With the Eyes of Your Hearts, May 14, 2017

Easter 2017 – 5th Sunday of Easter

With the Eyes of Your Hearts               Click here for audio




Ephesians 1:15-23
Pastor Donna Buell

Wanted: Easygoing, relaxed, loving-type to care for infant. Should enjoy rocking and cuddling, and be able to hold baby patiently for 20 minute feedings every three or four hours without fidgeting. Light sleeper. Early riser. No degree necessary. Must take all shifts. Seven day week. No vacation unless can arrange to have own mother as temporary substitute.

Wanted: Athlete in top condition to safeguard tireless toddler. Needs quick reflexes, boundless energy, infinite patience. ESP helpful. Knowledge of first aid essential. Must be able to drive, cook, phone, and work despite constant distractions. Workday, 15 hours. No coffee or lunch breaks unless child naps. Would consider pediatric nurse with Olympic background.

Position Open: Expert in early childhood education to provide stimulating, loving, creative, individualized learning environment for preschooler. Should have experience in art, music, recreation, and be able to speak one foreign language. Training in linguistics, psychology, and Montessori desirable. Two hours off five days a week when nursery school is in session and child is well.

Good opportunity: For expert in both indoor and outdoor recreation, crafts, and sports. Should be able to referee. Must be willing to be den mother, room mother, block mother. Public relations skills essential. Should be able to deal effectively with teachers, PTA officers, school board, volunteer coaches, and other parents. Knowledge of sex education and new math required. Must have no objections to mud, insect collections, pets, and neighbor’s kids.

Job Available: For specialist in adolescent psychology, with experience in large-quantity cooking. Tolerance is chief requirement. Slight hearing loss helpful or must provide own ear plugs. Must be unflappable. Should be able to sense when presence is embarrassing to child and disappear.

Urgently needed: Financier to provide money, clothes, music, and wheels to collegian. No advice necessary. Position may last indefinitely. Ample time left to take income-producing work.

Those job descriptions for mothers, though a bit dated, are funny, aren’t they? And when you realize that most mothers have more than one child, and have to hold down two or more of these jobs at the same time, not to mention a job outside the home, it becomes even funnier. And you know it doesn’t stop when our kids finish college. I am sure there are those of you who could write several more job descriptions to add to the ones I read, covering all the transitions that mothers go through once their children are adults, for although the role or job-description of mother may change one never really stops being a mother.

Now obviously this was written tongue-in-cheek, but we wouldn’t have laughed so much if it hadn’t hit so close to home. For these are the kinds of messages we receive from all the child rearing books, and all the talk shows, from all the mother’s day cards, and from our own edited memories of childhood. We all have these idealized pictures of the perfect mother. But when you really think about all these expectations, you realize how absurd it all is. How could any one person be all of these things? And yet, those of us who are mothers and any of us who have accepted considerable responsibility for the care of children, can identify with times when we have allowed these messages to tell us who we ought to be. And we also know what it is like when we realize that, no matter how hard we try, we can never live up to all of these expectations that are laid upon us and that we lay upon ourselves.

Well, in our heads we may know it is absurd to expect ourselves to be “perfect” parents. But we also know that ‘to know something in our heads’ and ‘to know it in our hearts’ are not always the same. Personally, I think we need to throw away all those job descriptions – all those high expectations, and we ought to remember this: that we are beloved children of God. That is who we are and that is who we should be. And in the midst of all the commotion of parenting we should keep our focus on this love that God has for us and on the love that God wants us to share with our children and with others.

It is with all of these thoughts in my mind that I came to today’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In this letter Paul is writing to a newly formed community of Gentile Christians. These were people who did not come to the good news of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ through the history and tradition and culture of Jesus’ Jewish faith, but rather, they were converted to Christianity from outside of Judaism. And Paul was giving thanks for their new-found faithfulness, and for the way they were receiving the good news of God’s love for them. And he wrote to them to encourage them to live in this new life they had been given. He writes,

“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your hearts enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.”

As I spent time with this passage in preparation for this morning, the phrase “with the eyes of your hearts enlightened,” reached out to me and held on to me. And when that happens in a text, I usually try to pay attention to it.

And so I thought a lot about what Paul might mean by “the eyes of your heart.” First, I think we need to understand that Paul, as a person raised in the Jewish culture, didn’t really isolate thinking in the brain and feeling in the heart the way we tend to. The heart was the center of the person’s being. And so perhaps to have the eyes of your heart enlightened, means having that center of your being opened up to God, and to God’s wisdom and revelation. It’s sort of like what we mean when we say that we know something, not only intellectually, but that we also know it in our hearts. We all know what that’s like. I may know in my head that I need to forgive someone who has wronged me, but I’m just not feeling it yet. Or I may know intellectually that the end of a relationship or the death of a loved one is not the end of the world, but it’s going to be a while before my heart catches up with my head. Yet when it does – when I finally know something in that profound way – I really know, and it has the power to affect everything else in my life: the way I see, the way I hear, the way I reach out.

