"Create in Me a New Heart: A Life Journey with Christ”
A Life of Faith
“Create in me a new heart, O God, and put a new heart and right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
We are here tonight because we have lived, and are living, a life of faith , or we would not be here. The source of our faith is the Bible.
Words That Liberate (Luke 4:16–22)
I walked into a bookshop
At the corner of the street
The air was cold and musty
A respite from the heat.
In every nook and corner
Books were stacked up high
Those that would leave you laughing
And those that would make you cry.
But today my mind was troubled
And I wanted something more
Something that would reach out
To my very restless core.
I searched the “Self-Help” section
But nothing talked to me
Although each book claimed it would
Change my destiny!
And then I saw in a corner
An old and well-thumbed book
Dog-eared, yellow—a contrast
To the glossy, modern look.
I picked it up with care
Lest it should fall apart
And the first words I read
Were spoken to my heart.
I read the story of a man
Two thousand years ago
Who, though man, was also God
And could vanquish any foe.
With all the power at his command
He chose to serve, not fight,
To live and lie among us
So that we might see the light.
Each word I read leapt out at me
So old, and yet so true,
With trebling hands I bought the book
To start my life anew.
When, at last, I left that shop
I had an anchor for my life
To hold and steady me throughout
In good times and in strife.
I’ve had the Good Book ever since
It guides me every day
Its real for me in every sense
—the Light, the Truth, the Way!
Nor does it speak to me alone
But to all, most equally,
Prisoner, Leper, Pavement Dweller
Whoever you may be.
Faith is a choice that we make; God doesn’t force us to be faithful to Him/Her.
Faith is about relationships—a relationship with God—that constantly needs to be nurtured and refreshed. This “gardening” process takes place when we come to church on Sunday, when we come to Lenten services like tonight, when we read the Bible and when we pray—a holy conversation with the Divine One, with our Creator.
Tune Within (Matt. 6:5–15)
Rooted in the core
Become a spring of life
Gushing out from the Cave of the Heart.
Make life ever green and creative.
The source of life, Atman,1 the image of God
Immediate and innate!
The Kingdom of God,
The source, the Holy of Holies
The Abba consciousness
The tree in the seed!
The ocean in the drop!
Wheel out from within,
Mystery of rebirth,
The return to the awakened innocence!
The Advaita3 of the existence!
The coincidence of opposites!
The golden mean of Yin-Yang
The Swastika,4 the harmony of beings!
Sat-Cit-Ananda,5 the Trinity!
The abode of peace and bliss!
Awakened at the effulgence of being.
Become the wave of ocean of life,
Seeker and seeking, becoming the seer,
Being a Buddha! Being the Risen One! Ah!
1 Atman is a Sanskrit word meaning “self.” In Hindu philosophy, Atman is the true self of an individual, the essence of an individual.
2Hirannya-garbagrha!—literally the “golden womb” or the “golden egg—is the source of the creation of the universe in Indian philosophy.
3 Advaita means non-dual, or not two, i.e., oneness.
4 The Swastika is a sacred symbol of auspiciousness in several Indian religions—Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
5 Sat-Cit-Ananda is “being-consciousness-bliss” in Hinduism.
But faith for what?
Faith that remains within is like a seed that never fully develop and blossoms; the beauty of the plant remains trapped in the seed; it never bears fruit that benefits others. Faith becomes visible when it is reflected in our actions, in our witness in society, for faith is also about another relationship—the relationship that we have with others. It is through these relationships that life in this world becomes to have meaning and purpose when it is grounded in a relationship with God.
I Lived My Life (Luke 5:29–32)
I lived my life, secure that I had all I could possibly desire
A home, a job, money, possessions, social standing . . .
Everything . . . except, perhaps, a purpose!
My days of endless partying
Numbed me from the realities of the world.
I knew another world existed . . .
But it was not my world . . .
I chose to see what I wanted
To get what I craved . . .
To hear only the music of isolated arrogance
Amidst a tumultuous otherness.
I lived in a wider world . . . but was not a part of it.
Until one day . . . I arranged a party in my house
But all I heard that evening was silence . . .
The comforting tinkling of glasses . . .
The buzz of inane conversation . . .
The raucous laughter . . . of jokes about the “other” world . . .
Where were the sounds of my existence?
In desperation, I reached for my phone . . .
“Sorry! There’s something more happening somewhere else” . . .
Suddenly, I was the “other” world!
I sank down to my knees, then willed myself to
Climb the stairs and pull myself to the open window . . .
A leper sat alone at the corner of the street . . .
For years, I had tried getting him evicted . . . an eyesore!
Now as I looked . . . he seemed different . . . somehow . . .
Does our own pain sensitize us to the pain of others?
Or does enforced solitude simply allow us to open our eyes wider . . .
He turned to me . . . his eyes bored deep into mine . . . and seemed to speak . . .
“You don’t have to love me . . . just accept me for what I am” . . .
Now I saw him as he truly was . . . rejected, humiliated . . . despised!
And suddenly! No longer a human being of the “other” world . . .
Just another human being . . .
I called out to Muna, my servant . . . “Muna! Call that leper in for dinner!”
“Are you sure? Sir!” . . .
I sensed the hesitation . . . no! more . . . the utter disbelief . . .
I nodded, that was enough,
Any words would be disjointed thoughts anyway.
“Sir, if I may be so bold . . . there’s an outcast woman begging at the door.”
What? How big was this underbelly of the “other” world?
“How many outcasts? . . . rejects? . . . losers?” . . .
“Call her too . . . and any others you see . . . and make sure you eat too!”
I turned away . . .
Part unsure, part embarrassed by my years of blinded self-indulgence.
I walked down the stairs and entered the room . . .
There was no more silence . . .
Just the tinkling of contented, but unsure, hearts . . .
The buzz of subdued disbelief . . .
And the occasional raucous laughter of satiated stomachs . . .
That had never dared to hope . . .
So this was the “other” world . . . the real world . . .
Real people . . . real stories . . . real problems . . . real tragedies.
I sat down and joined them to eat . . .
We did not talk . . . there was no need to . . .
In this world, there was no need for inane conversation . . .
They accepted me . . . without comment, without reserve . . .
Perhaps acceptance was easier in this “other” world . . .
My life had changed . . . it was clearly different . . . almost frightening . . .
My mind desperately sought some connection to the past . . .
I had lost . . . well nothing, really!
But I had found a purpose!
Faith is rooted in trust—trust in the grace, mercy and mystery of God—and through truly trusting the Divine One, there is inner peace. When we waver in our trust, when our inner peace seems elusive, when we are confused, lost, the Divine One is always there. As people of faith, this is our hope, this is our belief, this is our experience.
There Is a Tree (Luke 23:44–49)
There is a tree to which
the wounded and broken go,
and the tearful and desperate flock,
for comfort and hope.
A tree so oft chopped
and skinned and tortured,
but refuses to wither and die.
A tree that ever keeps greening and flowering,
fruiting and sheltering,
and welcoming everyone with a song.
Let us spend some moments of silence to reflect on our faith, to reflect on our faith journey, to reflect on what our faith means to us and to the world.
My Spirit (John 16:5–7)
I give you my Spirit of Hope to hold on
And receive all I’ve promised
Long after I’m gone.
My Spirit of Love brings compassion anew
To reach out and help
Those less fortunate than you.
My Spirit of Peace, even in the worst storm,
Like the bed of the sea,
Is patient and calm.
My Spirit of Strength gives you vision and power
To keep going forward
Till death’s final hour.
My Spirit of Fire burns out the black dross,
Separating true metal
From all that is false.
My Spirit of Joy, gushing up to the top,
Dances free like a fountain
That cannot be stopped.
My Spirit is Truth, guiding you night and day
To be wise, bold and faithful,
Teaching you what to say.
My Spirit of Life was the reason I came
To rid you of hatred, greed, sorrow and shame,
To slay death at last and banish all strife
And present to each human—Eternal Life.
—Jacqueline Kelly Peters
The poems are taken from Human Icons, Sacred Stories by Francoise Bosteels, a woman from Belgium who has lived in India since 1974. She has created a series of handmade dolls that reflect a story or experience or image she has had during her decades of life in India. The poems are inspired by her dolls and passages of scripture.