Swimming in the heart of God
Readings: Song of Solomon 2:8-13 and Mark 71-8, 14-15, 21-23
Aug. 29, 2021
By Rev. Marguerite Sheehan
Once again, I am grateful to the folks who put together our suggested readings every Sunday. They knew the only way we can really take in Jesus’s strong words about religious hypocrisy is when we first bathe in the words of a Lover who is determined to win us over.
So let’s begin with the love song.
“Listen! It’s my lover; here he is coming now, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills. My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag. Here he stands now; outside our wall, peering through the windows, peeking through the lattices.”
The love of God for us and of us for God. The love between and all around us. The love that lives in the heart of the Great Commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind."
The love that can’t get enough of us, even when we are hypocrites or greedy deceivers, arrogant, divisive, and foolhardy – the list is long – even when we are all that and more, here comes the Lover to meet us in love.
Years after the Song of Solomon and Isaiah were first preached, Jesus comes on the scene. Like most of his first followers and detractors, Jesus is Jewish. He is a rabbi.
Rabbis love to tussle and dance with and deeply engage the scripture. The scripture and all the laws within it are sacred, but sacred does not mean set in stone. Sacred means “connected with God.”
Rabbi Jesus says, let’s connect all this hygiene business with God. As the prophet spoke, “This people (and he means us now, too) this people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me.”
Our hearts – the heart of love – are far away from God when our hearts and minds and wills use teachings or tradition, dogma or politics, public health requirements, or any human ideas to injure another person or group of people.
Jesus is fine with dogma and tradition and scripture, if it is used in the service of God. What gets him riled up is when tradition or laws or dogma or proclamations are used to separate us. As when the religious leaders called out the few disciples who did not adequately wash their hands. (Are you hearing something this morning about how we “other” people who do not act the same way that we do, washing, mask wearing, vaccines?)
Jesus gets riled up and he is riled up today when we spend our precious time on earth focusing on other people’s failings without first accepting our own internal “mean kid.” As one of the 12-step prayers says, “Grant me the tolerance for other people’s struggles.”
Many of you know that I love swimming. It is a good day for me when I dunk in just about any body of water. Like all of us, I still need to wash my hands multiple times of day not as to not spread illness, but I also need to dive in deep and swim my heart out. Swimming almost always brings me close to God. It is hard to be grouchy or mean or super critical when swimming. If you have never swum the Serenity Prayer, I highly recommend it. One stroke, one breath at a time.
Lately I have been discouraged when I go swimming. I have been seeing what I call “gaggles of people” of all ages standing around in the water, reluctant to swim, happier to stand and gossip about others. They cannot get enough of comparing themselves to other people with the other people coming out less than them. I want to shout, “Cut it out, kids! Get your hearts together, folks! Look within.”
Of course, even as I want to shout at them, I know that I am kvetching while I am talking to you about them!
Jesus says dive into your heart. Not just as far as the nasty things we think even about ourselves, but as far as God looks. Rise up, my dearest, my fairest, and go deep into your own thoughts and words and deeds.
For Jesus, the heart of the problem is not dogma itself but the human heart. The prophets and the rabbis and Jesus do critique the world. They also declare the consoling and encouraging promises of God, especially the promise that God will go to all lengths to soften, transform, and unmask our hearts to write a new covenant on them.
From day one, God loves us fiercely and will not let us settle for the mean stuff that we fall into so easily.
God promises to give us new hearts that are closer to God’s own heart and when that happens, we get to spend our time on earth well. Hearing and doing the work of God. Swimming in the heart of God. Washing our hands and wearing masks when needed, mourning the loss of life from illness or war or any other cause, and confessing our own sins because we trust that God will wash everything that hurts the world, just as God wipes away all our tears and our fears.
Thanks be to God.