IT’S FROM THE HEART

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TEXT

Matthew 15:1-20 The Message

After that, Pharisees and religion scholars came to Jesus all the way from Jerusalem, criticizing, “Why do your disciples play fast and loose with the rules?”

But Jesus put it right back on them. “Why do you use your rules to play fast and loose with God’s commands? God clearly says, ‘Respect your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone denouncing father or mother should be killed.’ But you weasel around that by saying, ‘Whoever wants to, can say to father and mother, “What I owed to you I’ve given to God.”‘ That can hardly be called respecting a parent. You cancel God’s command by your rules. Frauds!  Isaiah’s prophecy of you hit the bull’s-eye:

These people make a big show of saying the right thing,
but their heart isn’t in it.
They act like they’re worshiping me,
but they don’t mean it.
They just use me as a cover
for teaching whatever suits their fancy.”

He then called the crowd together and said, “Listen, and take this to heart. It’s not what you swallow that pollutes your life, but what you vomit up.”

Later his disciples came and told him, “Did you know how upset the Pharisees were when they heard what you said?”

Jesus shrugged it off. “Every tree that wasn’t planted by my Father in heaven will be pulled up by its roots. Forget them. They are blind men leading blind men. When a blind man leads a blind man, they both end up in the ditch.”

Peter said, “I don’t get it. Put it in plain language.”

Jesus replied, “You too?  Are you being willfully stupid? Don’t you know that anything that is swallowed works its way through the intestines and is finally defecated? But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It’s from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing. That’s what pollutes. Eating or not eating certain foods, washing or not washing your hands— that’s neither here nor there.”

 

TEXT

“It’s from the heart.” It can be so easy to play religious games; we so quickly fall into formula and routine, the “do’s” and “don’t’s,” the exterior practices of holiness. This is a danger of Christian maturity, of seminary life, of taking the cross for granted. The dangers of performance harden hearts—and suddenly we find ourselves more capable of evil than we’d ever realized. Lord Jesus, let it not be!

-Brian Rhea

 

Prayer of Confession

Am I a stone and not a sheep
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy Cross,
To number drop by drop Thy Blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon—
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

—Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) “Good Friday”

 

Prayers of Intercession

We intercede, Lord God, for those we know whose hearts have hardened. Shed abroad your light in their hearts; quicken roots that have become dry. Let the water of your Spirit refresh and renew them this day.

(Name your requests before God, concluding with:)

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We intercede, Lord God, for those we know who may be trapped in formulaic religion, and those with a servant’s faith rather than a child’s faith. Illumine their hearts, drawing them further up and further in to your boundless love.

(Name your requests before God, concluding with:)

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We intercede, Lord God, for all your Church—all its leaders, its members, and its mission. Let us not be like the Pharisees, consumed with outward religion; let us not be like the disciples, ignorant of your heart. Remove the elements of sin that so easily entangle us. Cleanse and purify us, Lord God—not simply for our sake, but for the sake of a world-weary of our hypocrisy and evil. Transform us with true, inward holiness, for the sake of your Name; let us not tarnish it any longer!

(Name your requests before God, concluding with:)

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We intercede, Lord God, for all the nations of this world lost in darkness, lost in formula, lost in human-made religions of effort and accomplishment. Let the Gospel of your grace go forth to all nations and peoples. Let the hardened hearts of Islam and Buddhism and Hinduism melt before the light of your Gospel.

(Name your requests before God, concluding with:)

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial,
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever.  Amen.

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