HEARTS AFLAME FOR GOD

TEXT

Matthew 11:2-19
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”
Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see:  the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.  And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John:  “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at?  A reed shaken by the wind?  What then did you go out to see?  Someone dressed in soft robes?  Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces.  What then did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  This is the one about whom it is written,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’
Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.  For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.  Let anyone with ears listen!
“But to what will I compare this generation?  It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’  Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
NRSV

COMMENT

It is difficult to discern the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist.  “No one has arisen greater than John,” Jesus said.  “I am not worthy to untie the thongs of his sandals,” John said.  We don’t know how well they knew each other.  Luke tells us their mothers were related, but he says also John lived in the wilderness.  From their interactions, there was clearly at least a mutual respect—which perhaps wavered as John lingered in prison, though he’d earlier proclaimed Jesus was the One.  But was their friendship?  We cannot know for sure, but perhaps something else, something deeper than friendship, even at a distance—the mutual recognition of hearts aflame for God.

READ

When hearts made one in Christ, each other meet,
And then pour out their blended sympathies,
Upon the universe; how passing sweet!
Can earth know joys which may compare with these?
Affections flowing out through God the Son,
Meeting in the broad channel of His love,
Must here unite, and be divinely one!
Is this not bliss like that enjoyed above?

Shall this be called mere friendship? Ah, the phrase,
But tamely answers what my muse would say;
Worldlings thus name a form their ardors raise,
A thing of earth, which ends with life’s short day.

I sing of that which hath immortal birth,
Of holy ardor, which descends from heaven,
To mould together hearts in love, on earth,
Which, as the blissful antedate is given,
Of pleasures, such as flow forevermore,
At God’s right hand; when all life’s scenes are o’er.

This bliss is ours; we are one in Christ, made one.
He is our life, and on His bleeding Heart
We rest:  He is our Shield—our Sun.
In fellowship we walk, no more to part.
The blood of Jesus cleanseth from all sin;
And now through Christ, with blended sympathies,
We’ll work out our salvation, whilst He works within;
When called from earth, we’ll meet in paradise.

I love thee, dearest brother of my heart;
Before my eyes beheld thee face to face,
Our hearts were made acquainted; can we part?
No!  we will still be one through Jesus’ grace.
And thou, my sister, dear, most precious one,
Though we in flesh must part, our hearts shall dwell
In love’s embrace, and oft around the throne
We still will meet; we may not say “Farewell.”

Your Sister,
PHOEBE PALMER

(1807-1874)
“That They All May Be One”
to Bishop and Mrs. Hamline

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