Image: Natalie Diaz. Photo: Scott T. Baxter (altaonline.com)
‘Steal our hearts away’
Ordinary Sunday 19, Year C
Isaiah 1:1,10-20; Hebrews 11:1-3,8-16; Luke 12:32-40
Jesus says: “Make purses for yourselves that don’t wear out – treasures that won’t fail you, in heaven that thieves can’t steal and moths can’t destroy. For wherever your treasure is, that’s where your heart will be.”
Jesus also says: “No homeowner who knew when a thief was coming would have let the thief break in! So be on guard – the Promised One will come when least expected.”
I like this double reference to theft: cultivating treasures that thieves can’t steal; awaiting a Good Thief who is God’s Own.
We might focus on unfailing treasures, on the gifts of the Spirit that satisfy/enrich in ways mere material things do not. Treasures like wisdom, friendship, trust and respect (self-respect and respect for others). Treasures like community connection, understanding, shared projects and meaningful experiences, stories, rituals … hopes and commitments … values and principles (like interdependence, biodiversity) … faith and culture …
Treasures like a sense of identity/solidarity with (many) others in the kindom of God – “in the commonwealth of no possessions where Christ reigns” (Nathan Nettleton).
Then, we might consider the prospect of a Good Thief – “good” in the sense of catching us unawares; “good” in the sense of taking from us what hinders our becoming fully human, our flourishing; “good” because the theft leaves us (somewhat mysteriously) better off.
The idiom, “steal one’s heart”, seems apt. Online search results list hundreds of hearts stolen – by beauty, mercy, justice, faithfulness … home cities, strange countries, tribal lands and waters … artistic or spiritual visions … muses, music …
It’s a favourite theme of songwriters, of course, including Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, whose “Stealing My Heart” (2002) features the notable lines: “My cards are on the table, you can look up my sleeves / You say you’re honest but love is for thieves.”
A gentler example comes from Van Morrison’s album, Down the Road (2002). The song “Steal My Heart Away” was written by Wayland Holyfield: “I can hear the sound of violins / I can hear the piper play / And every time the song begins / You just steal my heart away.”
When true love (the distinction is crucial) steals our hearts away, we are amazed, captivated. We may experience a mix of excitement and cautiousness, too. “So be on guard – the Promised One will come when least expected.”
Is this what it’s like for us? Does God in Christ steal our hearts away? Does the gospel (story and practice) steal our hearts away … take our breath away?
The Gospel in Solentiname, a classic of liberation theology (edited by Ernesto Cardenal), records the following: “When all of us, young and old, agree to fight against injustice, then Jesus begins to appear at the doors of the houses. When we don’t want anybody anymore to be boss over anybody else but to have everybody equal, everybody the same, that’s when Christ will be coming or is already come … That new society can come at any moment …” (Oscar, The Gospel in Solentiname).
Surprised by love, at being turned inside-out, Mojave poet Natalie Diaz writes: “My lover comes to me like darkfall – long, / and through my open window. Mullion, transom. / A good window lets the outside participate …” The poem is entitled, “Like Church”.
“I am no longer my own, but yours,” John Wesley prays. “Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you or laid aside for you; exalted for you or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty; let me have all things, let me have nothing …” (John Wesley, 1755).
Is this what it’s like for us? Does God in Christ steal our hearts away? How might the gospel (story of healing/homecoming, practice in hospitality) steal our hearts away … take our breath away … inspire us to faith and good works? Amen.