GOD LOOKS UPON THE HEART
What we want to learn and practice this week is that we use our heads and our hearts for the most happy and successful lives. We see that wisdom and good judgment is a necessary part of our everyday lives. Being judgmental is not necessary or helpful. We learn to distinguish the difference.
GETTING TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER
So, to get to the heart of the matter: The story of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery is one of the most dramatic examples of calling upon people to use both their heads and their hearts in the wise handling of a person who has erred or been in trouble. Jesus cautions the condemning crowd (which may be a crowd of people or a crowd of self-critical thoughts and feelings in us). They are ready to stone the adulteress to death as the custom of the time allowed. "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her"a Jesus says to them in John 8:7.
People looked at each other and looked at themselves and left. They used their heads, thought about what he said and did a survey and re-evaluation of their own behaviors. Their hearts warmed towards this woman, and maybe towards her lover (who, being male, was not condemned!). They may not have loved them, but at least they could take them into their hearts rather than excluding them.
Jesus cautions against the self-righteousness, holier-than-thou, let's get her or him, judgmental attitudes that we so often take. Jesus helped people to get to the heart of the matter.
MAKING WISE JUDGMENTS IS NECESSARY
Making wise judgments is necessary. We must make judgments in our lives. That is, we have choices and decisions to make. We must decide sometimes who to hire or which product to buy or which job to take or which school to attend. There are countless choices to make all the time. We must make wise and discerning judgments.
Jesus, when he said, "Do not judge," is obviously referring to being judgmental, that is, to the act of condemning - the attitude that there is no good in others or in ourselves.
THE BIBLE HAS HEART
The Bible definitely has heart. In Bible scriptures 'heart' occurs 963 times in 884 verses. The Hebrews look upon the heart as the source of wit, understanding, love, courage, grief, and pleasure. The Bible, in Exodus, speaks of the "wise-hearted"b (28:3 and elsewhere). This is to be able-minded, wise in mind.
(Exodus 36:1) "... every skillful one to whom the Lord has given skill and understanding to know how to do any work ..."c Other traditions also advise us to be wise in heart. A Hindu name for God is "Wisdom-Heart."
Matthew Fox says, "When we are joyous and full of heart, we are emanating wisdom. Wisdom is not in the head but in the heart and gut where compassion is felt."d
THE DISCIPLE JAMES ZEBEDEE PORTRAYS THE POWER OF WISDOM AND GOOD JUDGMENT
The disciple James Zebedee portrays the Power of Wisdom and Good Judgment. Suné Richards writes, "James was a fisherman, and fished with his father, Zebedee, and his brother John. The two brothers were called, 'sons of thunder.' Representing wisdom and discernment, or good judgment, the vital spiritual faculties required for a balanced life, James was one of the three disciples who were part of the 'inner circle.' He went with Jesus - as did John (love) and Peter (faith) - to the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before the crucifixion."e
Any time you see that two of the disciples are brothers, you know that there is a close relationship between these two faculties. And there is definitely a close relationship between James and John or Love and Wisdom. These two always have to be balanced in us or we become all head or all heart
In the body this faculty of Wisdom or Judgment has its central seat of activity in the lower part of the nerve center called the solar plexus.
We also call this faculty justice or discrimination; it is that quality in us which carefully weighs a question and draws a conclusion. The prevailing tendency of judgment is toward caution, fearfulness, criticism, and condemnation, when it draws its conclusions from the physical world of existence.
Therefore we should always seek the guidance and good judgment of spiritual light and understanding.
James, along with his brother John, was one of the original 12 apostles. According to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, they were among the first to be summoned by Jesus. Walking beside the Sea of Galilee just after he had begun his public ministry, Jesus first called Simon/Peter and Andrew as they were (Mark 1:16-20) "... casting a net into the sea--... And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him."f
According to Luke, the sons of Zebedee were partners of Peter and had been fishing all night without luck in a separate boat when Jesus first spied them. Before calling them, Jesus demonstrated his mastery of nature by filling their nets to bursting with fish. (Luke 5:10) "... Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people."g
These four - Peter, Andrew, James, and John - were not only the first called but are always named first in lists of the 12 apostles and tend to be the most prominent in the Gospels
When James and John are mentioned together, James is usually named first, which probably means that he was the elder of the two. Since the two are often referred to simply as the sons of Zebedee, their father must have been a person of some reputation and, because he had hired servants, apparently one of some means. Their mother is also prominent in the Gospels, being listed as one of the women who witnessed the crucifixion and discovered the empty tomb on the third day. Mark calls her Salome.
Peter, James, and John were the apostles closest to Jesus, for it is they who, on several occasions, were taken aside from the others to be special witnesses to a miracle or lesson of Jesus. So we know that Faith, Wisdom, and Love are especially important to our Christ consciousness.
