The Heart of the Matter


I read in The Message this week the following passage from Matthew 6:1-4: “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. “When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—‘playactors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.”

It seems that Eugene Peterson in his paraphrase of that passage of scripture got right to “The Heart of the Matter.” This Sunday’s gospel lesson is the familiar “Parable of the Sower and the Seed.” It also is about “The Heart of the Matter.” More specifically, it addresses the kind of responses you and I tend to give to God’s sowing the seeds of unconditional love, salvation, forgiveness, acceptance and grace into our lives. Will it grow to the point where we sow it into someone else’s life? Will we only sow seed to be seen by others? One of William Barclay’s friends tells this story:

In the church where he worshiped there was a lonely old man, old Thomas. He had outlived all his friends and hardly anyone knew him. When Thomas died, this friend had the feeling that there would be no one to go to the funeral so he decided to go, so that there might be someone to follow the old man to his last resting-place. He was right. There was no one else, and it was a miserable wet day. The funeral reached the cemetery, and at the gate there was a soldier waiting. An officer, but on his raincoat there were no rank badges. He came to the graveside for the ceremony, then when it was over, he stepped forward and before the open grave swept his hand to a salute that might have been given to a king. The friend walked away with this soldier, and as they walked, the wind blew the soldier’s raincoat open to reveal the shoulder badges of a brigadier general. The general said, “You will perhaps be wondering what I am doing here. Years ago Thomas was my Sunday School teacher; I was a wild lad and a challenge to him. He never knew what he did for me, but I owe everything I am or will be to old Thomas, and today I had to come to salute him at the end.”

Thomas did not know what he was doing for that wild and challenging child years before; however, it was evident that Thomas did know that sowing the seeds of God’s love and grace was and is “The Heart of the Matter.” Do you? I pray that you will keep sowing the seed of God’s love and grace and leave the rest to God. Based on that passage from The Message, it seems that Thomas “Just Did It – quietly and unobtrusively.” And he did it with a Hopeful and Joyous Heart. May it be so for you!

In the meantime, join us this Sunday for worship at Covenant. I will be preaching more about “The Heart of the Matter” based on Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23.


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