Sermon- Heart of Stone, Heart of Flesh (Ezekiel 36)

Sermon Series Parables 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: Parables
Message 3 of 4: Heart of Stone, Heart of Flesh
Scripture: Ezekiel 36:22-27
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 8/11/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Reading Ezekiel 36:22-27

Story of My Uncle David Playing This Game:
Person One hides a small object in the palm of their head. They hold their fist over the head of another person and say, “Heavy, heavy hangs over thy head. Animal, vegetable, or mineral?”

The 2nd person makes a guess, one of the three. If they guess right they then try to guess what’s in the person’s hand. If they guess right, they win what’s in the person’s hand.

Stones are:

  • Cold
  • Heavy
  • Old
  • Hard, impermeable, solid
  • Inanimate, sense-less, dead

Stones can be useful. They are useful for building things- a house, a fortress, a wall.

One of the things stones are not useful for is a home for God, a place for the Spirit of God to dwell.

Acts 17:24
The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands.

Sometimes people think God lives in buildings. The ancient Israelites thought God lived in the Temple in Jerusalem. In Ezekiel’s time, the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, so where’s the presence of God now?

God reminds the people through Ezekiel that God doesn’t live in stone or things made of stone. God lives in flesh.

Think of Jesus. The Word of God was made flesh, not stone.

Ezekiel 36:26-27
26 A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you, and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.

What Hardens our Heart? So many things can harden our hearts. One thing can make is soft again. The Holy Spirit of God. The Spirit is available to every single one of us. Every person you will ever meet, ever see.

The Spirit is available to turn a heart of stone into a heart of flesh. So we can be like Ebeneezer Scrooge. We can be like the Grinch. And it doesn’t just happen at Christmas.

Our heart is the center of our being, the birthplace of our motivation. Whatever we place our primary trust in, that is sitting on the throne of our heart. If it isn’t God, its an idol.

What hardens our heart?

  • Revenge, Resentment, Rebellion
  • Control, Perfectionism, Selfishness (Consider Pharaoh in Exodus)
  • Guilt, Shame
  • Loneliness, Betrayal, Disappointment
  • Evil, Trauma

Sometimes we make choices which harden our heart. Sometimes we are not healed of the wounds inflicted upon us and our hearts harden. Sometimes our hearts are hardened by the brokenness of our world.

“Lord have mercy if I hear of another hate crime. I’m not going to stay awake, alive, and open to it. I’m going to hunker down, protect myself, harden my heart to protect myself from all that’s going on. It’s too painful and too much.”

The hardening of our heart due to the hamster wheel of trauma in our world is what most concerns me. Anxiety is rising and people are acting out.

How can we remain soft-hearted in the midst of all of this? It’s about the Holy Spirit of God. We can’t do it in our own strength.

Prayer
Soften our hearts when evil abounds
They run to lonesome places, screaming an alarm
Soften our hearts so we can find you above the fear

Soften our hearts when evil abounds
They race to revenge, pounding with anger
Soften our hearts so we can hear you above the hammering

Soften our hearts when evil abounds
They rush to human strength, grasping for control
Soften our hearts so we can hold to your way, your truth, and your life

Soften our hearts so they may beat in unison with yours
So healing may flow into all brokenness
So hope may fill all devastation
So compassion and peace and unity may rise up among all people
We entrust our hearts to you

heart stone flesh full of eyes

By Chris Powers, fullofeyes.com 

Ezekiel 36:25
I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.

  • God offers us cleansing and forgiveness for the sin which hardens our hearts- Revenge, Resentment, Rebellion, Control, Perfectionism, Selfishness, Guilt, Shame
  • How was the Grand Canyon built? By water. The washing is stronger than stone.

Ezekiel 36:24
I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land.

  • God offers us a home and gathers us into a trustworthy people to be our family so our hearts are not hardened by Loneliness, Betrayal, Disappointment

For Evil and Trauma, God takes the heart of stone that we want to fight back with and gives us a heart of flesh. We bring healing to the world the way God brings healing to the world, not by throwing stones.

Ezekiel 36:23
… through you, I display my holiness before their eyes

A heart of stone is cold, but flesh is warm
A heart of stone is heavy, but flesh is light
A heart of stone is hard, but flesh is tender
A heart of stone is impermeable, but flesh is vulnerable
A heart of stone is sense-less, but flesh is sensitive
A heart of stone is dead, but flesh is alive

This is about coming alive and staying alive in the power of the Holy Spirit. So we can share the holiness, goodness, and grace of God with the world.

What is trying to harden your heart? Confess it to God.
God, I trust you to give me a heart of flesh.
Fill me with your Spirit. Give me a heart of flesh.

Prayer: Psalm 51:10-12
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.