Paul wanted these new Christians to know and experience God at the center of their being; to know not only with their intellect or to know not only with their emotions, but to know as deeply as anything can be known. And it was his faith that with the eyes of their hearts enlightened by the spirit of wisdom and revelation of God, they would also know the hope to which God had called them. They would know the riches of their inheritance as beloved children of God. They would know the immeasurable greatness of God’s power working within them and enabling them to live out of that love.

I am reminded of a wonderful 16th century prayer: God be in my head and in my understanding. God be in my eyes and in my looking. God be in my mouth and in my speaking. God be in my heart and in my thinking. God be at my end and at my departing.

When we were waiting for Nate to be born 29 years ago, the 4 churches Marty and I were serving between us all had baby showers for us, and at one of those showers we received a great big teddy bear called Barney Bear, which was made by a member of one of the churches. Now Barney Bear is bigger than most toddlers and he’s very cuddly. There is a story book that accompanies the bear which tells of a sad, lonely little boy who chooses Barney Bear out of all the wonderful toys in the toy store and begins to tell Barney all of his troubles. And Barney listens. Barney listens with his whole heart to the little boy. In fact, Barney listens so hard that a little heart appears in his ear. And that’s why this Barney Bear has a little red heart stitched into his ear.

What might it mean to listen with our heart? I’ve found myself asking that about all of the senses this week. Psalm 34, which we sang earlier with Open Circle, says “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” What would it mean to taste and see and hear and smell and touch with our heart? What would it mean to know at the very core of our being – with our mind and our heart – that we are loved by God? And what would it mean if we experienced the world and approached the world out of that deep and abiding sense of God’s love?

Imagine seeing people with the eyes of a heart that truly knows it is loved by God. With what compassion would those eyes see?

Imagine tasting or speaking with the mouth of a heart that truly knows it is loved by God. With what gratitude would we taste from the bounty of God’s creation? With what words and what tone of voice would we speak?

Imagine what it would be like to hear with the ears of a heart that truly knows it is love by God. How carefully and compassionately an patiently would we listen?

Imagine what it would be like to touch with the hands of a heart that truly knows it is loved by God. Could such hands ever abuse another?

And what would it mean to see and hear and touch and taste and smell others with a heart that truly knows that they, too, are loved by God?

Maybe this would be a better way for us to think about our job-description as parents (not just mothers). Try looking at your child, no matter what age, and seeing his or her accomplishments and failures, beauties and imperfections, qualities and faults with the eyes of your heart. Try listening to your child…to the joyous, contagious laughter and the painful, sobbing tears, to the angry emotional outbursts and the carefully expressed ideas with the ears of your heart. Try to smell your child’s dirty diapers or stinky athletic clothes or freshly washed hair with the nose of your heart. In your love, your joy, your anger, and your frustration, try to touch your child with the hands of your heart – and speak to your child with the mouth of your heart. And do all of this, knowing, deep within your heart, that you and your child are loved by God; loved unconditionally, so that when either of you fail to live up to your high expectations, you may continue to know, deep within your heart, that God still loves you both.

I think all of us could apply these same thoughts to our lives as Christians, and to our interactions not only with family members but with neighbors, and classmates, and co-workers, and friends and strangers alike. So listen one more time to Paul’s words. And this time, listen to them as words spoken directly to you:
“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your hearts enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.”

With the eyes of our hearts enlightened, let us celebrate God’s gift of love. Not the sappy sentimental love found in a flowery mother’s day card, but the everyday kind of real love that hears and sees and smells and touches and speaks from the love of God that is within each of us: a love that uses all the senses of the heart to experience God’s love and to communicate that love to our families and to a broken world. Friends, let us celebrate God’s gift of love.

O God of love, we pray thee to give us love:
Love in our thinking, love in our speaking,
Love in our doing, and love in the hidden places of our souls;
Love of our neighbors, near and far;
Love of our friends, old and new;
Love of those with whom we find it hard to bear,
And love of those who find it hard to bear with us;
Love of those with whom we work,
And love of those with whom we take our ease;
Love in joy, love in sorrow;
Love in life and love in death;
That so at length we may be worthy to dwell with thee,
Who art eternal love. Amen.
– William Temple

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