Sunday’s Sermon: Location, Location, Location!

  • Whenever you buy a house, whenever you open a business, whenever you go on vacation or plan an event, what’s the most important thing experts tell you to consider? Location, location, location!
    • E.g.s
      • House-hunting – right neighborhood, access to important things (church, library, roads/highways), having a view
      • Location for party or fundraiser meets our needs
        • Number of guests
        • Planned activities
        • Food distribution
    • We spent a lot of time and energy about the perfect location for all sorts of different things, but how often do we consider the location of our hearts?
      • Throughout background work, Amy Grant’s “Where Do You Hide Your Heart” running through my head –> song about sorts of things that hide our hearts from our faith
      • Ques. stuck with me because Scriptures for today deal with issue of hidden hearts as well
        • OT – God calls out some of the things that hide our hearts through prophet Amos
        • NT – Paul reminds us why we don’t need to hide our hearts
  • So let me ask you: Where do we hide our hearts?
    • STORY: Huebbert’s Hair Raising Adventure[1]
      • Huebbert = very proud of his beautiful mane –> mane catches fire and leaves him bald –> goes through trials and tribulations to get his hair back (traipsing through the jungle, tangling with a crocodile) –> makes himself and all his friends miserable in the process
    • Jesus tells a similar story in the gospels: instead of a lion and his mane it involves Pharisee and his piety (parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector)[2]
      • Pharisee and tax collector both went to the temple to pray –> Pharisee’s prayer: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector …” –> Pharisee brags about all that he does and all that he gives –> tax collector’s simple prayer: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
    • These stories reveal the first place we hide our hearts: in pride – stories of misplaced confidence
      • Confidence in our abilities
      • Confidence in our power
      • Confidence in our own existence
      • Pride …
        • Elevates us above others
        • Distances us from God
        • Hides our hearts under inane self-flattery
        • Warned against this in OT – text: I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth to all loins, and baldness on every head[3] –> God has seen all the things in which the Israelites (and we ourselves) take such immense pride – our prosperity, our talents, our appearances – and God said, “You see this? This is a problem.”
  • So where else do we hide our hearts?
    • STORY: “hoarders” TV show à people who accumulate stuff upon stuff –> years, sometimes decades worth of stuff –> pathways through houses at best –> ruined homes, health, relationships
    • Jesus tells a similar story in the gospels: story of the widow’s offering
      • Well-to-do young man approaches Jesus –> asks “What must I do to attain eternal life?” –> Jesus tells him to keep the commandments, but he says, “I’ve already done that!” –> Jesus’ response: Go and sell everything you have … ‘cuz you’ve gotta lot of stuff! –> Matthew: “When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.”[4]
    • These stories reveal another place we hide our hearts: in material possessions – stories of misplaced priorities –> finding worth in stuff instead of in a place of love
      • Love of self
      • Love of neighbor
      • Love of God
      • Material possessions …
        • Insulate us from others
        • Clutter our view of God
        • Hide our hearts underneath mountains of stuff
        • Amos warns against this, too – text describes people of Israel as putting material gain before faith: “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the Sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will … practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”[5] –> In this impatience, we hear the people’s disregard for their faith and for the care of their fellow human beings. They can’t wait for the Sabbath to be over so they can get back to making money. Their sole focus has become accumulating and keeping material possession – a concept not-so-foreign in our society today, too.
  • Okay, so where else do we hide our hearts?
    • STORY: online trend of posting “anonymous” comments – internet “trolls”
      • People who think they can say whatever mean, hurtful, vicious things they want to because it’s online (don’t have to say it out loud = no accountability)
        • Social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
        • Comments section on various other media sites
          • News media stories (CNN, Huffington Post, etc.)
          • Blogs
          • Personal media (YouTube, Instagram, etc.)
    • Jesus voices a warning against this in the gospels: portion of Sermon on the Mount dealing with judgment
      • Warns against judging others and being judged in return –> words: Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye?[6]
    • They’re instances that describe another place we hide our hearts: in judgment – stories of misplaced scrutiny –> people criticizing and condemning others because they’re too embarrassed or afraid to look at themselves
      • Finding fault in everything around them
      • Finding fault in everyone around them
    • Judgment …
      • Puts us at odds with those around us
      • Clouds our view of God with superiority and condescension
      • Hide our hearts within a maze of poisonous thoughts and mean-spiritedness
      • Not surprisingly, Amos denounces this, too – text: Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land.[7] –> You can hear Amos’ disdain for those who thought themselves above the poor and the needy, those who judged the poor and needy as less-than-important and thought they could use the poor and the needy for personal gain as they saw fit. Today, it seems as though our culture breeds judgment.
        • Magazine headings in grocery store line
        • Reality shows always prodding for the next drama-filled, judgment-fueled showdown
  • Yes, we hide our hearts. We hide our hearts under any number of struggles and sins, insecurities and pains.
    • One phrase in Col sums it all up – “you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds”[8] –> one particular word speaks uniquely to all hiding places: Gr. “evil” covers vast array of issues
      • In the case of hiding our hearts in our pride, one of the many meanings in this word can be arrogance. “You who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing arrogant, prideful deeds …
      • Another meaning = spoiled –> And you were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing ‘spoiled’ deeds
        • Doing selfish deeds
        • Doing indulgent deeds
        • Doing narcissistic deeds
        • Speaks to hiding by amassing material possessions
      • Finally, Gr. for “evil” = envious – You see, judgment of others stems from our own insecurities, our own self-doubts and apprehensions –> cause us to be envious
        • Of what others have
        • Of what others do
        • Of who others love
  • But there is light in our passages for today, too. There is reassurance. There is joy. And there is peace. As vehemently as the Amos passage calls out the places where we hide our hearts, the passage from Colossians speaks just as strongly to the grace and redemption that we find in Christ. You see, when we …
    • Hide under pride and material things –> focus tuned on empty things … but Colossians reminds us that  God is complete – text: For in [God] all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.[9]
      • Gr. “hold together” = continue, connotations of enduring –> Through Scripture, God is reminding us that long after all that we take pride in and all that we have has faded away, God will still be there.
        • Grace doesn’t fade
        • Salvation doesn’t fade
        • God’s love for us will never fade
    • Hide under judgmentalism –> focus on our own greatness in light of others’ short-comings (real or perceived) … but this faith-in-life thing isn’t something we can do alone – text: Through [Christ] God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. … to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before [God][10]
      • These words declare unequivocally that it is Jesus who makes us holy and blameless. It is Jesus who reconciles us to God. The only greatness that matters is Jesus’ greatness, and the only short-coming are our own.
  • There’s a game that we used to play at camp and at lock-ins when I was a little kid. It’s called “Sardines,” and it’s kind of like backwards hide-and-go-seek. In Sardines, one person hides, and everyone else has to find that person. Once again, it’s all about location, location, location. But instead of running from the person that’s “it” once you’ve found them, in a game of Sardines, you hide with them. You hunker down in whatever corner they’ve gotten themselves into, and you do your best to inhabit that space with them. There may be a million different reasons why we hide our hearts and a million different places that we try to hide them, but God will always be ready to seek after us in the midst of those hiding places, hunker down, and remind us that we are not alone. Amen.

[1] Bill Peet. Huebbert’s Hair Raising Adventure. (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company), 1959.

[2] Lk 18:9-14.

[3] Amos 8:10a-b.

[4] Mt 19:16-22.

[5] Amos 8:5-6.

[6] Mt 7:1-6.

[7] Amos 8:4.

[8] Col 1:21.

[9] Col 1:16-17.

[10] Col 1:20, 22.

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