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Heart of Stone, Heart of Flesh © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Soft and Steadfast, a prayer based on Hebrews 3:7-14

soft-heart-cruel-world-2

Hebrews 3:7-14, The Voice

Merciful One, soften my heart

Save me from hardheartedness
From evil and deceit
From mutiny and unbelief

Turn and return me
From wandering away
From petrifying slowly

Make my heart pure
Open to you
Wanting what you want

Make my heart true
Confident in you
Holding fast

Make my heart noble
Quick to listen
Rejoicing in your direction

Jesus
Heart of my heart
Keep me soft and steadfast in your nail scarred hands

Extended quote by John R. Wimmer, Blessed Endurance
The words joy rejoice as they appear in James and First Peter do not mean what they seem at first glance. The rejoicing we find here is not a shallow, syrupy, or optimistic refusal to admit that problems exist; instead, it is the realistic recognition of struggle bolstered by the decision to rejoice in knowing that God is working to bring us through strife to greater spiritual depth. Yes, it may be tough if not impossible to rejoice when suffering, but such joy will not take the form of emotional jubilance or elation.

James proclaims that suffering may be considered as joy when the encounter produces the spiritual virtue of steadfastness. And steadfastness, when allowed to flower into fullness, produces the most attractive bloom of all qualities: Christian maturity.

Authentic Christian maturity, then, is a steadfastness that we attain not by denial. It is a quality that, like any other kind of maturity, accrues with age, hard work, and a lot of bruising experience. It is the ability to redirect our thoughts beyond immediate woes in order to realize the spiritual growth that results from tests of faith.

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Prayer: Soft and Steadfast © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer- Jesus, Grant Me Your Heart

Sacred Heart 3Jesus, Lord of All
Grant me a compassionate heart
Teach me judgment without being judgmental
Boundaries without guarding too much
Love without agendas

Jesus, Lord of All
Grant me a courageous heart
Teach me truth without using it as a weapon
Engagement without enabling
Confronting without a win/lose mindset

Jesus, Lord of All
Grant me a heart of hope
Teach me peace without apathy
Rest without laziness
Patience without despair

Jesus, Lord of All
Grant me your heart

An extended quote from Living Compassion: Loving Like Jesus by Andrew Dreitcer
True compassion is grounded in spontaneous feeling, informed by understanding, and expressed in action, as our look at biblical understandings of compassion showed. But these core elements must be infused with wisdom: thoughtful analysis, careful deliberation, and spiritual discernment informed by intuition, data, and prayerful attention to divine invitation.

Without wisdom, reaction to compassionate feelings can lead to actions that may not actually be compassionate – that is, they may not be in the best interest of the persons they are meant to help. Without wisdom, understanding can merely skim the surface and focus on problem-solving activities rather than truly meeting persons’ needs. Unwise action, no matter how caring the intention, may be misguided, inappropriate, or even harmful.

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Jesus, Grant me Your Heart © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer- Trust in Him

afraid-trust-psalm-56-3

Trust in Him and do not fear
The peace of Christ will guard your heart. Alleluia!

Trust in Him and do not worry
The promises of Christ will prove true. Alleluia!

Trust in Him and do not wander
The resurrection of Christ will open the way. Alleluia!

Trust in Him and do not give up
The power of Christ will raise a glorious harvest. Alleluia!

Trust in Him and do not despair
The grace of Christ will heal you and keep you, now and forever. Alleluia!

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This prayer would also work well as an affirmation of faith or call to worship.

Prayer – Trust in Him © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Soft and Steadfast, a prayer based on Hebrews 3:7-14

soft-heart-cruel-world-2

Hebrews 3:7-14, The Voice

Merciful One, soften my heart

Save me from hardheartedness
From evil and deceit
From mutiny and unbelief

Turn and return me
From wandering away
From petrifying slowly

Make my heart pure
Open to you
Wanting what you want

Make my heart true
Confident in you
Holding fast

Make my heart noble
Quick to listen
Rejoicing in your direction

Jesus
Heart of my heart
Keep me soft and steadfast in your nail scarred hands

Extended quote by John R. Wimmer, Blessed Endurance
The words joy rejoice as they appear in James and First Peter do not mean what they seem at first glance. The rejoicing we find here is not a shallow, syrupy, or optimistic refusal to admit that problems exist; instead, it is the realistic recognition of struggle bolstered by the decision to rejoice in knowing that God is working to bring us through strife to greater spiritual depth. Yes, it may be tough if not impossible to rejoice when suffering, but such joy will not take the form of emotional jubilance or elation.

James proclaims that suffering may be considered as joy when the encounter produces the spiritual virtue of steadfastness. And steadfastness, when allowed to flower into fullness, produces the most attractive bloom of all qualities: Christian maturity.

Authentic Christian maturity, then, is a steadfastness that we attain not by denial. It is a quality that, like any other kind of maturity, accrues with age, hard work, and a lot of bruising experience. It is the ability to redirect our thoughts beyond immediate woes in order to realize the spiritual growth that results from tests of faith.

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Prayer: Soft and Steadfast © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Worship Resource: Lord of My Heart

eye heartWorship Resource: Lord of My Heart
ALL SINGING: Be Thou My Vision
United Methodist Hymnal #451, verses 1 and 2

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
naught be all else to me, save that Thou art;
Thou my best thought by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true word,
I ever with Thee and Thou with me Lord;
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart
Great God of Heaven my treasure Thou art

Instrumental music continues during the prayers.

