This is the second week of a series called “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 pointed 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 changed to consecrate ourselves to God and make a formal declaration that we choose God and desire to reveal our heart. Of course we will want to work to make our heart pure. So the message challenged us to have purity of heart.
The readings this week point us toward the recognition that all we do for God reveals the glory of God. In Isaiah the reading challenges us to acts of mercy, these acts help others, but more importantly reveal us as images of God. The letter to the Corinthians reveals Paul as fearful, weak and trembling. Paul depends on the power of God, obtaining the wisdom of God and revealing the glory of God. The gospel has Jesus teaching the disciples they are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, thus they are to pick up his mission and fulfill the Father’s will. All power for them comes from God, all the success of their work is the glory of God.
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time; Isaiah 58:7-10; Psalms 112:4-5, 6-7, 8-9; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 and Matthew 5:13-16. This week the message we see in readings push us to show the glory of God. If we follow God’s example and let our hearts reveal God, then all who see our deeds will see the glory of God in us.
The reading from Isaiah is previewed with verses that speak of God ignoring and not going along with those demonstrating hypocrisy of a pure external religion, people going through the motions of religious observance while being unjust in their dealings with others and ignoring those in need. Those who act this way cannot know much about God and so the prophet feels compelled to speak out and tell them that it is hearts that reveal God that will be favored by God. He tells them God will have nothing to do with the hypocrisy of those who perform fasts but behave wickedly; whereas God will certainly listen to prayer if accompanied by acts of justice and charity. We are given examples of those acts in the verse quoted for the reading; share bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and homeless, clothe the naked, remove from our speech oppression, false accusation and malicious words. If we follow these instructions we shall be the glory of God. Jesus repeats these works of mercy on his discourse on the Last Judgement in Mathew 25:31-46. Jesus inserts himself as the one who is needy and is served or not served. As we look at hearts that reveal God and in particular this week having faith in God, we demonstrate who we really are through our action, not pleasantries spoken during church services or to fellow followers who only see us an hour a week. It is through our faith, from the power of God, that we are successful and as those who through the revelation of their hearts demonstrate the glory of God.Isaiah tells the people God will have nothing to do with the hypocrisy of those who perform fasts but behave wickedly; whereas God will certainly listen to prayer if accompanied by acts of justice and charity. Click To Tweet
In the second reading from the first letter Paul has written to the community at Corinth, he begins by telling them he has not preached to them with exalted words or wisdom, he says all he knows is Jesus Christ crucified. He further goes on to say he came to them weak, with trembling and fear and he didn’t feel his message was persuasive words or wisdom. It seems difficult to understand how Paul who seems to be so successful in building communities of faith that have been the seeds for an ever growing church, could see himself as weak and trembling, unimpressed with his own articulation and sure he has no wisdom. Yet this is precisely what Paul is telling the reader. He goes on to say all his actions and preaching depend on the spirit and power of God. He does not depend on human wisdom but on the power of God. It is the power of God that gives him faith. We too should learn from Paul, if we depend on what we know, or our own power, we too will be under able to inspire or even lead faithful lives. It is the message of Paul that faith comes from God, we must trust in God, communicate with God, hope in God, so to constantly strengthen our faith and give us the power to remain faithful. It is through faith that our hearts will reveal God. If we think we have the strength to remain faithful on our own, we don’t understand how much our faith will be challenged. We are wholly inadequate for a task we hope to accomplish in the name of God, without also seeking the power of God. We must ask for God’s grace to proceed with trust and boldness. We may fail but it is only through God’s power that we can work through failure and become successful. When we are successful, our heart will reveal it is God’s glory that shines through us.We are wholly inadequate for a task we hope to accomplish in the name of God, without also seeking the power of God. Click To Tweet
In the gospel message from Matthew, Jesus is teaching his disciples; particularly he challenges them to be what the world needs to learn about him. First he says they are the salt of the earth. Salt was an important commodity, it helps the taste of food but more importantly it was used to preserve food, helping food to remain fresh and taste good longer. Jesus tells his disciples they are the salt of the earth, in other words they are the means by which goodness will be preserved in the world. But if they lose their way, if they don’t live the beatitudes, if they don’t’ have hearts that reveal God, they will be like salt that loses its taste and they will no longer be good for anything. Jesus goes on to call his disciples the light of the world. This is interesting because we usually hear Jesus saying he is the light of the world. “Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:12) Now Jesus puts that on his disciples, they are the light of the world. So Jesus passes his light on to them so that they might shine before others, showing their good deeds and knowing that it is by the glory of God that they shine like Jesus. Shinning like Jesus makes them a witness to the work to be done for the Father. In showing their good works, their light, they are the glory of God.
It is again with a heart revealed that they let Jesus shine through them so others may see that all good comes from God. Jesus gets everything from his Father and now gives everything to his disciples so they can get everything from the Father. They will do the deeds of the Father, trusting God, depending on the power of God, and allowing God’s glory to be known.
These readings challenge us to do good, to allow God to work through us, and that we should depend on God’s power to achieve tasks, all of which we perform on God’s behalf. We can only achieve through the power of God and thus all we accomplish demonstrates the glory of God. God depends on the weakness within us to show his power, he strengthens our faith and lets us achieve things only possible with his power. Once all this is understood, it is God’s glory that is shown.
