A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, July 10, 2020

The Heart of the Matter


from Rev. Tom Snyder, Pastor Emeritus and Visitation Pastor, First and Christ United Methodist Churches, Ashland, Ohio.

When William Harvey (1578-1657) discovered the human circulatory system in 1626, he laid the
foundations for modern physiology. This physician and anatomist named the heart as the pump central to this system, and detailed how it functioned. The human family is indebted to Harvey's insights which were scorned early on, but give us insights into how our bodies function to this day.


We use heart language all the time. The core of an issue is "the heart of the matter"; our warmest wishes for others are "heartfelt"; sadness signifies a "broken heart"; good news is "heartening"; Valentine's Day washes over us with a tsunami of hearts. Bumper stickers proclaim, "I (heart) ……….." We know the science of heart, but the connotations for this beating organ go far beyond the body.

When I worshipped at my seminary roommate's s Reformed Church in the Netherlands, where his father was the pastor, the congregational music was metrical psalms, the psalms set to meter for singing. In a packed church, I was the only person using the hymnbook, singing in very poor Dutch, everyone else knowing the songs "by heart"; as do our African American sisters and brothers know their spirituals; as did the villagers in Paso Bajito, the Dominican Republic, where I was on a mission trip, knew by heart the Mass which included us all. When the priest served me the Eucharist outdoors in a forest clearing, it "warmed my heart" (shades of John Wesley!).

The word heart appears in Scripture over one thousand times in myriad contexts. In both testaments the commandment to love God is first carried out in the heart, representing a conscious commitment to God. Samuel explained the Lord’s choice of unlikely David that God looks on the heart rather than outward appearances. In our culture and current tumultuous times, we might want to consider the same approach! 

For the biblical writers the heart was the center of emotions; the will; the seat of moral, intellectual, and spiritual life. God knows us, scripture asserts, by knowing our hearts; that is, our goals, intuitions, spiritual depth, both its dark and luminous thoughts, its hardness and its softening. God know us by heart.

Moses told his people that God would be found by looking for God with all their hearts. Jesus challenged his hearers-- and us-- by anchoring our lives in his teachings and way, to make him our treasure, for where that treasure is, our hearts will be there, too, in him.

Far beyond Harvey's discovery centuries ago, we now know genetics, many heart-related procedures, open-heart surgery, and even heart transplants. Whole medical facilities are heart hospitals. Our physicians frequently want to know our families heart histories, along with other medical facts. A doctor’s appointment begins with taking our pulse, listening to our heart, and checking our heart rate. Everything starts with the heart.

Today, as you read this, Kitty, whom I love with all my heart, is having a heart catheterization. Her family heart history is rather dismal, after some preliminary tests,  our doctor thought she should get checked out. While we know numberless people have had this procedure, it still gives us pause. In the meantime, we trust that she is in the hands of capable physicians, nurses, and technicians. She is already saturated and centered with prayer, loved beyond description, and more importantly, she is being held in the heart of God. I believe this with all my heart.

Faithfully, in love, Pastor Tom+

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