Start with Your Heart…

We begin with a shocker. It’s not that hard. Wanna have a better life? Here’s how. Build a better spiritual house. It’s not that hard. Jesus says so. “Hear my words and do them, and you’re like a wise soul who builds a house on rock. Rain, flood and wind come. But still, it stands! Hear me and ignore me, and you’re like the fool who builds on sand.” Let’s teach one another what we teach our kids: follow Jesus. To have a better life, build a better spiritual house. Build on the bedrock of worship and a foundation of praise. Worship and praise are what our spiritual house stands on. So let’s make them rock-solid!

Why worship? Because faith needs a foundation like the spirit needs a heart. Why give God praise? Because of what happens to us (and for God) when we do. Pastor Chris Altrock’s got it right. Worship quickens our walk with God. Praise drives us into each other’s arms, as well as God’s. Worship gives our relationships with material things a make-over. Maybe an extreme make-over. 3 stories, quick and true. An Easter Sunday in the 80’s. Two families in church, one behind the other. In front, victims of a house fire. A total loss, a baby fireman-carried from a flaming crib. Praise God! Behind, one of the volunteers… who hadn’t spoken to the first for 20 years! Communion: passed in the pew (Yes, I know it’s not your favorite way. Theirs either.) In worship, on Easter, the 1st family needs to turn and pass/serve the 2nd. Maybe it was the prayers. Or the Easter verses. Slim chance: the message. Who knows? But when they faced each other with Christ’s body in their grasp, his blood in (or on) their hands, something happened. They fell on each others’ necks. Tears flowed in many pews. Hearts turned. Relationships healed. Family #2 secured a rental home for #1. Amazing grace! Worship, and we walk with God anew! Ours eyes and arms open too. …“There’s been an accident! Come!” Our “things to do list” goes away. The argument you had this morning and expected to re-start and win tonight: forgotten. Only one appointment now: to get to the scene and the ambo on time. The ride to the hospital, hand in sweaty hand. And just one prayer. “Let it be OK, Lord, please, please, p l e a s e. The crew joins. (Church on wheels. Praise in progress.) Hallelujah! Healing comes. Prayer and praise, the heart & soul, the bedrock & foundation. Others-and-I are changed. …Rich Eugene Lang, has some church in a poor NY school. His talk to 61 elem. kids moves him, at the sight of their obstacles. On the spur (or the Spirit’s spurring) he offers free college to every one that graduates HS! (He never counts the cost. A 1st for him) 51of 61 graduate! 25 take him up on college. Wow! Eugene learns that things, like faith itself, are never truly ours until we give them away. Especially in the name of Jesus. A better life? Build a better spiritual house. Start with your heart: worship and praise!

Oh, my. Nothing and no place clarifies like worship, or lets in light like praise! If you’re in a fog or in the dark (or carry shadows all around), or know someone who is, t h i s is your place. I know we don’t always get it, but still, I ask heaven to make our moments- together a time when things come clear. See, you can build on that. Sometimes we get messed up. We just need a place to get clear. MAY IT BE HERE! Singin’, prayin’, hearin’; sayin’, touchin’, feelin’. Sometimes we need somebody better and wiser to come along side and set us right. Jesus does just this. “Hear my words,” he says, “and do them, and you’re like wise souls who build their house on rock.” Moses has his Sinai, Christ his Sermon on the Mount. They both bring the same laser light. How we stand with God. Each other. Our possessions. These are life’s 3 keys!

Moses: no other gods, no other images, one holy name.

Jesus: love God with all your heart, mind soul and strength.

Moses: honor your parents, honor each life, honor your boundaries.

Jesus: manage your anger, ditch it; fix what’s broken between you before mending your thread to heaven; get your eyes right to keep your hands to yourself; treasure your partner (but don’t be treated an object); mean what you say, say what you mean and live by it; pray and practice forgiveness; love your enemy.

Moses: Don’t take… another’s propery, good name or loves, or want to.

Jesus: don’t treasure stuff, but heaven; God is God, don’t let your stuff be his rival; don’t sweat your stuff, God’s got your needs covered. Worry won’t feed you, God always will.

Master these 129 words and you can manage your life and live like heaven’s right here on earth. Hallelujah! Worship and praise bring moments of clarity like none other. The old song’s right! Here, we, “Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away.”

Want a better life? Build a better spiritual house. Build on the bedrock of worship and a foundation of praise. On these two, everything else in our hearts and lives is built. How often we hope, you and I, for God to bless what we are doing and living. But worship and praise reveal what God is blessing and invite us to make this what we are doing and living. Everything gets turned upside down. Our natural inclination is to pray that blessings will flow. Top down, heaven to earth. (Just listen to our prayers, if you doubt it. Please trumps thank you almost always.) God’s prayer is that praise and glory will rise, bottom up, from our alignment with God’s arrangements: justice, kindness, righteousness in the earth.

Jesus describes the spiritual house God is framing, building, blessing. Here are the blessingstones: (From The Message, ed.)

Blessed those at the end of their rope.

When there’s less of you, there’s more of God in and for you.

Blessed those who’ve lost what’s dearest;

they embrace God nearest.

Blessed those content within. Now you own what you can’t buy.

Blessed those with an appetite for God. He alone satisfies in full.

Blessed those whose inside heart/mind are right.

They see God all over all around.

Blessed those who build and no longer compete for attention.

They show their place in God’s world.

Blessed those who provoke others for God’s sake.

They take themselves and others deeper into union with God.

Where else do we gather these building blocks than worship/praise?

First and foremost, it’s when we’re together as-Christ’s-own that we lift our arms, our hearts, our lips to seek, honor & glory in him. To be church, we gotta do church, gathered in church. Let’s not be casual or confused about that. Of course, our devotions: our prayers, our Bible-reading and reflection prepare the ground for us to build this spiritual house. They are essential. They help us, as Methodists have taught for generations, to stay in love with God! Worship and praise! How important a foundation? Just ask the Devil himself. He tells Jesus, “I’d give the world for worship!” What will we give? And to whom will we give it? Wanna better life? Build a better spiritual house! Offer yourself to God in Christ by worship and praise. It’s where the heart starts. It’s the bedrock, the foundation. Start here, and like Jesus, you can even chase the Devil away!

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