Glory of God
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 our life of goodness or a life of condemnation and ruin. We must learn to protect what comes in our heart so that we can avoid any temptation, wrong doing or sinfulness.
We see this week that we can be hypocrites, calling ourselves religious in word but not in deed. We see that even Paul walked in fear and trembling, knowing he did not have the wisdom needed to show the glory of God. We also see we are called to be salt and light so that the work begun in Jesus for the Father may continue. All of these require that we admit we are limited and weak and can only have power from God, including faith that comes from the power of God and wisdom that comes from God. Letting go of our own power, our own dependence on our own skills, education and experience are the only ways we can be open to receive the power of God. In other words we must have hearts that reveal the truth, knowing we depend on God, and letting nothing but power from God fill our hearts.
We are created in the image and likeness of God. (Genesis 1:27-28) God blessed us and said be fertile and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over all things of the earth. We are created from the earth and the creator created us to participate in his creative act. We share in the divine dominion and have a precondition to the divine command to “be fruitful and multiply.” Thus in sharing in God’s image we are called to have God’s creative power. The noun creator is from the Latin word creare, which means “to make or bring forth.” Thus we are called to bring forth, to have dominion and do it all as God’s images. We are to be like God.
Human activity in all its forms is blessed with the possibility and responsibly of bearing fruit. In this way it is an image of God’s creative act. This is not limited to humans creating more humans, we participate in all creation, otherwise those who cannot participate in the conception and bearing children with have no role in God’s creative image, essentially they will not be images of God. We do not literally create the world. The world belongs to God alone to create, to bring forth, out of nothing. But our hands image God’s creative act. God has made us responsible for the shape with which we give our lives and the world. Naturally, with creation comes destruction, we are free to create or destroy, free to have a dominion of loving care or wasteful destruction.Human activity in all its forms is blessed with the possibility and responsibly of bearing fruit. In this way it is an image of God’s creative act. Click To Tweet
Humanity has been established as God’s representatives on earth in a unique way. We are God’s images and as such share in God’s dominion, God’s creating, sustaining activity in the world; a divine environment, a place and power for real life. The dominion humans have only exists within God, not alongside or outside God. We must come to understand that one of the things that makes us truly human is our distinctive ability to acknowledge, appreciate and delight in the reality of all other creatures as other, and to care for them. Therefore, to be God’s image or representative on earth, to share in God’s dominion, means that we receive a share in God’s power for creation, not simply over creation. We do not have license to exploit the world, we are in fact accountable to the Creator for the world’s well-being and wholeness.We must come to understand that one of the things that makes us truly human is our distinctive ability to acknowledge, appreciate and delight in the reality of all other creatures as other, and to care for them. Click To Tweet
In Jesus God has fulfilled a plan to save the world, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17) Given the view God created the entire world, we must understand it is not just humans God is saving through his Son. The Son as we see above is the light of the world and passes that light on to his disciples who pass in on to all of us to carry forth his mission. Additionally as images of God, in partnership with God we are called to save the world.
From the beginning of the creation story there has been an evil actor working against the salvation of the world. God does not wish to save us from the world. God wishes to save the world and us, humans are a unique part of it. It is sin which threatens to destroy the world and it is we humans who are responsible for sin. An evil actor could not destroy the world without human participation. It is why the story of the fall in Genesis requires the person of Eve to fall, the evil actor on its own has no power to create or destroy, only God’s partners, humans, were given this ability.
This evil actor works on our heart. It is only through our heart that action is put into motion. This evil actor knows as images of God we have the power to share in the creation or destruction of the world. Its goal is destruction. So it is through our heart that we are vulnerable. We can be convinced to kill, to covet, to steal, to gossip, to undo the goodness of the world which will lead to destruction, in our hearts. It is why we must guard our hearts, it is also why we must have hearts filled with God, revealed for all to see. Our hearts must be revealed as belonging to God, so any attempt to turn it evil will be met with resistance and the full freedom of God to help our heart be defended.Our hearts must be revealed as belonging to God, so any attempt to turn it evil will be met with resistance and the full freedom of God to help our heart be defended. Click To Tweet
As images of God we have the power of the creator available to us. What we can create we can destroy. If our heart turns away from believing all the world is to be saved we can easily be convinced many things are insignificant and thus we can destroy, break, and kill them. Killing, lusting, gossiping, exaggerating, lying, all lead to an impure heart and a heart more under the dominion of evil and not good.
Am I trying to say we should not swat a mosquito? Not at all, but we shouldn’t swat a mosquito with malice and out of cruelty. We must understand we have this power to destroy and we should only use it with a pure heart set on saving the world as a partner of God. We are made in God’s image, and thus everything we do should bring glory to God. We begin with a heart for God, revealed as loving and caring, knowing we are called to be like God, images of God pointing back to God.We must understand we have this power to destroy and we should only use it with a pure heart set on saving the world as a partner of God. Click To Tweet
We want a heart that demonstrates the glory of God. If we depend on our own ability, experience and power we are too week to live with a heart revealed. Our heart will be unable to be pure on its own and easily swayed. Rather than being an image of good we will become an instrument of destruction. Count on God’s power, accept God into your heart and let God have full ability to defend and lead your heart. Revealing your heart as an image of God gives God glory and makes us excellent partners in saving the world.