True of Heart

Psalm 32:12  - Father's Day

Today's Scripture readings are full of so many possibilities for sermons that it is difficult to choose. I have chosen to focus on one verse from the Psalm read today: "Be glad, those in a right relationship with the Lord, and rejoice in the Lord; shout for joy, all who are true of heart."

Before I speak about that, let me just say one thing about the Old Testament reading regarding David and Bathsheba. We studied that last week in the women's Bible Study and we will be studying it this week in the men's Bible study.

of the reading. Nathan speaking to David on behalf of God, says, "Because you have utterly scorned the Lord, the baby born to you shall die....The Lord struck the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and it became very ill." The important thing to know is that God did not strike the child because of David's sin. God did not punish the child because of David's sin. This story was written after the fact. Because in those days the people who were followers of the one God, understood everything to be connected to God. There was no event that God did not make happen. They believed their lives were totally bound up in God's presence and actions in their lives, so nothing could happen unless God was behind it.

Then and now we humans are a part of a fallen humanity. God made a perfect world and we messed it up. We continually do so. We still haven't learned. Consequently, there are all sorts of things that cause disease because of what we humans have done and continue to do to the earth. God loves us and helps us through every situation we get ourselves into. Some people believe that God punishes us. That's simply not true. Those who wrote the Bible, as I said, believed that nothing happens apart from God, so that whatever happens, they believed that God had a hand in it.

But God loves us. In loving us God set up a world, a universe where things worked together and complemented each other. But we have truly messed that up all around the world. People don't live in harmony, and people are not in harmony with nature and the environment. So, there are lots of things that affect us adversely.

God does not punish us. When we stray from the harmony that God has set up for us, we create our own punishment. Even as we stray, God does not abandon us, but continues to help us make the best of every difficult situation that we humans create for ourselves.

If God struck down the child of every father or mother who sinned, humans would die out because there would be no children.

God loves us. The more we love God and follow God's guidance, the more in harmony with each other and all life forms and all life, we will be. So, we don't know what caused the child of David and Bathsheba to die, but it was NOT God that caused that death because of David's sin. The writers of Scripture, believing as they did, that God caused everything to happen, believed that the death was connected to David and Bathsheba.

When a child is born into the world, there is no greater time stress and danger than the birth and the weeks following that birth. It is against great odds that a child is born because there are so many things that can happen to the baby. It is defenseless and it hasn't had a chance to build up an immune system. It is susceptible to anything and everything. Every birth is a miracle. So, again, we don't know how that baby died, but it didn't die because of David's sin.

Now, having practically given a sermon on that point, I do really want to talk to you about the phrase "true of heart."

At Synod Assembly this past week, the key note speaker was a woman from the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. She was a powerful speaker; a powerful presence; a woman of deep faith and commitment. Her story is long and complex and powerful, and had myself and many others listening, with tears running down our cheeks. Judy Bultman is her name. She is the wife of a Lutheran pastor and a relief coordinator for thousands of folks along the Gulf Coast who lost everything because they were a direct hit of hurricane Katrina. We can't even imagine here a storm that pounded the coast for 11 hours with winds that were over 200 miles and hour at times. Needless to say, the devastation was overwhelming and for a stretch of 200 miles along the coast. All that was left was foundations of houses. Even trees were stripped of their bark if they weren't uprooted.

They way she was called to respond is an incredible story. But what struck me most was how she keeps recognizing that God is active in the lives of those folks as they struggle to get their lives back in order. What she said was that "The light of Christ is never brighter than when it is shining in the darkest corners."

In the verse from Psalms it says, "Be glad, you righteous." Remember, to be 'righteous' means to be in a right relationship with God. Then it goes on to say "rejoice in the Lord; shout for joy all who are true of heart." True of heart. What a beautiful phrase, and so appropriate for we folks today, and especially today as we celebrate Father's Day and Men's Day. It's not easy for any of us to stay in a right relationship with God because there are so many things that entice us away from that harmonious relationship with God.

But a person, who is true of heart, does in deed rejoice in Christ, and their 'shouts of joy' can be heard through their loving acts as they relate to other people and through their loving acts toward nature and the environment.

There are many men who think religion is for women, especially as women dominate in numbers. But God calls all women and men to be true of heart. To recognize how Christ and the Holy Spirit are operative in their lives and share that with others.

For a man to be true of heart, means that he builds his personal life, his family life, his life interacting with others and the world around him based on what Christ, who was every bit a man, taught both by word and example. Christ was not just the Son of God; he was also fully human, fully a man. He was a man's man. He hung out with the guys. Women went crazy over him and followed him every where.

Men should be coming in droves to church to hear about him because he can teach men how to be men. Men don't have to use force to be a man. Men don't have to demean women to be a man. Men don't have to be angry and verbally abusive to be a man.

But to be a man, Christian men DO have to be involved in a relationship with Christ. To be a man, Christian men DO have to be at worship and give praise to God and give thanks to God, and give back to God from the bounty of gifts God has given to them. To be a man, Christian men DO have to respect women. To be a man, Christian men DO have to give time to helping children and youth. To be a man, Christian men DO have to pray, (Jesus not only did this but taught us how to pray). To be a man, Christian men must know the Bible. When a man doesn't know what's in the Bible, he not only leads a life not fully in harmony with God or God's creation, but he also leads OTHERS into lives that not in harmony with God's ordered creation.

For any one of us here this morning, man or woman, true of heart means we are open to God's call to do things for Christ. True of heart means that we all, each with our individual God-given gifts and talents, live to bless each other, bless our families, bless the stranger, bless our friends and neighbors-bless them by sharing how God is active in our lives.

True of heart means that we continually build upon, strengthen our relationship with God so that we are in a right relationship, not one that makes us less than we were created to be.

Real men hug each other (that's what St. Paul means at the end of his letters when he says, "Greet each other with a holy kiss." It's like men in other parts of the world do-give each other a hug, and then a kiss on each cheek.

Real men stand in their faith and don't deny it to other men. They aren't ashamed to be counted as a Christian. They aren't ashamed to be labeled by ignorant people, as "Jesus Freaks" or whatever. Real men will be, as St. Paul says, "A fool for Christ." That means they are not ashamed of following Christ's teachings and believing in the living power of the Holy Spirit, even though others may view it as foolish.

Real Christians are true of heart. Real men are true of heart.


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