out of them, not by what goes into them.  Anything less is hypocrisy.  We know this . . . we really do know this as the followers of Jesus.  We have proclaimed it many times through the journey of our faith . . .

In one of my favorite church camp songs, They’ll Know We Are Christians, we hear the verses proclaim words of action . . . walking hand in hand, working beside one another, taking care of each other.  Love is not a noun, but a verb . . . verbs delineate action . . . delineate doing something.  In that song loved by many we proclaim for the entire world to hear: “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes, they’ll know we are Christian by our love.”

That was what Jesus was saying.  Amen.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

“Shoes and the Gospel of Peace” (Ephesians 6:10-20)

As it was then, so it is now.

The message of the gospel has always been the same.  It is a call into a life and relationship with God . . . a call to transformation . . . and to become the family of God . . . to become one.  Herein lies the difficulty then and now . . . transform into what?  Humans do not like change . . . do not like going against the current . . . do not like being seen as different.  Humans like to fit in.  The call of the gospel . . . the message of Jesus . . . is a call to transformation . . . transformation that goes against the prevailing culture.

This was the message of the writer in the letter to the Ephesians and other Christians.  A message that the author knows will not be well received from those who read it.  The author anticipates a lot of excuses . . . protests of helplessness . . . as the readers look around at the forces that are all around them.  It is hard work, but the author is not going to take any excuses.  No, the author is going to remind that the power of God is theirs to claim. 

The author begins with a common image . . . an image that would have been familiar to the people of his time . . . a Roman soldier and his armor.  It is a militaristic image—after all; they lived in a militaristic time as a conquered people.  It is an image that the people see on a daily basis.  This is an image that the people knew and understood, but the author flips it upside down . . . the author reinvents the image in a most non-militaristic way.  Using the common parts of the armor—belt, breastplate, shield—he assigns to them uncommon values: truth, righteousness, faith.  Armor, often seen as a symbol of self-reliance, is transformed into a symbol of utter dependence upon God.

With armor a person does not have to rely upon others for his or her protection . . . the individual is covered—literally covered.  It is a form of protection formed by metal and leather to ward off the attack by others.  As long as one puts the armor on correctly, one is protected . . . no help necessary.

The armor of God . . . well, that is a different story.

The armor of God comes down to dependence . . . dependence upon God . . . it is an image and a way of life that doesn’t quite jive with society . . . it is counter to all that we humans learn and know.  Thus it is that there will be opposition against the gospel . . . against God’s grace . . . against God’s justice . . . against God’s peace.  God’s ways are marked for demolition. 

Why?  Because it all comes down to power.   Power in the human realm comes down to and thrives in secrecy, in breaking apart, in violence, and in the capacity to drive wedges between groups by promoting fear and suspicion.  Does that sound familiar?  Does that sound like the times in which we live?  But the strength of the Lord, the non-armor armor that ensures victory, is transparency, mercy, peace, and an absolute trust in the dynamic interplay of the Spirit and Word.

And, to make it work you have to depend on God.

It is said that “clothes make the individual”, and who we are to argue with a multi-billion dollar industry?  The truth is that clothes do not make the individual.  Clothes, more often than not, are an illusion that we humans want to project out into the world for others to see and think that that is who we are.  It is what we want to think we are.  Theologian and author Frederick Buechner writes: “If you want to know who you really are as distinct from who you like to think you are, keep an eye on where your feet take you.”  In other words, it is not the clothes on your body that define who you are, but the actions of your life that show the world who you are.  Actions always speak louder than words . . . and, clothes.

The Reverend David Cameron wrote that in considering this passage it was the shoes that caught his attention . . . “. . . and with feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”  It was the shoes of the armor of God that interested him the most because in his son’s life shoes are a big part of the communication that take places in their lives.  Reverend Cameron’s son has autism.  Because of his autism his son does not verbally communicate much, thus most of the communication in the household is non-verbal.  Shoes speak volumes to his son about what sort of day the family has ahead. 

The first thing that his son does every morning is to check out the shoes on his parents’ feet.  His son has learned that the shoes they have on tells him what sort of day it is going to be.  If dress shoes are on it means work.  If scuffed slip-ons are on it means it is a more casual, more relaxed day around the house.  The shoes send the message.

Out of our personal and communal transformations into relationships with God we are called towards establishing God’s kingdom . . . a kingdom based on peace.  Peace is the goal.  It is our actions—our feet—that gets us there, not our words.  It comes down to action.  The author of Ephesians does not specify to any one particular style of shoe to get the job done in spreading the gospel of peace . . . in the end any pair of shoe will do.  The goal is peace . . . peace comes through action, not words.

