Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Change of Heart

"When you get a new heart does it change which hand you write with?"

This was the question I got from my 9 year old at lunch today. He is currently rather fixated on open heart surgery, a subject he had brought up a few days earlier ( I don't know where or how he came upon the subject) and had asked this latest question after mulling over the process the last couple of days.

"What do you mean?" I asked.
"When you get a new heart, does it change you from a right handed writer to a left handed writer."
"I think that process is found in the brain, not the heart", I explained.
"so when you get a brain transplant..." he went on.
"No, they don't do brain transplants, yet" I said, visions of Young Frankenstein" and "Abby Normal's" transplant spring to mind. "If they did, your mom would have had me on the donar list already," I added.
"What?" he said.

But it started me thinking on this Holy Saturday, of the new heart that is available to us.

The devotional readings for today begin with the Genesis story of creation. The Genesis reading ends on the seventh day when God rested from His labors. Approriate for Holy Saturday. The work is finished. But a new beginning is but hours away and it is offered to us sinners, who but a short while ago drove the nails and denied the Son of God.

A few days ago David Goldman over at First Things had a wonderful reflection on the Jewish Passover recitation from Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 10:25: “Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not know you and on the families that do not call your name; For they have devoured Jacob; they have devoured him and consumed him and have laid waste his habitation.” Jeremiah is hardly the only prophet to call divine wrath down upon the pagans. Obadiah writes, “For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been.” (Obadiah 1:16) For the Greeks, non-being is a paradox; for the Jews it is a curse, for nothing is more terrible than to be forever cut off from the Source of Being....

He goes on to explain,

All these derive from Exodus 17:4, in which God says, “I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven,” and commands Moses, “Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua,” that is, make a special effort to remember to the erase the memory of Amelek.” That is yet another example of how characteristic Jewish humor derives from the Hebrew Scriptures. Later (I Samuel 15:3) God instructs King Saul through the prophet Samuel to exterminate the entire tribe. When Saul allows his army to loot the Amalekite cattle rather than to kill the tribe, he is excoriated by Samuel. Once a year, Jewish congregations read these passages from Exodus and I Samuel in tandem, and call aloud the divine injunction, “Do not forget!”

All of which, he says may sound a bit harsh to our tender modern ears and to Christians you may suppose that,

a New Covenant of love has superseded the allegedly vengeful world of the Old Testament. Did not Jesus say, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you”? (Matthew 5:45-46)

But while different we are strognly unite Goldman points out, because,

(e)ither way, Amalek must die. The Jews are instructed to kill off the tribe of Amalek, while every Christian must kill the Amalekite within him. Christianity wants each individual member of the tribe of Amalek to die to this world and be reborn into the nation of Israel, Amalek’s most hated enemy. Christian converts from the pagan nations still carry their Gentile nature within them. To say that a Christian must be converted every day is to say that the Christian must kill this inner Amalekite every day....

...“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life,” says Jesus (John 12:25). Self-sacrifice is the price of eternal life. Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac, and therefore himself, was the foundation of God’s Covenant with Abraham and his descendants. God’s love removes us from the altar; a ram substitutes for Isaac so that Abraham may live, and in Christian doctrine, Jesus of Nazareth sacrifices himself for all of mankind. To be a Jew is to continue the life of Abraham; to be a Christian is to die to this world and be reborn in the spirit into the life of Abraham. ...

The article goes on to remind us that excessive tolerance has terrible results, a lesson surely relevant for our modern world (you can read it here)but one off the point of this posting.

The point is that the God's self-sacrifice has made possible for all of us, a new beginning. From the wounded and sacred heart of God flows new life and a new heart for us all.

O Christ, look with favor on our aspiration and prayers, and make prosperous to us this coming holy night of Easter, that in it we may rise from the deadand pass over unto life. Amen -Old Gallican Collect

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