ONE or ALL: Adapted from a traditional Celtic prayer
Lord of my heart, give vision to inspire me,
that working or resting, I may always think of you.
Lord of my heart, give light to guide me,
that, at home or abroad, I may always walk in your way.
Lord of my heart, give wisdom to direct me,
that thinking or acting, I may always discern right from wrong.

ALL:
Heart of my own heart, whatever may befall me,
Rule my thoughts and feelings, my words and actions.

ONE or ALL: Adapted from a traditional Celtic prayer
Lord of my heart, save me from worldly wealth,
that I may always look to the riches of heaven.
Lord of my heart, save me from military prowess,
that I may always seek your protection.
Lord of my heart, save me from unnatural pleasures,
that I may always find you in your wonderful creation.

ALL:
Heart of my own heart, whatever may befall me,
Rule my thoughts and feelings, my words and action.

ONE or ALL: Adapted from a traditional Celtic prayer
Lord of my heart, give courage to strengthen me,
that amongst friends or enemies, I may always proclaim your justice.
Lord of my heart, give trust to console me,
that, hungry or well-fed, I may always rely on your mercy.
Lord of my heart, save me from empty praise,
that I may always boast of you.

ALL: Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name,
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, the power,
and the glory forever. Amen

ALL SINGING: Be Thou My Vision
United Methodist Hymnal #451, verse 3

Great God of heaven, my victory won
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s Son
Heart of my own heart, whatever be fall,
Still be my vision, O Ruler of All

Option: Begin the worship sequence with the following Confession and Pardon
ALL: Confession and Pardon
United Methodist Hymnal, page 8

Merciful God,
We confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have failed to be an obedient church.
We have not done your will,
We have broken your law,
We have rebelled against your love,
We have not loved our neighbors,
and we have not heard the cry of the needy.
Forgive us, we pray.
Free us for joyful obedience,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Time of silent confession

ONE:
Hear the good news:
Christ died for us while we were yet sinners;
that proves God’s love toward us.
In the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.
Glory to God! Amen.

Click Here for a wonderful prayer by Steve Garnaas Holmes entitled The Heart of Christ
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Lord of My Heart compilation © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the music, scripture translation, art and the use of this resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Advent Photo-A-Day: Day 11, Steadfast

Steadfast by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia.

Steadfast by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia.

The thought behind the photo:
We can grow to be steadfast, because God is steadfast.

Give me, O Lord
A steadfast heart
Which no unworthy thought can drag downwards;
An unconquered heart
Which no tribulation can wear out;
An upright heart
Which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside.
Bestow upon me also,
O Lord my God,
Understanding to know Thee,
Diligence to seek Thee,
Wisdom to find Thee, and
A faithfulness that may finally embrace Thee;
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
– Thomas Aquinas

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 108:1-5 NRSV
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make melody. Awake, my soul! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn. I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples, and I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is higher than the heavens, and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth.

The December 11, 2013 devotion from http://umrethinkchurch.tumblr.com 
SCRIPTURE: Romans 15:5-7 NRSV
May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

We can each list a number of things that wear us down. Tired of living from paycheck to paycheck. Tired of institutional inequality and inequity. Tired of not fully being recognized for who we are or what gifts we bring. Tired of fighting the good fight. Tired of being tired.

But did you notice that these verses don’t talk about our steadfastness, but God’s. If God has welcomed all of us, are we not to be imitators of God by extending welcome to others?

If God has done this for us, might we remain steadfast in our welcome of one another until there is no more insider and outsider?

As you reflect on what it is that God calls you to remain steadfast, may this hymn remind us to make our homes and places where we gather, places where all are welcome.

All Are Welcome*
Verse 1
Let us build a house where love can dwell
And all can safely live,
A place where saints and children tell
How hearts learn to forgive.

Chorus
All are welcome, all are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.

Verse 2
Built of hopes and dreams and visions,
Rock of faith and vault of grace;
Here the love of Christ shall end divisions;

Verse 3
Let us build a house where prophets speak,
And words are strong and true,
Where all God’s children dare to seek
To dream God’s reign anew.

Verse 4
Here the cross shall stand as witness
And a symbol of God’s grace;
Here as one we claim the faith of Jesus:

Verse 5
Let us build a house where love is found
In water, wine and wheat:
A banquet hall on holy ground,
Where peace and justice meet.

Verse 6
Here the love of God, through Jesus,
Is revealed in time and space;
As we share in Christ the feast that frees us:

*Marty Haugen | Copyright: 1994 GIA Publications

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Thank you Rethink Church for a great way to make preparing for Christmas more meaningful. Join me and thousands more in setting aside time to reflect, focus, and literally picture the deep themes of Jesus’ birth.

Click here for more information on Advent Photo-A-Day from Rethink Church.

Click here for a master list of links to my submissions. Lisa <><