In the meantime, the armor of God will take care of the rest if we truly give our lives over to God in full dependence.  God will take care of us.  In a world that is counter to the world that Jesus spoke of and called us to . . . a world that sees and acts the opposite . . . our strength and protection comes not from this world, but from our trust in the God who loves us.  It comes from putting our lives in the hands of God and living God’s will for us.  Jesus never said it would be easy . . . no, he said it would be difficult and hard . . . that there would be those who are against us.  Thus the need for the armor of God.

We are to seek the Kingdom of God . . . the peaceable kingdom . . . the kingdom of peace.  We are to put on the armor of God . . . piece by piece . . . to go out into the world to establish this kingdom.  The last piece of armor?  The shoes.  Which really are not important as far as safety goes.  The shoes are important because they communicate action . . . communicate the desire to go somewhere, to do something.  The shoes get us there.

So, what would be the best shoes to wear?  Well, the Reverend Cameron says that spreading peace is hard work.  He suggests that maybe a good pair of work boots—with steel toes—would be the best.  Amen.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

“To Eat or Not to Eat” (John 6:51-58)

On Friday I had a colonoscopy.  It wasn’t so bad . . . at least not as bad as I imagined it would be after hearing hundreds of horror stories.  It really wasn’t that bad.  Drinking the stuff—the ironically named GO-Lytley—to clean out the bowels, wasn’t so bad . . . it was just a lot of it.  Nor was dealing with the results of drinking the GO-Lytley and having to spend time in the library for a couple of hours.  Nope, none of that was too difficult to handle . . . inconvenient, but not difficult; what was no fun was not being able to eat after a simple breakfast of Cheerios and toast on Thursday morning until late Friday afternoon.  That was nearly unbearable.

By Friday morning I was starving.  My stomach was growling . . . either due to the lack of food or the remnants of the GO-Lytley . . . I was growling.  I was getting grumpy due to the lack of food.  Our dogs, two Dachshunds—also known as “wiener dogs”—were getting nervous whenever I looked at them . . . visions of hot dogs on the grill kept flashing before my eyes.  I was hungry . . . really hungry.  But orders are orders and I was not to have any food after breakfast on Thursday morning . . . nearly 31 hours without food.  I thought I was going to die . . .

But, as you can see . . . I am here.  I am alive.  Immediately after the procedure on Friday afternoon I made my wife take me straight to the nearest restaurant where I proceeded in eating like a pig . . . no, I take that back . . . a pig would have been embarrassed by the way I dug into that food.

I am going to admit that I have a dependency on food.  We all do.  We all need food in order to live.  Food is the fuel that keeps us going.  Without food, we die.  I realize that I was not going to die from going without food for 31 hours despite what my mind was telling me; and, I also know that what I endured is nothing like those people throughout our world who do not have enough to eat . . . who are actually starving.  But, man was I hungry.
We are depend on bread for life.

Our scripture reading this morning is a continuation of the story of the feeding of the five thousand we heard a couple of weeks ago.  In that story Jesus meets the physical needs of the people for food . . . he feeds them with two fish and five loaves of bread.  It was a pretty miraculous feat that he pulled off and the people were impressed.  They were impressed that he fed them . . . so impressed that many of them realized that they were—in that moment—in the presence of the Holy.  Something “holy” had happened and now they wanted more of it.

So, they followed Jesus over to the other side of the lake after he had snuck out during the night.  Now they were confronting him and demanding more . . . they wanted more bread . . . they wanted more of the “holy” that they had experience.  But they did not understand completely what it was that they were really seeking . . . they did not see the act of feeding all of them as something that was more symbolic and metaphorical of a greater hunger needing to be fed.  It was not bread that they were seeking, but the “bread of life”. 

Jesus could see that they didn’t quite grasp the implications of what had happened . . . he could see that they didn’t quite understand; so, he tried . . . he tried real hard to explain to them the difference between what they had received and what they really needed.  There is “bread” and then there is the “bread of life”.  One feeds the body, the other feeds the soul.  You can go to any market and buy the bread that feeds the body, but you can only receive the bread that feeds the soul—the “bread of life”—through Jesus.

Jesus is the “bread of life”. 

Now remember, we human beings are concrete thinkers.  When Jesus tells the people: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  If a man eats of this bread, he will live forever.  This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”   As concrete thinkers this does not make any sense . . . and, on top of it all, it goes against all the rules and tenets of the Jewish faith . . . it reeks of cannibalism.  Their response to Jesus? “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

The people are hungry . . . they are longing for food—for bread—that satisfies the hunger.  In this story, as far as the people are concerned, it is actual bread that is the focus, but in reality it is more.  They cannot see beyond the words that he uses . . . “flesh and blood” . . . a gory, yucky proposition forbidden by God way back there in Genesis 9:3-4 where God forbids Noah and his family from eating blood.  Besides, the people might not get what Jesus is attempting to explain to them, but they are not stupid.  There is only one of Jesus . . . how in the world would ever be able to offer himself—his flesh and blood—to feed the multitudes of people before him? 

