A reflection on the Gospel lesson from Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018 - Mark 7:14-23
I like to think that I work hard to take care of my yard. I keep the grass cut and the driveway and curbs trimmed. I take the time as I can to pull that patch of crabgrass before it takes deep root. I try and keep the Johnson-grass from taking over the flower beds. Last week I took the time and pruned a row of crepe myrtles in my back yard. However, there is a part of my yard that always seems to get ignored. It’s around the side of the house, the north side to be specific. There weeds can easily take over especially in the winter as I never have to go over there unless there is an issue with the various meters and breakers that are there – which is never. Come spring time, I will go to mow for the first time of the season and I am overwhelmed, even embarrassed, by the dollar-weed, crabgrass and thistle that has grown up on that side of the yard. The reason? It is out of sight and is easy to ignore.
I also like to think that I work hard to take care of my life, controlling my thoughts words and actions. I try to exert patience and stop that thought from turning into words that could insult or into actions that could offend. Amidst various temptations, I try and keep my thoughts, tongue and hands free from engaging in sinful behaviors. Sadly, though, there is an area of my nature that is often easy to ignore, an area that escapes proper reflection and scrutiny. That area is my heart. There, as Jesus says in the Gospel lesson from last Sunday, “come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22).
Sadly, we sometimes become consumed with managing our appearances, controlling our outward behavior, that we ignore the natural state of our heart. When that happens, we hinder the transformative power of God’s love in our lives which seeks to create peace and cultivate compassion so that we may truly bear the fruits of the Spirit through our thoughts words and actions. As Jesus, quoting the prophet Isaiah, says earlier in this lesson, “This people honors me with their lips but their hearts are far from me” (Mark 7:6).
When I come around the north side of the house and realize how I have neglected that part of the yard, it is easy to become… well, disheartened. It is going to take a lot of work to get rid of all the weeds and cultivate a healthy growth of grass. As we considered how we have neglected the condition of our heart, it is easy to become… well, disheartened – especially when we realize that there is nothing we can do to root out the evil, that try as we might we cannot improve or change it.
But, what does Jesus say? He says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me” (John 14:1). How can He say this? I look at the condition of my heart and I am troubled. I look and I say with Paul, “What a wretched man I am” (Romans 7:24). Jesus is able to encourage us to lift our spirits because of the promise of God, that in Jesus the peace of God will guard our hearts. What is the peace of God? It is the “shalom,” the salvation of God, the assurance that in Jesus, through His death and resurrection, we have been redeemed from sin and death and that our hearts will be preserved, restored and transformed. With this peace, we are drawn close to God who reveals the nature of His heart, a heart overflowing with love. Despite the condition of our hearts, we live in the promise of redemption and restoration because of the condition of God’s heart. So, be at peace and let not your heart be troubled. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Learning to live life as it’s meant to be. That’s what we strive to do here at Grace, to live under the cross in the new life that we have in Christ through His death and resurrection. The posts on this blog, grounded in God’s Word, will be offered as a source of encouragement, comfort and strength “along life’s way” to the end that we live lives of service in our homes, in our communities and in our congregations.