Written on the Heart

Jeremiah 31:31-34

John 12:20-33

God’s law will be written on our hearts. Given our current political and cultural context, that sounds like a reach, doesn’t it? If we look at the news, we seem to be going toward the opposite extreme. God’s realm of peace and joy seems like a fantasy in our world of violence and political gridlock. And, when we look at ourselves, we are often reminded of how far our lives are from God’s intention for us. Still God has hope in us and that gives us hope in ourselves. God dreams of a day in which God’s law, God’s way of life, will be written on our hearts and that we will truly know God, living in harmony with God’s vision for us and our world.

At the heart of Jeremiah’s vision, is the affirmation that we will come to “know God.”

Knowing God: what does it mean to know God? Some people see God in a far off place, an external reality, ready to rebuke and judge us at the slightest provocation. That’s surely how Jeremiah and the Jewish people felt. The Jewish nation lost everything; they had turned from God and hit rock bottom: their temple, their nation, and their hope were all destroyed. They felt abandoned by God, but God had not abandoned them.

In the midst of a national crisis, Jeremiah receives a vision of a new world and the dream of new possibilities. He experiences the vision of God with us – not as external and distant but as near as our heartbeat and next breath.

It is said that water wasn’t discovered by a fish. The same might be said of our experience of God.

Now, whenever we use a theological term, we need to define it. One of the most important theological terms is omnipresence, or present everywhere. In practical terms, this means that there are no God-free zones and no places bereft of God’s influence. Every moment reveals something of God to those who are open. Even in those who have turned from God, there is an inner light, something of God implanted in the soul, a voice of conscience, and inner wisdom.

As Mother Teresa asserted, those people who most offend us or about whom we are most fearful reveal God in God’s most distressing disguises.

Omnipresence also means that God is with you, even when you feel low and lost. Wherever you are God is with you: God is with you in celebration and God is with you in desolation. When you don’t think you can love yourself, when you’ve crossed a line and can’t look at yourself in the mirror, God still loves you. When you feel alone or face the realities of trauma, pain, and death, God is with you.

In the gospel reading, a group of Greeks come to Jesus’ followers, with the request, “Will you show us Jesus? We want to see Jesus.” And, that is our goal, too; we want to see Jesus. We want to know what God is like and how we can walk in God’s way.

Here I’m going to introduce another fancy theological term, Christology. (It’s not a disease, though it can be dangerous!) This is the study of the relationship of God to Jesus and Jesus to us. While theologians have spent a lot of time on Christology, the simplest answer is that God is fully present in the life and teaching of Jesus and Jesus shows us what God is like.

Now lots of people think they know what God is like. They’ve created gods that reflect their own prejudice and politics, gods that reflect their desire for power and control. The violence of ISIS reflects a vision of God who clearly separates friend and foe, in and out, and those outside of God’s presence deserve nothing – in fact, all they may deserve is a quick and violent death. Sadly, there are even some Christians who feel this way as they draw lines between the saved and unsaved, between those bound for heaven and those destined for hell.

Yet we would see Jesus, and Jesus shows us a different kind of God. Jesus shows us that God is the circle that embraces all creation, the love that welcomes the lost, and the forgiveness that welcomes the enemy and inspires enemies to change their ways. The God of Jesus believes that everyone can be saved: repentance is possible for the worst of us – the ISIS fighter, the gang member, the drug addict, the alienated relative. Repentance is always possible for us, because the love of God, revealed in Jesus, is without beginning or end, or inside or out.

Today, how might we see Jesus? Knowing that God’s love embraces us when we are most lost and that grace embraces us even when we’ve turned away, our challenge is to wake up to the good news. As one of my teachers said, “There are only two kinds of people in the world. Those who are in God’s hands and know it, and those who are in God’s hands and don’t.”

The first and most important thing to do is simply to ask, “God help me see you. God help me begin a new life.” That prayer is always answered, without exception.

Second, read the bible prayerfully. Take time each day to read the words of Jesus and other devotional literature, and meditate upon them, asking God to shed light on your understanding.

Third, take time for silence a few minutes a day. Pause awhile and know that God is with you. Ask God to speak to you in stillness.

Finally, throughout the day, ask God to guide and inspire you. A simple prayer, when you aren’t certain of your course, is “give me wisdom in this situation. Help me to be faithful to you in this situation.” Let God guide you in responding and reaching out to others, bringing God’s love to the world in which you live.

God’s promise is yours. God is present in your life. Listen and let God write God’s word upon your heart; let God’s wisdom become a light to you and the world.