We begin a new series we are calling “hearts revealed.” Jesus speaks often about what we do in our hearts convicts us. If we lust after someone in our heart we are guilty of adultery, if we are angry with our brother or sister we are liable for judgement as someone who has killed. In the kingdom of God what happens in our heart is very real and foreshadows what is possible without repentance. In this series we will look at how God wants us to protect our heart and we discuss places and events we should avoid engaging any thought and heart connection.
The readings this week point us to a message of purification. It is an important aspect of keeping our hearts from judgement to be pure. It begins with a step to make our hearts pure, through our offering of our hearts to God. We are told of messengers who will come prepare the way, bring covenant and look into our hearts in judgement. We are challenged to consecrate ourselves to God and make a formal declaration that we choose God and desire to reveal our heart. Ready to reveal our heart we will want want to work to make our heart pure. So the message this week challenges us to have purity of heart.
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord; Malachi 3:1-4; Psalms 24:7, 8, 9, 10; Hebrews 2:14-18 and Luke 2:22-40. This week the message informs is we are led by the heart, where our heart is, there we go. So we want to have a heart like Jesus, a pure heart.
The reading from Malachi speaks of messengers coming, three messengers in fact. The messenger will prepare the way, the messenger will come to the temple and the messenger is the messenger of the covenant. It would seem the prophet is speaking about different messengers. The messenger who prepares the way is seen as Elijah the prophet, we see revealed later in the text; “Now I am sending to you Elijah the prophet,” (Malachi 3:23) From the gospels, John the Baptist is seen as fulfilling this role. The messenger of the covenant could mean Moses, which in the gospels is seen as Jesus, the human, suffering servant, bringing a new covenant. Jesus is often seen as type of Moses. The messenger coming to the temple is seen as Christ, Jesus coming the second time as divine King, in glory and all will be under his power and authority. Christ is the judge who will look at our hearts and determine their purity. The remainder of the prophets words speak about standing when this messenger appears, he is the refiner’s fire, the fuller’s lye, purifying. The prophet speaks of the sons of Levi, the priestly tribe, the tribe that bore Moses and Arron, who will offer sacrifice as in old. Sacrifice reminds the people that they need to be pure; all the rituals, and prayers of the people are centered on purity and cleanliness. We must look inwardly, do we have pure hearts? Can we stand before the messenger at the temple, and be judged worthy?Christ is the judge who will look at our hearts and determine their purity. Click To Tweet
In the second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews we see this reminder that Jesus did come and is related to humanity through flesh and blood, the things we all have in common. Jesus came and died and his death is the destruction of death because he rose. Death is what holds us as slaves our entire life, it is the fear of death the keeps us from doing what we think is impossible or what we think might cause us harm. Scripture says the devil uses fear to keep us slaves. But Jesus came, a brother to us in every way, to be a high priest. In the time of the prophet Malachi and before, the priest offered sacrifice for the people to purify all. Now Jesus is High Priest, and we don’t need any other mediator, Jesus offers the sacrifice that purifies us all. This sacrifice is a reminder we are made pure and need to work to remain pure. But we will need help and when we need help, we need strength to fight off a temptation, Jesus has done it, Jesus remains pure and can be the help we need to remain pure as well. In all things Jesus came and led the way, a pioneer for us to follow, so we may remain pure of heart. Sin aims to separate us from God, Jesus wants us to remain close to God. To be purified and remain pure is our life long journey, Jesus is our companion, our High Priest reminding us purity of heart is the most important aspect of living a sinless life. We will suffer, we will be tempted, but we can prevail with eyes fixed on the one who has gone before us, and help us.To be purified and remain pure is our life long journey, Jesus is our companion, our High Priest reminding us purity of heart is the most important aspect of living a sinless life. Click To Tweet
In the gospel message from Luke we have the family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, as a baby going to the temple. Jesus is the first born son and will be presented to God and consecrated. This is a fulfilling of the scriptures, (see Exodus 13:2, 12-15 and Numbers 18:15) by law all first born Jews were consecrated to God as thanksgiving and reminder of how God brought the Jews out of Egypt. The Pharaoh would not hear the Lord and so the Egyptians lost their first born son and first born beast. Presenting their son to God, though required by Hebrew law, does show the piety of Mary and Joseph, bringing two turtle doves and not a lamb shows their poverty. This passage also has Mary seeking purification as required by law. Mary is considered ritually unclean following childbirth and so could not enter the temple. The passage introduces Simeon and Anna two people guided by the Holy Spirit to meet this boy, who will be the rise and fall of many. Simeon, gives us our series catch phrase saying, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel … so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” It is the revelation of our hearts that leads to our rising or falling. Simeon went on to proclaim the prophecy of Isaiah, saying “now is the time” when salvation will come to the Jews and extends beyond the people of Israel to the entire world.“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel … so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. Click To Tweet
It is not a coincidence that purification, consecration and the revelation of hearts are all tied together in this message from the beginning of Jesus’ life. Although it was Mary needing purification we are again reminded of the rich purification rituals of the people of Israel. A ritual not followed by Gentiles today but it does remind us of baptism, a sign of purification for those first consecrating themselves (or through their parents) to God. We all belong to God, we all are sanctified and called holy before God. But there are moments when we have to choose God. These moments of presentation, consecrating our hearts to God are significant. They should be such powerful moments in our life so we may recall them, and repeat them in our memory, reminding ourselves that we are consecrated to God, in thanksgiving for all we have.
