The Heart

Friday, January 13, 2012 — — Week of 1 Epiphany, Year Two

Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, 367

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p 943)

Psalms 16, 17 (morning) 22 (evening)

Genesis 6:1-8

Hebrews 3:12-19

John 2:1-12

The Heart

All this week we have been following our great Biblical myths about the devolution of humanity. Myth is the poetic narrative all great peoples use to reflect upon our important questions of life. We resort to the language of myth when talking about Mystery. To my mind, myth is far deeper and more compelling than mere fact.

We’ve been with Adam and Eve as they left paradise; with Cain the brother-murderer and city-founder; with his offspring who create civilization and multiply violence. And now in the sixth chapter of Genesis, the created boundary between heaven and earth begins to break. Heavenly beings called “the sons of God” cross the boundary to have sexual relations with human women. There is reference to the shadowy Nephilim, thought to describe a superhuman race of mixed human and divine parents. Chaos is growing.

Then comes the denouement — “The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.” (5:6) The heart is the focus of divine interest. In biblical language, the heart is much more than a physical pump. It is the place where the intellect and the will unite. The heart is where knowing what is good and evil connects with wanting to do the good and not the evil. It is the core and essence of our being. The heart is deeper than thoughts and ideas. It is the animating force, the level of the self, the place of transformation. So when we read those words — “every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually” — we realize that it describes an ultimate catastrophe, a complete failure. It’s time to give up the project. But… there was Noah.

Our reading from Hebrews warns us to “take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” The writer is convinced that hardness of heart is the cause of all disaster and the source of our rebellion against God. We are invited to have soft hearts, hearts open to the transforming love of God. And our example is Jesus.

One of the best titles for Jesus is to say that Jesus is the Heart of God. Jesus reveals God’s heart. Jesus shows us in human life what God’s passion is like. God’s thoughts and will are united in the heart of Jesus.

And in John’s gospel we’ve reached a climactic moment. John has been building toward this since his symphonic opening. It is Jesus’ first sign. The first act that announces his presence and mission. And what is that first sign? It is the miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding feast.

The Jewish blessing prayer given over wine gives thanks to God for the gift of wine which “gladdens our hearts.” At a wedding when the union of hearts is celebrated in community, Jesus turns the ordinary (water) into the extraordinary (wine). And it is good wine. It gladdens the hearts, it stimulates conviviality and community. It is a sign of what Jesus’ coming intends: Glad hearts. Soft hearts. Community. Hearts open to God’s goodness and at peace with our neighbors.

Have a glad heart day today!

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