God accepts Jacob and rejects Esau. Before that, God accepts Abel and rejects Cain. Later, God hardens the heart of Pharaoh. Clay in the hands of God. If this seems unfair, even arbitrary, consider the scale. God is in heaven and thou art upon the earth. The pot fighting the potter. Creature talking back to Creator. If unchecked, the pot will be calling the kettle black. Pharaoh drowsing in the afternoon. The royal fan-waver, swatting away flies, leaves at the end of his shift. Pharaoh stirs but does not open his eyes. The flies buzz. He jerks awake, sits up, then roars. “Where is my fly swatter?” “Shift-change, your Highness,” says the stenographer. He grips his stylus nervously. “Find him,” shouts the Pharaoh to his aides. “And you! Take this down.” “Your Highness,” says the stenographer, bowing. “Cancel the executive order releasing the Hebrews! Get me Moses! Cut their rations. Increase the work. And where’s my fly-swatter?” Roaring. Fuming. Furious, his heart hardening. Sometimes it’s the little things that tip you over the edge. Still, the God of Jacob and Esau is One. “This heart is hard,” God muses. “I like a challenge.”
Causing a Ruckus
The disciples are preaching, causing a ruckus in Jerusalem. They are arrested and jailed. The night before their trial they are mysteriously sprung from jail and in the morning, before breakfast, they are already down in the temple. Gamaliel counsels restraint. He tells of people who rose up in revolt. They were all killed; their movements came to nothing. If these people are anything like the others, he says, they won’t succeed. But if they are of God you won’t be able to stop them. Fair enough, says the Sanhedrin. We’ll let them off with a flogging. Stop preaching and teaching, they say to the disciples. But after they are flogged, they go right out and carry on teaching. How do you stop people like that? What do you count as success? And when do you decide that enough is enough? The jail break should have been a tip-off. Mischief-makers. Good-news-mongers. Occasionally quiet, mostly when alone.
Eight Statements About the Heart
1. The heart is a little larger than a fist and pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood and beats about 100,000 times a day. These are facts.
2. “Be still my heart,” is an expression often used in a lighthearted, often ironic way, to convey an emotion that surprises a person. It is not to be taken literally.
3. “The heart is a lonely hunter.” The title of a novel by author Carson McCullers. A phrase sometimes used in songs and poems to evoke sympathy for those persons whose search for love is doomed.
4. “Bleeding-heart liberals.” An epithet thrown at people whose compassion, it is alleged, has blinded them to the reality of competition for scarce resources.
5. “The heart is deceitful above all things. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Most of one’s life is spent recovering from this.
6. “Don’t go breaking my heart.” From a song by pop star Elton John. A plea (see #5).
7. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Prov. 4:23). Advice from a sage establishing first principles for living.
8. “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (Jn 14:27). May be used as a mantra and a prayer. Originated with a person exceptionally experienced in facing fear. Can be combined with his parting gift of peace.
Barry Casey taught religion, philosophy, ethics, and communications for 37 years at universities in Maryland and Washington, DC. He is now retired and writing in Burtonsville, Maryland. More of the author’s writing can be found on his blog, Dante’s Woods. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His first book, Wandering, Not Lost: Essays on Faith, Doubt, and Mystery, is now available.
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