Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Monday, March 23, 2015

Lent 5: Stone Heart or Flesh Heart

I had almost forgotten how much fun Family services are for everybody, young and old. This past Sunday we carried out open heart surgery in the sanctuary as part of the sermon. Young and old learnt afresh about the sadness of original sin, the need for a new heart, how to diagnose whether your heart is of stone or of flesh, and how to receive a new heart. The response at all services was quite overwhelming, but especially at the evening service which was mainly "adults" as opposed to little children, but where folk still streamed forward to the communion rail in response. Our Lord continues to make all things new ... praise His holy name

This week's readings are from Jeremiah 31:31-34Psalm 51:1-12 and John 12:20-33. Here at AMC we are having a Family Service Sunday, which means this sermon is somewhat different to my usual, and it means that anything can happen, particularly this Sunday when we will be performing open heart surgery in the sanctuary. These services work best if we all remember Jesus' words/warning: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Pics will follow on Monday)
I have decided to focus on
 which is something that Jeremiah has preached on before
and it's a message common to Ezekiel as well

It would seem we human beings are born with a heart that is useless to God ... and the Bible teaches us that the reason for that is sin. Sin makes hearts hard and stony, and we've inherited hard and stony hearts from all the people who've gone before us, right back to Adam and Eve, the first sinners.

Each and every person on earth needs to have a heart transplant.

Who knows what happened for the first time on 3 December 1967 ... ???
That's right, the first heart transplant .... well, actually the first heart transplant in a person who was fast asleep. God has been doing heart transplants in wide awake people for 1000's of years.
Let's look at heart transplants and how we can have one today:

I have some nursing staff and an anaesthetist here today. I was a dentist once, so I'm going to perform the heart surgery ... it can't be too different from pulling out a tooth and putting in an implant, other than that the tooth implant is more expensive.

(My theater staff and patient come forward)

We need something to put our patient to sleep ... ah, I know just the thing to keep our patient fast asleep:

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Plug in the earphones and he'll be out for hours!

Let's get going: Scalpel please, we need something very sharp, I wonder if we'll find anything very sharp in the church (other than some people's tongues) .... hmmmm ... any suggestions ????
Of course, the Bible !!!

Right, let's see .... there we go ... what have we here ... 

A stone heart !

You're going to help me discover a few things about a stone heart:
1. First, a stone heart is cold.
2. Then, again, like a stone, it is hard.
3. Again, a stone heart is dead.
4. Like a stone it is not easily softened.
5. It is senseless

Now, the Bible says, that's the kind of heart we are born with. And a world, or a home, or a church filled with hearts like that is a dreadful place.

And so, nearly 3000 years ago God said:
I wonder where I can go to find a new heart here in the church ... I probably should have thought of that before I took the stone heart out. Where will I go in the church to find a new heart? (There will be a big red heart at the cross) Can anyone help me?

Ah...there it is ... but I can't seem to pick it up.

Nurse, help me please, we must get this new heart for our patient. Oh No, we still can't pick it up.

(One of the nurses): Perhaps we should pray.

Always a good idea ! Let's see if the sharp two edged sword has a prayer for us from today's .....
No .... I still can't lift it.

Maybe the patient has to pray the prayer ... let's wake him up .... sorry about the big hole in your chest, but would you like to pray that prayer:

(And the heart, with some string attached to it, will "go" into the patient.)

We all need new hearts. Earlier we looked at what a stone heart looks and feels like.
1. First, a stone heart is cold... you might be able to heat it in a fire, but it gets cold quickly
2. Then, again, like a stone, it is hard... it can't be broken, it can't be moved
3. Again, a stone heart is dead... it has no feeling, tell it a sad story, or let it see a sad thing, it shows no feeling
4. Like a stone it is not easily softened... some things soften in water, but not a stone. It almost enjoys being hard
5. It is senseless, it doesn't know that it is a heart of stone

What is a heart of flesh:
A heart of flesh is a heart that has come to its senses, it's a heart that is warm (with all the things that come with warmth, like kindness, gentleness, compassion)
It's a heart therefore that can be broken and moved and often is. A heart of flesh can't watch the news or read today's paper without being moved to sadness, rather than the anger of the hard heart.
Of course it is a heart that is alive in the sense that Jesus is Life.
Perhaps, most important of all, the heart of flesh (which of course is the born again heart) is a heart which when it hears that the heart of stone is cold, hard, feelingless and dead, says to itself:
Lord, have mercy, for I still see those things in my heart.

So, how did you feel when the hard heart was described: Comfortable that that isn't you, or deeply uncomfortable and therefore repentant that that describes parts of your heart?

On this second last Sunday before Good Friday, let us pray:

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