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What’s Written on Your Heart?

October 15, 2016

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I’ve been watching this fellow for the past week in various spots around town. My first encounter this week was on Tuesday when I stopped by Kind Coffee here in Estes Park between meetings for a quick boost. He was alone and laying down on the grass between the sidewalk and the foot bridge. He was letting folks get very close to him. This worried me a bit for his safety and the safety of the visitors who aren’t always very aware of the fact that these beautiful creatures are wild animals and not domesticated pets.

The next time I saw him was Wednesday when he and his harem showed up at Presbyterian Community Church of the Rockies where I work. As you can see, his eye seems to be swollen and when he got up he limped. Rut can be brutal on the Bulls as they spar to say nothing of the poor Cows who are pushed around by the Bulls! It is a fascinating study in Elk behaviors and we have learned a lot from our four legged neighbors in the past year that we have lived here.

This fellow sort of worked his way into my heart and my thoughts as I sat nearby on Tuesday and watched him and then when I stepped out to take a picture and talk to him. Yes, I was talking to him… and he seemed to respond with looks and a nod or two. I was able to take some pictures with my iPhone that day.

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On Wednesday I had my telephoto lens and was able to get some closeup shots of him along with his harem, some youngsters, and another Bull who was hanging around. He looked pretty tired in the picture below (as did the other Bull) and was still pretty bruised and battered.

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Today, our house guest was walking his dog around Lake Estes when he saw a crowd around the golf course. A fellow told him that a Bull had been gored and died during a scrap with another Bull. Needless to say, my mind and my heart immediately went to this fellow and I wondered if he had been the one who died. Yes, rut and the scraps between Bull Elks is a part of nature and the natural order of things. Yes, the weaker of the species don’t always survive.

However, when a certain Padre finds himself attached spiritually to one of the Bulls, that changes. I have a fair amount of head knowledge regarding rut and the way of Elk here in the Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park. But with this fellow, something changed. It was a movement from head knowledge and the laws of nature to heart knowledge and a connection that is hard to explain.

So Padre, what does this episode of Mutual of Estes Park’s Wild Kingdom have to do with the Scripture readings for the Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost? Funny you should ask… it has a lot do do with it and I will be glad to unwrap the tie-in and the readings from Jeremiah 31:27-34 and Luke 18:1-8 now.

Jeremiah was writing to a people who were in exile. The Temple was destroyed and their way of life had been permanently altered. In Chapter 33 hear Jeremiah preaching a word of hope to the people who were in terrible darkness. “The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals. And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the LORD.” (31:27-28)

Out of the destruction would come new life? Out of the ruins will arise new hope? Is this true, Jeremiah? Is this true, God? This was hope that they needed to hear after being told how badly they had messed up. In verse 31, Jeremiah writes: “The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” A new covenant would be established between God and the people. Another chance would be given to them to live in a covenant relationship with God.

This new covenant would not be like the covenant between God and the people when they were brought out of the land of Egypt. They had destroyed that covenant and made a mockery of the Laws thanks to the religious ruling elite and their own stubborn actions. So how would this new covenant be different? Well, it wouldn’t be written on tablets of stone or become some sort of boat anchor created by the Pharisees, Scribes, and High Priests. This would be a novel new way of living in covenant relationship with God.

This was the way Jeremiah described it in verses 33-34: “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”

Written on their hearts… lived out in their daily lives… For a people who were used to the religious elite telling them what to do and what sacrifices to make, this was radical! For the religious elite, this was radical and a threat to their very existence! The words of the prophet Amos come to mind as I contemplate what the Lord is telling the religious elite.

“I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt-offerings and grain-offerings, I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:21-24)

This new covenant will be written upon their HEARTS! They will KEEP the covenant! It won’t be a set of rules and regulations to follow. It will be a way of living that will be clear and apparent to ALL! To adapt the words from a song I learned many years ago, they will know you are God’s children by your LOVE!

Dear reader, isn’t this what we need to hear today? Isn’t this what we need to believe today? Isn’t this the way we need to live today? In a time when so-called christian (yes, lower case is intentional) leaders who only a few months before ranted and raved about bathroom rights for the LGBT community are now excusing away so-called “locker room talk” of a presidential candidate, I often wonder what people take away from this. There are times when these so-called leaders make me embarrassed to claim that I am a faith community leader. And there are plenty of times when I want to cut loose in a tirade that would make a Marine blush!

Then I remember… it will be written upon their hearts… and they will be known by their actions as well as their words. In that word I find hope. In that word I find purpose. In that word I remember… what do my words and actions reveal about the One whom I serve? Jesus said the Law is summed up in two commandments. We are called to love God with all that we are and we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Mark 12:30-31; Luke 10:27; Matthew 22:37-40; Deuteronomy 6:5)

May that be written upon our hearts and reflected by our lives, dear reader. May we be God’s difference in a world of hatred, fear, and terror!

2 Comments
  1. Oh this: “May that be written upon our hearts and reflected by our lives, dear reader. May we be God’s difference in a world of hatred, fear, and terror!” Amen, friend! I also remember that song, Michael. We used to sing about and see love as the predominant feature of being a child of God, and that hasn’t changed one iota since then. As we represent God in this world, live out our calling as the hands and feet of Jesus, we will be remembered most for the way we loved others as He loves us.

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