This sermon was delivered by the Rev. Robert W. Wohlfort, Th.D., Transitional Pastor, at Our Savior Lutheran Church & Campus Ministry on Sunday, March 18th, Fifth Sunday in Lent.
There is a phrase that I do not hear as often as I once heard nor say as I once said: “I know that by heart.” “I know that poem/that Bible verse/that song…by heart.” Of course we are stating that we know those poems, songs and verses from memory. We are asserting that our minds are still good enough to remember something!
Or, are we? Are we making a statement that when we remember that Bible verse or song we have simply accessed the correct file and moved it forward to our temporal lobe? Have we been so influenced by technology that we have come to believe that we are like our lap top and smart phone and only have to touch the right key or app to access the correct memory?
No…I shout “NO!!” Retrieving that poem or verse or whatever is much more meaningful and personal than being a walking computer. For instance:
Recently, I was engaged in a light hearted conversation with a small group of folks and we meandered into the territory of memories of long ago…eventually landing on telephones. Yes, telephones. All of us were very animated. In the midst of the laughter and reminiscing I told of the memory of watching Mr. John Lucker install or first telephone. He was a neighbor, family friend, member of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and worked with AT&T. I was about 10 years old.
My father had built a small table in the corner of the dining area to welcome the phone…this magical instrument by which, with one hand holding the bell to the mouth and the other the horn to the ear, we could talk to anyone who possessed a phone!
There was no dial. Clicking the holder for the ear piece magically brought the voice, “What number please?” Most fun and irritating of all, we were on a party line: 5 other households and we could listen to their conversations…and they ours. I thought some of my friends must be very rich since they had extensions in their homes and they had their own line…no sharing.
Someone piped up asking me, “What was your telephone number?’
With no hesitancy or stumbling I blurted, “Beverly 7-8986.” I was startled. Doris and I have navigated 8 landlines in our lives together…one of them for 20 years. “Beverly 7-8986” is the only number I am able to recall.
I submit, this is not about a good memory…it is about the heart. It is about a life changing and life giving moment in the Wohlfort household. Beverly 7-8986 is the touchstone of a flood of times of laughter, arranging dates, inducing tears, sharing news, warding off fears and participating in events far away. I lived in a household and was a witness to and a player in a “new thing.” And the new thing unfolded with lighting speed: dial up; private lines; extensions; 1964 World’s Fair and push buttons; our son’s duck phone; pagers; huge cell phones, flip phones; smart phones. All children of Beverly 7-8986.
The northern and southern kingdoms, Israel and Judah, were living in Babylon…far from Jerusalem. They were a very depressed people. The were there because they had broken the covenant with God…the covenant God had made with them a Sinai…the core of which was the 10 commandments. Jeremiah announces that the 12 tribes are going home under a new covenant…a new contract created by their God and this covenant will not be laws on a stone tablet: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” “…on their hearts.”
And, “On our hearts.” On your heart and my heart.” Well…what is written there…on the heart? There are so many references about what is there and I have chosen but a few:
-From Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia, he writes, “Bear one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
-From Luke 10 where Jesus coaxes the Great Commandment from an attorney seeking to trap him: “You shall love the Lord our God with all your heart [there’s that word again!], and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus replies, “..do this and you will live.” (I suggest, “Do this and you will be alive!”)
Living from the heart…that is what we are pondering here…living from the heart. Once “it” is in the heart, there is little thinking or deliberating to be done.
Of course we carry each other’s burdens. Of course we have a very expansive perspective on who is our neighbor. Of course we do the right thing.
Did you catch the story of the communications person for ICE in San Francisco? He challenged the number of persons he was supposed to cite who were lost to arrest because of the action of the mayor of Oakland. “Those numbers are wrong! Those numbers are inflated! We are lying!” “Do what you are told!” “No..I resign.” He lived from his heart.
There is an interesting reality about our hearts…that organ that is beating in our chests. We do not know it is there until there is some kind of trouble. It is there…just there. However, as Richard Schemer and Ken Shewmaker and others of you can give witness, when it is not functioning well, you do know that it is there.
So it is with our heart of faith. It should be there…just there and from just there we live, we move, we speak, we act because of the law of Christ is written there. Our hearts share the same heart as the heart of Jesus, the Christ.