The first time was at the raising of the daughter of Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue who had sought out Jesus because his daughter was at the point of death. By the time Jesus arrived on the scene, the girl had already been pronounced dead. Nevertheless, Jesus went in to her, specifying that only Peter, James, John, and the girl's parents be present when he brought her back to life. Later, Jesus took the three (Mark 9:2 & 7) "... up a high mountain apart, ... And he was transfigured before them, ... and from the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!"h So we see it again. When raising the dead, the Christ Consciousness wants Faith, Wisdom, and Love right there and at hand.
Finally, following his last meal with the apostles, Jesus once more took Peter, James, and John aside to accompany him to where he would pray in the garden. Although he asked them to (Mark 14:34) "... remain here, and keep awake."i, the three apostles could not stay awake and slept while he prayed in agony. Interrupted by the arrival of Judas and the soldiers, they were among those who fled when Jesus was arrested. Thus, even though these three had been given special knowledge about Jesus, their understanding still fell short. Only when they came to comprehend the meaning of his death did the faith of these men become complete.
James and John, the "Sons of Thunder" quite often exhibited their impulsiveness. When the Samaritans failed to show hospitality to Jesus, they inquired, (Luke 9:54) "..., "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?"j
On another occasion they asked Jesus to place them (Mark 10:37) "... one at your right hand and one at your left, ..."k when he came into his kingdom. The demand provoked Jesus to explain that true greatness consists rather in serving others, as he was doing, (Mark 10:45) "For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."l Jesus informed them that they would share his fate, for (Mark 10:39) "..."The cup that I drink you will drink; ..."m As if in fulfillment of that prophecy, James was put to death by Herod Agrippa I; his death, reported in Acts 12:2, is the only martyrdom of one of the 12 apostles that is recorded in the New Testament.
According to a later tradition, James brought the gospel of Jesus to Spain. He is the patron saint of that country, and his supposed place of burial, Santiago de Compostela, became a great goal of pilgrims from the early centuries of the Middle Ages.
THE PRAYER OF OUR HEARTS
There is a practice called The Prayer of Our Hearts. An ancient Jewish tradition (also found in other prayer practices) is to place our hands over our hearts when we pray. This mystical technique must help to connect the energy centers in the palms of the hands with our heart center. Let's try this empowering method of centering prayer now. Just close your eyes, place your hands over your heart...
Feel the beat of your heart. Even hear the beat and rhythm - in unison with the One Great Heart that beats for all. Be soothed and reassured like a newborn bonded on its mother's breast as it hears her heart. Let your hands receive from your heart so that they may express that "wise-hearted" action out into your world. And just say silently to yourself, "Father, give me wisdom and understanding so that I may know good from evil." Amen
"God is the Great Beloved who kisses the individual on the inside of the heart." - Sufi saying.
I would like to read to you from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran:
And a man said, Speak to us of Self-Knowledge.
And he answered, saying:
Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.
But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart's knowledge.
You would know in words that which you have always known in thought.
You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.
And it is well you should.
The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea;
And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.
But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.
For self is a sea boundless and measureless.
Say not, "I have found the truth," but rather, "I have found a truth."
Say not, "I have found the path of the soul. Say rather, "I have met the soul walking upon my path."
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.
Let's relax, close our eyes and concentrate on our breath.
See in your mind a little ball of golden light.
Watch this light as it begins to grow larger and larger, until now it covers the entire inner vision of your mind.
See within this light a beautiful temple.
See the garden that surrounds the temple and a body of water that flows through the garden.
Notice that the inside of the temple is lit by this same beautiful golden light and that you are there in the temple.
Know that you have been drawn here by the power and in the presence of God.
Within yourself say, "I dedicate my days and my relationships and experience to You, God.
May Your Spirit, which is within me, so guide my thoughts, my feelings and my perceptions of all things
That I might grow into a happier, more peaceful, more loving human being.
Illumine my mind, illumine by life."
In this one moment I recognize that there is within me a perfect Self:
A Self that is not dysfunctional;
A Self that is not weak but strong;
That is not limited but unlimited;
That is not small, but huge;
That is not in pain but in peace;
That is not faithless and scared but all-knowing, all loving, and serene and calm, through the grace of God.
I have been playing with the toys of death and weakness.
I have been playing at sickness and playing at addiction.
I have been playing at dysfunction and limitation and war.
I have been playing at hunger and violation of myself and others.
I have been playing with toys that are dangerous.
But I desire to play the games of death no more.
In this moment, I ask You, dear God, to release me from my destructive thinking.
I take up now the mantle of Your magnificence.
Through Your grace, dear God, I am good and innocent and strong and pure, for thus would You have me be.
The love that emanates from Your mind to me, and from my mind to the minds of others, is a power so great. Within its embrace all negativity shall turn to good, all pain to peace, all fear to love.
I invoke Your light.
I receive Your heaven, which replaces hell.
I do not look back.
I do not stop my eyes at the veil of horror that surrounds the world, but rather I extend my vision to the possibilities for love for myself and others.
I step out of my childhood, into my adulthood; out of my weaknesses, into my strengths; out of my fear, into my love, out of my small self, into You.
Dear God, please make me new.
hMark 9:2 & 7