You might say that the Gospel text for this Sunday [Mark 7:14-23] gets to the heart of the matter.
How is your heart? Current culture is falling into two equally dangerous traps. The more obvious trap is to say that the heart is a good thing. The subtler one is that the answer to that question depends on what that heart has been fed.
That is the old nature vs. nurture alternative. It is okay to have that discussion when people understand that human nature is inherently ‘sinful and unclean’. But when there is a positive view of human nature (‘There’s a little bit of good inside of everybody’), then some serious problems can occur—and some serious misunderstandings of both good and evil.
Some of this nation’s founding fathers had a more optimistic view of human nature than the Lutherans typically had. And the theology of the Pilgrims may be traced back to John Calvin (1509-1564), who was not as strong as Martin Luther regarding the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper—and therefore would not have needed as strong a Savior.
A new edition of Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation just came out, and some people do not like it because it is so long. If we were inherently good, it would not need to be very long at all! There are a HUGE number of evil alternatives.
One alternative that does not seem so bad, at least initially, is to look inward. How is your heart?
Some people hear that question and think about how they are currently feeling. I would advise against that strategy. I would suggest hearing what God’s word has to say about what is inside us.
Jesus, in the text for today, says that ‘…evil things come from within…(Mark 7:23).’ All too often we do not want to admit that. But Jesus says what is true. I would suggest clinging to his words. That is what God’s messenger will advise the women after Jesus’ resurrection (Mark 16:7b).
How is your heart? I just visited someone today who quite recently had major bypass surgery. Thankfully, we did not talk too much about the condition of the heart. At the heart of a more important matter is Jesus and his reconciliation.
In Mark 7, Jesus is already headed for the cross. And he is about to leave the people around him and us (perhaps just for a little while) in the dust….