A Soft and Tender Heart

In our listening through the good news of Mark, we listen to the words of Jesus, both the ones easy to hear and the ones we may be tempted to pass by quickly. This text reveals the nature of our hearts.

As I leaned in to listen to Jesus' heart, I heard the following:

Come and hear.
All of you, listen.
Your willingness to come to me,
your willingness to hear me,
your willingness to listen, that is to act on what you hear,
these are the signs of a soft and tender heart.
Let me continue to heal your heart, so that you do not need to act out of a defended heart which hurts yourself and others.
Keep coming to me, hearing and listening to me above the noise of the crowd.
I will transform your heart. You cannot transform your heart, solely of your own will. I am the one who gives you the desire, will and power to obey what you have heard.
Keep coming to me.
Apologize and make amends when you act out of your hard heart.
Return to me. I will make your heart soft.
I love you.
You cannot do this transformation apart from me.
Keep coming.
Keep hearing.
Keep listening

Stop trying to fix the outside and allow me to transform the inside.

Listen in for the voice of Jesus for yourself today. What is he saying to you?

Mark 7: 1-23 (NLT)
One day some Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. 2 They noticed that some of his disciples failed to follow the Jewish ritual of hand washing before eating. 3 (The Jews, especially the Pharisees, do not eat until they have poured water over their cupped hands, as required by their ancient traditions. 4 Similarly, they don’t eat anything from the market until they immerse their hands in water. This is but one of many traditions they have clung to—such as their ceremonial washing of cups, pitchers, and kettles.)
5 So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked him, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.”
6 Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,
‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
7 Their worship is a farce,
    for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’
8 For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.”
9 Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. 10 For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 12 In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. 13 And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”
14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.”
17 Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. 18 “Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? 19 Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.)
20 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

For Reflection and Prayer:

As you listened to or read the text, was there a word, phrase or image which stayed with you?  Be still with them for a while. Ask Jesus about them. Is there more that Jesus says to you?

Reflect on your spiritual traditions, practices and rhythms. Which ones increase greater love and compassion within you towards God, yourself and others?
Make note of the ones that are most life-giving for you.

Are there traditions, practices and rhythms which drain life out of you? What fruit do you notice from them? Bring these into a prayer dialogue with Jesus. Is he inviting you to let go of any particular tradition or practice?

Invite Jesus to look with you into your heart. What do the two of you see? Spend some time surrendering/releasing what you are unable to fix to Jesus. Then turn your attention to where you notice softening, new growth and life. Welcome it. Nurture it. Return to it. God is at work!