A Sermon for Series A 5th Sunday of Easter 2017 “Our Heart”

 

First Lesson  Acts 6:1-9; 7:2a, 51-60

Second Lesson  1 Peter 2:2-10

Gospel Lesson  John 14:1-14 

Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the gospel lesson just read.  [John 14:1-14]

You’ll often hear me say we’re one in Christ, all part of his body, the Church.  When I say that, it means a whole lot more than simply membership.  The body of Christ is a living organism.  It moves and grows.  It fights and suffers; and it stands firm in the truth.  Since it’s one body, not many bodies, it moves in one direction, and every component of this body should contribute to its movement in the same direction.

Yes, we’re all uniquely made by our Creator; with unique talents and abilities.  Yes, each of those unique abilities is needed within the one body to make it function in accordance with God’s will.  Our unique qualities are valued and important.

But, just as God created us with a uniqueness that’s essential and necessary; so he expects us, as one body, to share in our like-mindedness.  This is not just some theory of mine; it comes straight from scripture.  It comes from the gospel lesson today; but we don’t see it because in their effort to make the text read clearly in English, the translators inadvertently covered it up.

Let’s look at that first line again.  Let not your hearts be troubled.  We know that the word ‘your’ can be singular or plural depending on whether you are addressing a person or a group of persons.  In Greek that distinction is much clearer.  The Greeks have a separate word for your in the singular and a separate word for your in the plural; and so we can tell quite clearly that Jesus was addressing all the disciples because, in this verse, your is plural.

On the other hand, the word we read as hearts is actually singular in the Greek.  If the translators translated ‘Let not your heart be troubled’; we’d all assume Jesus was only talking to one individual, so the translators wrote ‘Let not your hearts be troubled’ so that we’d understand that Jesus was talking to all the disciples.  But, in doing this we miss a very important point.

Jesus said to all his disciples together, “Let not your heart be troubled.” because although they were many, he expected them to be of one heart; and he expected this because they were his disciples and in Christ they would all be of one heart.

Even though they were each unique parts of his body, Christ expected them to be of one and the same heart.  This is what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Christ; that your will and his will are the same.  Your heart and his heart are the same.

We’re born and raised to see ourselves as unique and different from everyone else; and we revel in our individuality.  We don’t want to be like the rest of the crowd.  We take great steps to develop our own unique character and demeanor.  We find ways to stand out, even from our peers.  Oh, we want to fit in, but we do it in ways that make us unique and identifiable.

We live in a society that tells us that being unique is the pattern for success.  We’re told to rise above the rest.  We’re told to be better than the rest; and that’ll bring us success.  That’ll bring us the fruits of success, as we accumulate bigger and better stuff than our friends and neighbors.

We’re encouraged to value our own individual rights, rights that are ours because of our uniqueness, over and above the rights of the community.  We know in our hearts we’re wrong, and so, to convince ourselves, we tell ourselves that protecting individual rights protects the community’s rights.  And, this valuing of individuality goes beyond protecting individual rights.  We value and look up to those who lift themselves up by the bootstraps, those who may walk on the backs of others along the way, but in the end become rich and famous; and we look down on those who choose to serve.

Our society looks down on those staying home with their children, taking the time to raise them and show them the value of sacrificing for others.  Volunteers are often seen as lacking personal motivation, foolishly wasting time helping those who can never repay them.  Their choice to serve others instead of themselves is seen as a lack of ambition and drive to fend for themselves.  Or maybe we see what they’re doing isn’t important unless they get paid for doing it.

It’s no wonder that the world sees Christians as foolish.  It’s no wonder why they question how we can proclaim that salvation comes from one who gave up his throne in glory to serve; one who gave up his life to save his enemies.  We follow the One who taught us to pray for us, not me; to give us daily bread, to forgive us, to lead us, to deliver us.

He gave himself to the world; forgiving the sins of all mankind, not just those who’d follow him; giving eternal life to all who believe, not just those who properly used the unique talents he gave them, producing enough fruit to make them worthy; giving his body and blood to strengthen those believers and uniting them with himself and each other, revealing his will to them, giving them a likeness of heart that sets them apart as the one, united, body of Christ.

Only in Christ is there union, and true like-mindedness.  In Christ we have true fellowship; not membership, not just connectedness, but oneness of purpose, oneness of desire, oneness of will giving over our personal will to the will of Christ; because being in Christ, his will is our will, his heart is our heart.

Because we’re in Christ, we follow and he leads.  Our uniqueness that’s so necessary, so important, is subservient to his will.  His goal is our goal. Our role in the body is to follow his direction in support of all the others in the body.  That’s what it means to follow him in unity and fellowship.  Even our desires become his desires, so that in our lives his will, not our will is done.

Only God ‘our Creator’ has the knowledge, the power, the understanding to take so many uniquely minded spirits and give them like-mindedness while maintaining the uniqueness of their essential talents, for the good of all … even for the good of our enemies.  Only God ‘our Savior’ has the love necessary to unite so diverse a group of souls; and only by sharing his love do we show our like-mindedness to be true and genuine, not a façade, but an honest caring given over in community.  Only God ‘our Sanctifier’ has the ability to change our self-minded uniqueness into servant minded unity.

It’s God’s will that we be of one heart; and only by believing in him is this possible.  Believing in him, there’s nothing that can shake us, nothing that can destroy us.  We have peace; the peace only God can give.  We have all that we need; the daily bread essential for this life and the bread of life so needful for eternal life.

Through Holy Communion, we share in his body and blood; our Lord giving us the fruit of his redeeming love – the forgiveness of our sins.  Forgiveness that enlivens us to give of ourselves with all we have and all we are, with our flesh and blood, to our neighbors in need.  And so we pray after receiving the Sacrament, that God would strengthen us in faith toward him and in fervent love toward one another.

Through him we’re of one heart, following the One who is the only way, truth, and life.  We’re united in him.  We’re one in him.  We have his peace; and because with one heart we believe in God, and with one heart we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, our ‘heart’ is not troubled.

Amen.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle