John Bennison Words and Ways | 2012 | April

Last Commentary in the “Heart of the Matter” Series: CHANGE OF HEART

 Note: This is the fourth commentary in a four-part series entitled “Matters of the Heart.”  The series is offered as a corollary to the traditional seasons of the Lent and Easter observances. This fourth commentary, which provides a message for Eastertide, is preceded by a recap of the prior commentaries in this series. As always, comments are welcome to enhance the conversation and continue the dialogue. A pdf version of this commentary to print and read can be found here.


First, a Recap on this Series:

 

“There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.”

Anthem, songwriter Leonard Cohen

This “Matters of the Heart” series has asked, what is the essential message of Jesus; that, in response, one might accord to him such titles as Lord and Christ, and try to follow his example?

The first commentary in the series looked at the common human affliction, known in the biblical tradition as hardness of heart.  Revisiting the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), and her would-be judges, we considered how a Heart of Stone results when we are inclined to cast stones, lest we drop them on our own two guilty feet.

In the second commentary, we checked in for a night at the Heartbreak Hotel, because we’ve all known the experience of heartache and loss. Taking another look at the gospel story of Jesus driving legitimate commerce out of the Jerusalem temple (John 2:13-22), we considered the historical reality that it was not so much an expression of righteous indignation on the part of the early church’s construction of this tale; but rather the heartache they must have felt that the physical place where they once brought their search for meaning in the face of loss (the temple) had – by the time the gospel story was written – already been reduced to rubble.

Moreover, when they attribute to Jesus the claim he could rebuild the temple in three days, the reference to his resurrection is surely meant to convey something other than his own physical

reconstruction; let alone the need for a place of brick and mortar along the path.  As such, it foretells a more profound understanding of Easter; which we would do well to grasp, appreciate and emulate in our own lives.

The third commentary considered the only thing needed to Mend a Broken Heart.  The parable of the prodigal son, his father and elder brother reminds us that when it comes to matters of the heart, sometimes not even forgiveness (and rarely self-justified moral rectitude) is not always possible, and sometimes insufficient anyway. Instead, it’s about the compunction of compassion; that is, the capacity to embrace one’s greatest heartache with something that renders everything else to be of no consequence whatsoever.

But now in this last commentary, when we finally arrive at an Easter destination and the culmination of these Matters of the Heart, we discover the place to which we have finally come is empty! If nothing else, all the different accounts provided in the various gospels of the empty tomb story are about the absence of what once was, and is no more. Not only that, but one other thing is clear. Everything changes.  That is, at least, for those who would undertake such a journey.

When the women come to the tomb and find the stone has been rolled away before the break of day, the new dawn’s light shines through that crack that is in everything; including the stone-cold and broken hearts in need of mending. (Mark 16:1-8)

And the Easter alleluia to be sung is one that bids us have a Change of Heart.

 

A Change of Heart

 

So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”  [Luke 24:30-32]
 

Left, Supper at Emmaus, Artist: He Qi , 2001.

 

A couple weeks ago former Vice President Dick Cheney got himself a new heart. His old ticker hadn’t been working very well for a long, long time, and he needed a new one.

Controversy surrounded his advanced age and whether the former VP had gotten special consideration. But the fact of the matter is, no one deserves a new heart.  One can only receive it as a gift, freely given by someone willing to give you the one they have that still works.  And that only happens when the donor has died and has no further use of it.  Think Passion Play.

His critics might suggest, if ever anyone needed a change of heart, it was Dick Cheney.  Over the years, the cold calculations with which he had strategized and orchestrated the attacks on his perceived enemies – both foreign and domestic – seem to have taken their toll.  So he got a new heart.

Now perhaps the only question that remains is whether the new Dick will feel any differently than the old one?  Will he see anything differently?  Might he become someone else, as a result of a softer heart beating in his chest?  Will a change of hearts give him the one thing he could not give himself; namely, a new life?

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