When Jesus invites the people—and us—to eat his flesh and drink his blood, he invites us to ingest God’s Word, to feast on God’s light, God’s life, God’s truth, God’s love.  He invites us into a relationship . . . an intimate relationship . . . with God that allows us the opportunity to be healed of our ancient wounds and to live once again in ways that truly satisfy our deepest longing—our longing to live in ways that truly reflect our love affair with God and with one another.  It is not his physical body that Jesus is offering, but his life as an example . . . even to the point of giving one’s life for another as he did for us. 

In the life of Jesus is the “bread of life”.  In the words that he speaks . . . he gives life.  In the actions that he takes . . . he gives life.  In the miracles and healings he performs . . . he gives life.  In the way that he relates to others—with care, grace, and love . . . he gives life.  In the way that he takes the time to pray, worship, and love God . . . he gives life.  Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.”  Through him comes life . . . everlasting life . . . sustaining life.

Thus the invitation to “eat his flesh and drink his blood” is an invitation to embrace him and his life as our lives . . . to become like him in our lives.  It is to walk as Jesus walked . . . talk as Jesus talked . . . love and care as Jesus did . . . to pray and worship as Jesus did . . . to become like him.  To become like him and to live our lives as he lived his.  This is to “eat the flesh and drink the blood”.  This is to discover the bread that always feeds . . . the bread that sustains . . . the bread that promises eternal life.  That is the invitation that Jesus offers to the people in the story and to us.

Needless to say, not everyone is going to jump up and down and join Jesus after this little speech.  No, there will be those who walk away from the invitation . . . those who turn their backs because they either don’t get it or they don’t want it.  But, that is okay.  That is their choice.  The invitation is just that . . . a choice.  A choice to accept or to decline.  To eat or not to eat.  It is up to each individual who hears the invitation.

Which brings it back to us this morning.  We have been invited to receive the “living bread” . . . bread that is Jesus himself.  We have been invited to come and “eat of his flesh and drink of his blood” . . . a symbolic and metaphorical invitation to come and live life with God through the life of Jesus.  The invitation, like the gift we receive, is eternal . . . it is always there.  The choice always remains ours . . . to eat or not to eat.  That is always the question.  Amen.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

“Maturity Welcomes Spiritual Truth” (Psalm 51:1-12)

Highway 212 is transitioning, in some sections, from two lanes to four lanes.  Since I drive this road at least five days a week, I am learning how to make good use of long “stops” as road construction crews do their magic and create the new highway. 

One of the ways I spend my time waiting is to simply observe the scenery.  Harvest has begun.  There are hay bales everywhere, and combines and the like.  The fields the farmers sowed are well organized—all one plant—corn, hay, sunflowers.  However, the fields left to their own device are a mess.  They are weeds.

I am reminded of a story in the Old Testament, the Book of II Samuel—the story of the time King David left the presence of God…and made a mess:

It’s summer, and David decides not to go into war with his army.  After a nap, he moves out onto the roof of the palace.  From his rooftop he can see a beautiful woman named Bathsheba bathing on the rooftop of her home.  He inquires about her, and learns that she is married to one of his soldiers--Uriah. 

He sends for her—and she conceives a child.  She sends a note to David about the conception.  David moves her husband to the front line of battle, has the other members of the line draw back—to insure this man’s death.  Here’s the rest of the story recorded in II Samuel 11:26-12:13:

When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him. When the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord

 Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor.  The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds.  But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him.  And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”
So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die!  And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.  I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more!  Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon.  Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’  Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.  For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.’”
So David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.

Psalm 51 is attributed to David.  The words in the NRSV that introduce the psalm say, “To the Leader:  A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had been intimate with Bathsheba.”

What does David want you and I to know about sin (preferring one’s own will to God’s) and life with God?

I hear at least three insights:

First, God is approachable because God is merciful.

Second, sin is a part of the human condition.  We are born “messy.”  I wonder why?

Third, maturity seeks spiritual truth.

I’m going to move quickly through the first two insights, and spend a little more time on the third.

First, God is approachable because God is merciful. It’s not uncommon in a home where there are two adults raising children for one of the adults to be the bad cop, meaning quick to anger, while the other parent is the good cop, the one who is slow to anger.  In Psalm 103:8 the author declares that “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”  In the Parable of the Prodigal Son we are introduced to God who “sees us, the wasteful ones, far off in the distance, having exhausted our hearts in petty pleasures, returning home---and beats us to the end of the driveway, arms open wide.”  In other words, we can count on God being a “good cop” and a “forgiving parent.”   God will work with us.  We can always return to the conversation, and the conversion.   Have you found that to be true?  I think we all have.  After all, we are still in a relationship with God—and we’ve all taken our turn as the wasteful child…more than once. 

