I believe that God has revealed to us all we need to know about salvation and God’s love. It is found in nature. The seeds sprouting in Spring – lying dormant under the snow until the rains and sun’s rays wake up the plants inside the seeds. Or water bugs, which live at the edge of ponds, waiting for the instinct to climb the lily pad stalk and get reborn as dragonflies (who can only skim the water’s surface). Then there are the caterpillars which end up in cocoons to hatch as butterflies, reminding us of Christ’s resurrection. Jesus used stories of vines to indicate our connection to God and to one another. Sheep and shepherds are images of God’s divine protection and love for us. Even shrimp have something to teach us about God’s heart. Wait a minute, did I say SHRIMP? Yes, shrimp! The other day I learned that the shrimp’s heart is in its head! If we think about the phrase, “heart and mind,” the shrimp is a constant reminder of what that is supposed to look like. Our hearts need to be ruled by our minds and our minds need to be influenced by our hearts. So how does this actually work in real world experiences?
Thinking about prayer, our minds tell us it is a necessary thing to do in order to maintain our relationship with God. Prayer is on our “to do” list. Our hearts tell us that prayer is what fuels our lives of faith and is necessary, not because we have to pray, but because we want to pray. In other words, it’s a ta-da moment, not a “to do” moment. (Thanks to Rev. Sue Brown who turned that phrase). We should desire to be in constant communication with God. That should be where our passion lies. Passion is heart-felt and emotion-driven. The heart rules our head. And yet, our head realizes that without the passion, we wouldn’t pray, or we would pray without the desire and the fire in our souls. So we need both heart and mind in order to be focused on God in our lives of prayer.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, saw his time (the 18th Century) as devoid of passion and heart for God. He turned the phrase, “holiness of heart and life,” to remind people of their need to live holy lives that would lead others to live for Jesus. Every age has its “ups and downs” of heart and mind. People today are often skeptical of religion because it requires them to think with their hearts and take a leap of faith to believe in a God they cannot see, feel, or hear. It is a question of the mind ruling the heart. Or is it? Can we have both heart and mind in our faith experiences? Look at the shrimp for God’s answer! God placed the shrimp’s heart in its head to help us realize that there should be no dichotomy of heart and mind. Wesley knew this to be true from personal experience – he was a highly educated Anglican priest who taught at Lincoln College in Oxford. Yet his greatest achievements came when he preached to coal miners and rode thousands of miles on horseback to bring the Gospel to people with little or no education. He founded orphanages and credit bureaus and free clinics and lending libraries. Wesley got to know death row inmates and went with them to their execution – praying all the way. He was passionate about sharing Jesus with EVERYONE. He knew what it meant to have a “dead faith,” and then realize that God had “warmed his heart.” He could combine heart and mind in ministry and come up with a workable, practical, loving plan of discipleship. He understood the shrimp.
Do you understand the shrimp’s example? Heart and mind in one place? Are you able to focus every bit of your passion on God and sharing God’s love with others? Can you embrace Wesley’s way of “holiness of heart and life”- of personal commitment to God combined with social action to bring God’s love into reality in the world? What can you do? What will you do? Where is your heart?
Rev. Bev Hall, pastor of Pleasant Hills United Methodist Church, Middleburg Heights, OH