It is this moment when we consecrate ourselves to God that our spiritual journey begins. We are all children of God but God does not force the Spirit on us, we have to choose. So this is the jumping off point of the consecrated life. We will speak about remaining pure, and knowing what is in our hearts so we know we are pure. It begins when we chose God and rely on God’s plan for our lives to remain pure of heart that we want revealed.
Purity of heart
We will see throughout this series that there are real dangers in not keeping our heart pure. When we commit an act, even in our heart, we are risking condemnation. If we are to be children of God, righteous and holy, it all begins in our heart. It is our heart that leads us to a life of purity or a life of condemnation and ruin. We must learn to guard our heart so that we can avoid any temptation, wrong doing or sinfulness.
We are not meant to be good, or receive accolades, to provide for ourselves or take what we need. We are human beings and our being defines us, who we are and how we are seen. To “be” we must be connect to Jesus. Jesus talks about the vine and branches and that those branches not connected to the vine are thrown into the fire. We are made for connection. Paul calls it the body, we are all part of the Body of Christ, if we are a foot we remain a foot and can’t choose not to be a foot, if we cut ourselves off from the body we are no longer a foot, most likely we are something dead.
We must first accept that we are in relationship, hopefully we have chosen to be in relationship with God through some act of presentation. Once we choose this relationship we need to participate to be a good member of the relationship. We can’t “worthy” our way to a pure heart or a righteous relationship, we must accept who we are and participate in the relationship.
Our heart stays pure when we work to keep it pure. Jesus gave the disciples a teaching known as the beatitudes. It covers a number of things we can do to be blessed or happy. One of those things is to be pure of heart; he says, if we are pure of heart we will see God (cf. Matthew 5:8) It is not some message saying “if we are pure now” in some future time and place we will hit it big. Jesus means if we keep our heart pure we will see God now.
Creating a pure heart can be as simple as deciding too. We must only let those things into our heart that will be pure and keep the impure things from our heart. Driving for me is always a good example. If I am driving and some aggressive driver cuts me off and doesn’t even acknowledge me, I might react by getting angry, or showing some sign of unhappiness. But that doesn’t affect the aggressive driver at all. It does let anger enter my heart. Anger does not lead to purity, in fact it could lead to bad judgement. So rather than acknowledge or respond to the other driver, I can choose to let it go, and perhaps even come up with a reason why the aggressive driver had to get down the road so quickly. When I choose to see the good, I am seeing God.When I choose to see the good, I am seeing God. Click To Tweet
A pure heart is a free heart, a heart which is not quick to take offense and therefore is not dishonest or affected. The pure heart is transparent like that of a child, but it is not naive. On the other hand a heart that is selfish is not a good heart. It fills itself with personal desire, personal fulfillment, really it becomes a sinful heart. A pure heart is a heart just like Jesus’ heart, a heart that is taught to love and give, to serve others and to put others first.A pure heart is a heart just like Jesus’ heart, a heart that is taught to love and give, to serve others and to put others first. Click To Tweet
When we turn our hearts to Jesus, Jesus turns us away from our own selfishness and opens our heart for others. Jesus never separates from a pure heart, quite the opposite Jesus connects with the pure heart, deeper and deeper.
A pure heart is a heart that is very fertile, it is open to others, it can take the pain and suffering of others and replace it with compassion and connectedness. The pure heart understands the suffering and anguish of others and it does it without being dragged down itself. We must be careful when entering into relationship with someone who is anguished, it could be easy to be dragged down and become anguished. But with the pure heart we must stay above anguish, we are there to lift others, not be dragged down by them.
So in many ways a pure heart is detached from itself, it can enter into the anguish of the other because it is more connected to God than to the suffering of the person. It is how we can help those who have been violated, or abused. Sometimes we see and hear of some terrible things, to children or other innocent people and we might want to become a warrior and take revenge. This is not the way of a pure heart, the pure heart helps with the suffering and brings dignity to the person hurt. But a pure heart can also reach out to the abuser and find a way to take their pain as well.
A pure heart is a heart open, it is always ready to give itself, to allow itself to be wounded. It is not a heart that builds walls around itself, worried to come to close to people who might seem evil. The pure heart can be pierced and find it’s healing in Jesus, whose heart is also pierced. The heart of Jesus sees all the suffering hearts of people and wants to weep, but knows only through connection, and love can there be healing, so rather than cry the pure heart proclaims mercy.
It is true we can chose to have a pure heart, and we can keep our heart pure by not letting wrong doing, or sinfulness take root. But the pure heart also needs the help of the Holy Spirit. We are weak beings and our sinful nature takes us to the easy path. So we require strength, power, courage and wisdom, all the fruits we can receive from the Holy Spirit. The pure heart in a sense is a heart in which the Holy Spirit dwells. The Spirit will lead us to the right place to remain pure and to be open and compassionate.The pure heart in a sense is a heart in which the Holy Spirit dwells. The Spirit will lead us to the right place to remain pure and to be open and compassionate. Click To Tweet
It is the pure heart that we want. When hearts are revealed we want our heart to be seen as pure. We don’t want to have a hard or stony heart, we want to be led by a heart that loves, is pure and cares for others. It is a heart connected and is a heart that can even love those who hate us.
We must realize all our life depends on our heart. We are led by the desires of the heart and we follow our heart unconsciously. So it is the heart we must load with love and protect from sin. Jesus sees our heart and knows if in our heart we are led to do good or bad. We are judge by the content of our heart.