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Talk Is Not Always Cheap
The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Old Testament: Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Psalter: Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b
Epistle: Romans 10:5-15
Gospel: Matthew 14:22-33
Old Testament: 1 Kings 19:9-18
Psalter: Psalm 85:8-13
Epistle: Romans 10:5-15
Gospel: Matthew 14:22-33
Through the storms of life, O God, you are with your people in the person of Jesus your Son. Calm our fears and strengthen our faith that we may never doubt his presence among us but proclaim that he is your Son, risen from the dead, living for ever and ever. Amen. (Revised Common Lectionary)
Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?
“The word is near you,
in your mouth and in your heart”
(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim), because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart, leading to righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, leading to salvation. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:5-15)
More money is spent on Valentine’s Day than any other celebrated holiday except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is a day to express love to our significant other, whomever that may be. Cards are the most common gifts on Valentine’s Day followed by candy and flowers. Valentine’s Day also keeps the restaurants busy. It is the busiest day of the year for dining out surpassing even Mother’s Day.
The heart is the common symbol for Valentine’s Day because we in the modern West identify the heart with human emotions. “I love you with all my heart,” we might say to our beloved.
But that was not the case for the Apostle Paul and his culture. For them the heart was not the seat of the emotions. That honor went to the viscera, the bowels. We do have a saying, “I have a gut feeling.” That represents well how Saint Paul thought about human emotions and internal organs. (Hallmark would have a difficult time marketing Valentine Cards that read, “I love you with all my intestines.”) In Paul’s world, the heart was the seat of the will; it was where human intention originated. One did not think with one’s head, one reasoned with the heart. So when the the apostle tells the Romans that if they believe in their heart in the resurrection of Jesus, he is not referring to some feeling about Jesus’ new life; it is a reasonable thought-out affirmation.
So while believing in the resurrection of Jesus is critical to saving faith, it is the confession that Jesus is Lord because of that resurrection that is also necessary. Tom Wright states,
Paul then explains this with a remarkable statement, one of the clearest in all his writings, of what precisely Christian faith consists of. It is not, for him, a vague religious awareness, a general sense of the presence of a benevolent deity. It is the confession of Jesus as Lord and the belief that God raised him from the dead.
To believe in one’s heart in the resurrection of Jesus is to embrace this truth down to the core of one’s very being. And since that belief brings a transformative change, the individual will confess verbally that belief. Confession reveals what one believes in the heart.
People like to quote the supposed statement from St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” But that is not what Francis said. In his The Rule, he writes the following:
No brother should preach contrary to the form and regulations of the holy Church nor unless he has been permitted by his minister . . . All the Friars . . . should preach by their deeds.
Francis is not suggesting that the words of the gospel are less important than the deeds of the gospel. Instead he is insisting that a preacher’s deeds match their words. So, our living of the gospel does not let us off the hook in sharing the gospel when it is appropriate to do so. Our living of the gospel makes our preaching of the gospel believable. Our deeds give our words credibility.
Talk is cheap when confessing Jesus as Lord if we do not believe it in our hearts; but when our whole being points to the new life in Christ, then our words can make all the difference in the world.
PRAYER: God of awe, from whom we flee in holy terror: your silence burns like ice; your whisper cuts through fear; we long to hear your faithful word of righteousness and peace. Bless us with bold belief even in the darkness of the night and the assault of life's storms, that we may be messengers of your justice, in the name of the One whom wind and wave obey. Amen. (Revised Common Lectionary)
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