Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

by Rev. John Howard Farmer

Visit the Irvington Baptist Church website

Have a heart-Take heart

Before the days of television folks would saunter into a living room, or parlor; there they would find an old upright, or a shawl draped baby grand. They’d lift the key cover and play one-song concerts, “Heart and Soul.” Sometimes another would rush the keys to make it a duet. One played the high notes the other the low.

I remember the melody and words of a popular twangy song long forgotten: “You gotta have heart, lots and lots and lots of heart…”

Poets and songsmiths by the thousands have penned lines upon lines of variations upon a theme that relate to one’s heart. Love sonnets abound with a ripe yearning for often-unrequited love. Much of country music gains it popularity over the alleged “somebody done me wrong songs…”

In the good book the word “heart” appears more than 600 times. It is most often used in conjunction with the seat of human emotions. One learns that our best emotions and our deepest sins are thought to abide there. Our hearts are the battleground for human development.

Oh I know, some will pout and offer that the heart is only a circulatory pump whose job is to get oxygen to all our cells. But, I have learned (especially on this side of sixty) that strong emotions always extend from my chest. Maybe they react to signals from the brain… who knows? What does it matter?

Remember that first kiss? It didn’t cause your ears to flutter. It brought a stirring in your heart. Remember the first time you saw one of your newborn children? It was a breath-snatching event. How about the first time you saw that first grandchild? A sad goodbye to a friend or loved one left a hollow feeling where? Why it was in your heart of course.

All that has happened in our world of late stirred all our hearts. Words, though they have tumbled forth for sure, cannot convey what we have felt over the tragedy and stress of it all. It brought pain to our hearts.

If our heart is the seat of emotions how do we fuel the heart? How can we feed the heart for strength for daily living? Well, there are many good gospel hymns that reward us in the singing. Not the least of which is “In My Heart There Rings A Melody.” Do you remember this? Ever heard it, or sung it? It goes like this: “I have a song that Jesus gave me, it was sent from heav’n above; there never was a sweeter melody, ‘tis a melody of love. In my heart there rings a melody, there rings a melody with heaven’s harmony; in my heart there rings a melody; there rings a melody of love.”

Good. I feel the better for just having hummed along. Hope you do.

In my church life I find that it is too easy to spew words about heart. They fall glibly off our lips, do they not? There is a poignant bit of text that nibbles at me, speaks to me. Wise chaps are questioning Jesus about the weightier things of life. “Jesus answered, ‘The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’

“‘The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’”

“‘Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love your neighbor as yourself,’ —‘this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices,’” (Mark 12:29-33) In another of the Gospels, Jesus offers that the greatest commandment is that “Ye love one another.”

Our hearts need fuel. The only good fuel is love. We must first learn to love our Lord. This comes with preparation. Receive him as your Lord and savior. Read the words of his book. Hearts are broken and rebuilt every moment of every day. Healthy hearts heal the quickest. Armed with the teachings of our God we can stand the test of time. Our strength is truly in the Lord. Read, read and re-read the Bible. Get back to basics.

Pay attention to the words of the book. Study them. Get to know them intimately. Now adjust to the truths you’re learning. God is calling us to purer lives. Claim what you are learning.

Then we need to spread the words of the book. Tell others, tell yourself, tell everybody. There is a God who loves us beyond human measure. He loved us enough to give then the most precious gift of his heart. He sacrificed his son for those who would believe.

Have a heart. Take heart. Don’t just let it beat away in your chest. Put it to work for God by learning to love others—even the most unlovable. It is not what we claim to believe, rather what we do that matters. Jesus warned us away from our practices of faith. Our actions preach the real sermons.