Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor

Morgan Park

 Baptist Church

11024 S. Bell Avenue 

Chicago, IL 60643


Refelction April 24, 2016

Understanding Hearts
Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth

     I will give them a new heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 11: 19

     On Wednesday, April 27, we’ll begin a new and exciting health initiative at our beloved Morgan Park Baptist Church: For the Heart, From the Heart. This vibrant new program will meet every fourth Wednesday of each month, beginning Wednesday, April 27, from 11 am until noon in our parlor.

     This new initiative will offer a wonderful opportunity to get to know our own hearts and how best to keep them healthy. Our first meeting will include a thirty-minute presentation from a staff member from Oak Street Health (Blue Island). Not only will we explore physical heart health, we will also explore psychological and spiritual heart health.

     As we may remember from The Little Prince: “It is only with the heart that one sees rightly.” We are all challenged to “see with the heart.” I believe it is only with the mind and the heart working in tandem that we are able to fully understand our lives and our faith journeys.

     I fear many of us do not appreciate all that the heart brings to us, thinking it is only a pump for our blood. Yet I believe it’s mainly through the heart that God leads us and guides us. However, many have given up on allowing the heart do what it does spiritually.

     We would well recall our brother Paul’s compelling teaching: “and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) Our hearts serve as the gateway through which God’s love enters us!

     As Marc Ian Barasch writes in his captivating book, Field Notes on the Compassionate Life: “The heart itself may be smarter than we think. It not only receives impulses from the brain but sends information to it via the vagus nerve. The heart generates its own hormones and releases them into the body. It even broadcasts its own electromagnetic field thousands of times more powerful than the brain’s (electromagnetic field) ...

     “The heart turns out to have its own brain of sorts, some forty thousand neurons (brain cells) and support cells arranged in an intricate architecture resembling that of the cortex (of the brain).”

     It is my hope that through this new program we’ll be able to help ourselves not only heal our hearts - but also help us open our hearts to God’s loving presence. Too often as Christians, we get caught up in endless debates about who’s right and who’s wrong in our approach to Christ - how best to live as disciples of Christ. I believe this happens because we do not allow our hearts to guide us.

     It’s through our hearts that God pours God’s love into us. If we do not pay attention to our hearts and, instead, get sidelined by diabolical debates in our heads, we will generate stony hearts and not hearts of flesh. As the spiritual writer Thomas Keating rightly notes: “God prefers this kind of love - not what you’re willing to do, but what you are willing to receive.”

     Without opening our hearts to all God wishes to give us, we’ll invariably go astray. We’ll get caught up in hate-fueled debates about who is going to heaven and who is going to hell.

     “It’s tragicomic to hear, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, imams promising paradise to infidel-slayers, pastors invoking a Prince of Peace who sounds more like Rambo, rabbis sanctifying biblical land-grabs, Buddhist priests blessing military juntas …

     “A good organizational consultant would counsel the world’s major faiths to reexamine their original mission statements. The core business (of all the world’s faiths) is surely not to sell tickets to heaven or peddle get-out-of-hell-free cards, but to distribute every kernel of wisdom from their ancient storehouses that might help us to love each other.” (From Field Notes on the Compassionate Life)

     We had originally arranged for this new program to begin at the end of February. Unfortunately, my beloved Beth and I were both stricken with a nasty virus that kept us under the weather for several weeks. We didn’t want to start the program at the end of March because of Holy Week. So now - we’ll finally start this vital health program.

     I invite everyone to come and share in For the Heart, From the Heart. This is even more compelling since just recently two of our wonderful church members underwent medical heart procedures.     So, if possible, please join us on Wednesday, April 27, from 11 am until noon in our parlor. Invite family, friends, and neighbors! We are a church whose primary mission outreach is our Center for Spiritual Health - which was established to bring opportunities for spiritual growth, health and healing to all our neighbors.