Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Believe in God, believe also in me.
For some, these two verses side by side is a bit of paradox. “Don’t let your hearts be troubled” takes us to feelings; we feel with our hearts. “Believe in me,” takes us to our heads. We believe, think, with our heads. Martin Luther’s Large Catechism response to the first commandment is “to set your heart upon God,” to place heart and trust in God, to hang your heart on God alone.” Methodists might prefer it in the language John Wesley used: “holiness of heart and life.”
Our faith lessons are about attending to heart troubles: heart trouble of isolation, loneliness, heart trouble of greed or jealously, heart trouble of idolatry or apathy, heart trouble of closed hearts.
Heart trouble seems arise from hanging your heart / hopes/ desires/ dreams/ identity on a hook that just won’t hold up: a hook of wealth, status, power, ranking. Hanging your heart on a political party, or a particular religious creed, or nationalism surely will disappoint. Be careful what you hang your heart on for the effects can reach far.
Take for example health care in this country. We all pay taxes so that all children can go to school; as a nation we decided that everyone has a right to an education. Education is a necessity. Yet, to propose the same for our health care is treated as scandalous by some. I’ve heard politicians – especially those who want to call themselves a Christian and wrap the cross in an American flag – say, “I’ve got my healthcare and I’m not going to pay for yours.” Talk about hearts hung on the wrong hook that devastate millions.
Take for example our ecological responsibility. There are some who value oil over water and profit over sacred ground. Our government policies are being put into place which cater to rich industry and remove restrictions on industrial pollution. We seem bent on decimating global climate accord. Talk about hang hearts on wrong hook that destroys God’s creation.
Hanging your heart on an acquisition or accomplishments, or anything else but God can led to heart trouble. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” There are those who hang their faith on a belief. Some understand faith is about intellectual agreement with doctrines. They believe an particular belief is required such as: the Bible is the inerrant word of God, or Genesis is an historical fact, or Jesus was born of a virgin, or bodily resurrection, or rapture, or purgatory… Some believe that if you check off the right set of “beliefs” then you can do whatever the hell you want. As long as your beliefs are “right,” you’re good to go.
The idea that Christianity is about a set of beliefs is a modern development of the last few hundred years. It was post-Enlightenment era when Christian faith became a “head matter.” The ancient Christian faith was not a matter of the head, but a matter of the heart. The heart is a metaphor for a deep level of the self, a level below our thinking, and below our feeling, at the very core of our being.
John has already told the story of Nic at Night. Nicodemus was a Pharisee; as the gospels tell it they were the “bad guys.” Nicodemus comes to Jesus under the cover of darkness to ask a question and to make a statement, “you are from God, for no one could do what you do apart from God.” Jesus replies, “no one can see the kingdom of heaven without being born from above.” Fundamentalist Christians have taken that to mean a certain belief about the afterlife, so I don’t find that language helpful. Hear it as,“true, no one can comprehend the Way of God without a new heart.” We can’t get to a higher level of understanding without thinking and being a new way. We can’t apprehend the Divine without transformation, without a new heart. Without dying to the way you are thinking /acting now and rising to a new way of doing and being, we aren’t following the Way. We call that resurrection.
“Believe in God” did not mean agreeing to a statement or proposition about God or Jesus or anything else, it was a commitment to a way of life.1
Two weeks ago, I read a professional coaching book for an upcoming class. The coaching book – this is a business coaching book not a religious book – spoke of heart, mind, body, and spirit holistically. The Co-Active coaching model “for business and lives” has at the “heart of the model” three ideas: fulfillment , balance, and process. The basic premise relies on the notion that the coach does not provide the answers for another person’s life, but that the client has their answers within. They just need some coaching to become aware of them.2
Then totally unrelated, I attended a Mindful Life Conference where I heard Sharon Salzberg say, “Love is not a feeling. It is an ability. Love is not out there. It is a capacity within me. Love is our ability not what we are waiting to receive from another.” Lead from within.
On Tuesday night, I attended the Breaking Bias, a workshop on racism with Ashly Spvy. The first step in addressing racism – or sexism, or agism – in our world is to examine our beliefs that are beneath our conscious. The stereotypes that we are taught along with our experiences from the past project onto the people before us, and we don’t even realize it unless we decide to consciously examine our thoughts. Anti- Racism training is about bringing to our awareness, our mindfulness, the beliefs within that inform our attitudes and judgments.
On Wednesday, the mail delivered a magazine with the theme of this issue the key to unlock our life. Not surprisingly, every article identified our consciousness within as the key.
Once, in ancient times, a man was unjustly placed in an isolated, dark, dank, prison cell There he sat in the corner, separated from the world, feeling depressed, resentful and sorry for himself. Each night the guard fell asleep, the man leaned against the cell door with all his might trying to force it open, but to no avail. Then late one night, after months of pushing the door, he dropped to his knees in defeat and mumbled a humble prayer to God, “help. Show me the way out.” What he heard whispered to his ear, or his heart in response was, “sometimes the way out is in.” Pondering the riddle, he realized the door to his prison swung inward, toward him. He had been pushing against it with all his might all this time- trying to force it out. He pulled the door towards him, stepped back and walked quietly out.3
Sometimes the way out is to mindfully step back, and go within. So in the last two weeks from half a dozen different sources, I have heard that our purpose is found within; wisdom for life is found within; love is found within; the shape of space between us that forms relationships is found within; freedom is found within. Everything I’ve read from professional to personal to communal has pointed me within to practice listening within. We are practicing something with every thought and every word and every action. We can be practicing judgment against self and others. We can be practicing criticizing and gossip. We can practice hanging our heart on a hook that won’t hold up, or we can practice holding the holy near, practice goodness, loving kindness and mercy and mindfulness of the beauty in all. We can practice living the way of Jesus
Do not let your hearts hang on the superficial and be troubled. Instead, live in God; live also in Christ, for in God’s house, there are many dwelling places. Live in awareness of God in awareness of Christ and come to awareness that God lives within you, and realize all the heart, minds, souls of the world are God’s dwelling spaces. Indeed there are many, many rooms of God’s dwelling.
Go within. There you will find your purpose. There you will find wisdom and guidance. There you will find love and kindness and mercy, and freedom and generosity. Go within, not to a private room of an isolated self-made man or woman, but you will find the place of your belonging in God. Then God’s Spirit will lead you back out into the world to practice a new and transformed resurrected living in Christ.
May it be so.
1 Borg, Marcus J. The Heart of Christianity. HarperSan Francisco.
2 Kimsey-House, Henry and Karen. Co-Active Coaching: Changing Business Transforming Lives. Third Ed
3 Krishnamurti, Jiddu. “Consciousness Is the Key” Science of the Mind: Guide for Spiritual Living. June 2017