the THIRD Sunday in ANGELS’ Tide

Sermon Starter

Those of you who know me know that there’s one bit of contemporary advice that just drives me up the wall and makes my skin crawl—“follow your heart.” I HATE this advice! I know that makes me sound like an absolute hate-mongering kill-joy with no sense of adventure or passion or desire to color outside the lines, but I don’t care. This is some of the worst advice you can give a person.  Why? Because the human heart is a terrible tour guide. It is, by nature, at enmity with God. The heart of Old Adam beats inside all of us, and that heart, by nature, still desires to usurp God and/or to flee from God, just like our first mother and father did. Following the guidance, passions, and desires of your heart will almost always lead you, not closer, but further away from God.

“Oh pastor, it’s not that bad.  There are many good ways that we use this heart language.” I don’t disagree with you. For instance, we’ll say that someone has a heart for skiing or hunting or golfing. Some may have a heart for scrapbooking or crafts or cooking or beer making. It’s good to do these things. God gives the gift of leisure and enjoyment. Some Christians even talk about having a heart for sacred music or doing projects or mission. I’d like to think that I fall into this latter category—a heart for mission.  I get it. You love these things. You’re passionate about these things. This is your drive. This is what makes you tick. 

But, can these things become your god? Can they become the mistress in your life that seduces you away from your duties and responsibilities? I’ll be honest: If I truly and fully followed my heart, I would never be in church. I would be with my wife at Universal Studios Theme Park, or on the couch watching movies, or sports, or YouTube videos about Universal Studios Theme Park or sports or music. That’s just the truth. You may not want to admit it about yourself, but that doesn’t make it any less true for you. Given the opportunity, your heart would lead you down the wrong paths. 

And even with the theological things (e.g., music, project, mission work), our hearts can dupe us, deceive us, and lead us away from God. I know that sounds strange, but it’s true. Just ask Martha. Just ask the rich young man in Sunday’s Gospel. We can get so caught up following our passions and desires, full of the very best intentions as we wear ourselves out in service to God, that we fail to properly Sabbath; that is, we fail to rest and allow ourselves—our hearts—to be replenished and filled up and fed and nourished by God Himself. Basically, we run the spiritual faith tank dry, and we wind up running on our own good intentions mixed with a fair share of Old Adam work-righteousness. 

It happens all the time. God winds up getting left out of the mix. We don’t do it on purpose, but it happens. We get so busy on our mission, following our passion—our heart—that the true mission of God fails to go forth. What you wind up with is very busy work without witness. Our Lutheran forefathers used to speak of this Gospel-less hyperactivity as “schwarmerei,” which is the buzzing sound that bees make. We get so busy buzzing about in a flurry of activity meant to please God and the neighbor that God and His Word and His means of grace wind up getting left in the dust. The only one who truly ends up being pleased is the busy little bee—the self—who loves to humbly take credit for all the good Christian work they accomplished; work that brought no glory to God, but only glorified the self.

And this is what really struck me with the lessons today, particularly the Epistle and Gospel. The dangers and evils of following one’s heart are nothing new. The writer to the Hebrews makes this clear. “Take care, lest there be in you an unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” This is exactly what we’ve been talking about!  But then we get to the Gospel lesson. It is here that our Lord takes this language of the heart and flips it on its head.

Sunday School Starter

The account of Isaiah serves as today’s lesson, “Promising Prophet” for the early childhood catechumens. In an amazing vision of the Lord in glory upon His throne in heaven, God asks Isaiah, “Whom shall I send?” Isaiah responds, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8). Isaiah’s prophecies extend beyond the destruction and captivity of Judah to the extensive details concerning the coming of the Messiah and His sacrifice for the salvation of His people. The students will also work on  memorizing the Second Commandment and Explanation.

The account of Jesus clearing the temple, “A Temple Cleansing,” serves as today’s lesson for the first, second, and third grade catechumens. Merchants and money-changers fill the outer courts of the temple in preparation for the Passover. Jesus overturns the tables and drives out the animals in His zeal to restore the temple to its proper purpose. When the Jews question His authority, Jesus tells them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). Only after His resurrection do the disciples realize that Jesus was referring to His body as the new temple. This class is memorizing the Fourth Commandment and Explanation.

Catechesis with Pastor will explore the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed and the Divine Liturgy. The Ten Commandments with their explanations and the Close of the Commandments should be memorized by now.