Second, sin is a part of the human condition.  We are born “messy.”  It’s how we grow.  As 12th century anchoress and author Julian of Norwich puts it, “I once asked Christ why sin wasn’t left out of the creation.  It causes so much pain.”  The answer that came back to her surprised her, “Sin is necessary, but all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.”  God doesn’t shame or blame or send wrath, Julian learns.  God nurtures.  We forget.  We try things God’s way and then we get negligent and try it our way.  Hopefully, every time we try things our way we get the proper feedback so that we return to God.  Every time we realize that we can, in fact, return to God our hearts are stretched in love.  We remember where home is—what it feels like.  Home is with God; with compassion—not with the Ego; with self indulgence.  We become better people—we become God’s people.  

Third, maturity seeks spiritual truth.  I want to offer a definition of maturity through the spiritual lense.  A mature person is a loving person.  A mature person is someone who has removed themselves from being the center of the universe and returned God to that powerful position.  A mature person is someone who lives from their heart—in touch with human need, like Jesus.

As the life of David teaches us, and our own lives, most people don’t live from their hearts for a great length of time without a huge struggle.  We give our hearts to God and then we take them back, correct?  One month its prayer and devotion to God—the next year we put our head down and plow through life on our own terms.  It’s only after we mess up and hurt, and mess up and hurt that we begin to say to God, “OK, maybe I’ll try things YOUR way,” or “Take me as I am and make of me what, by myself, I cannot” AND “Help me, I am making myself and everyone around me SICK.”  In alcoholics anonymous we hear, “We honestly admitted we were powerless over alcohol and sincerely wanted to do something about it.  In other word we admitted we were whipped and had a genuine desire to QUIT for good.”

When we invite God into our pain one of the first things God MUST do is help us name what ails us.  God will lift up the hood and look around, noticing what motivates us.  Is it God, or is it something else like envy or fear or me, me, me, me? 

In her book The Cloister Walk, author Kathleen Norris tells a little story about how sneaky the ego is.  Norris became quite famous after she wrote the book Dakota:  A Spiritual Autobiography a story about finding prayer and presence in Lemmon, South Dakota (she inherited the family farm.)  Norris’ book had a lot of people waking up the fact that we are shaped by geography—some of us would say the mountains are our spiritual home, others the dessert, or the plains, or the beach. As the book rose in popularity, Norris was treated to two years worth of book promotion, which meant traveling.

Norris has a sister who is, as she writes, “borderline.”  Deprived of the oxygen she needed at birth, her sister Becky struggled with loneliness “in ways you cannot imagine,” states Norris.  “But she had her own intelligence and I came to respect it.”  One day Becky sent famous Kathleen a note that read, “Dear Kathy, I feel hurt because you wrote a book and I didn’t.  Happy for you and I try read your book but I was bored with it.  Mom and Dad and everybody talking about it.  I feel left out but it will pass.  Hope you understand how I feel about your book.  I telling you how I feel and I starting to cry while I write this letter. “ 

What a laugh!  Her book was boring!  Kathleen Norris writes, Becky was “calling me back to the things that are important in life.”  And then she quoted a dessert mother, “It is impossible for us to be surrounded by worldly honor and at the same time bear heavenly fruit.”   

Jesus observes, “We cannot serve two masters.”

Simply put, God wants to bring us back to what is really important:  God---love, helpfulness, patience, kindness, simplicity, forgiveness, justice and peace, a balanced life.  And God will wrestle us to the ground for spiritual truth, or spiritual integrity- having a high regard for God AND acting on that regard.

Within, of course; on the inside—because our actions flow from what we treasure.  Jesus didn’t say, “Where your heart is, there will your treasure be.”  Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart, your effort, be.”  The older we get—the wiser we get—the more we want God, correct?—and the less we want all of the other stuff.  Why is that?  Power, status, and wealth are short-lived and empty…but we usually have to give these things one more try…until we are tired of ourselves…and hungry for God.

So many people paid a heavy price for David’s indulgence—Bathsheba’s husband, Bathsheba herself, the son she bore David.  David was sick—sick for what he had done.  “Create in me a new heart,” David says to God with great expectation.  Not because he deserves God’s help—but because healing is what God does, and because spiritual truth (integrity) benefits EVERYONE.  We might hear David’s prayer to God in psalm 51 like this, “Give me YOUR heart.” 

How do you think God does that?  Now this MIGHT be worth talking today around the tables.  How does God create new hearts, loving hearts, in us?

Prayer:  God, there is an obvious beauty in following you.  We see your beauty in Christ.  Can your beauty live in us?  Create in us a new heart.  Amen.

(This sermon was preached by Reverend Dana Keener at Central Christian Church in Billings, Montana on August 2, 2015.)