We’re used to completing the other half of those words of Jesus: “and the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
I’d like us to think about the first part of what is the Hebrew “shamah”—you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
What our Biblical author was and is talking about here is a tradition of wholeness—actually more than a tradition: it’s an ideal of wholeness that goes to the very heart of our identity as Christians.
The concept of wholeness—another word might be totality—is the wholeness of all experience and the relatedness of all knowledge, which in its proper perspective could be called wisdom. And wisdom was the business of philosophers and theologians from the very earliest times. Philosophers and theologians were anxious to understand how the heart and the mind played their part in who we are as whole people.
But that is not how we look at the heart and the mind today. Today there is a sense in which the head and the heart are mutually exclusive—and we are asked by people in many helping professions, to choose between the head and the heart and to pledge one’s allegiance to that choice. This struggle takes place in life and it takes place in the church. For example: someone here is supposed to have the brains and someone else is supposed to have the heart. Someone is supposed to be concerned about money and administration and organization; someone else is supposed to figure out how to serve the poor and the outcast and those in need. But these two functions aren’t supposed to have anything to do with each other.
There exists in our time the dangerous and destructive notion that the heart and the mind are enemies, and they are competitive. They deserve equal time so that a decision can be made to be a “head” person or a “heart” person.
The gospel lesson suggests that God is not satisfied with less than the whole being—a whole person—the sum total of God’s creation. The summary of the law makes that clear—you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind and with all your strength. In the 12th chapter of Romans, Paul reinforces this commitment to wholeness when he says, “I implore you, by God’s mercy, to offer your very selves to him; a living sacrifice, dedicated and fit for his acceptance, the worship offered by mind and by heart.”
These gifts of God—the mind and the heart—mean the capacity to feel and to understand—and both are required if we are to come to know God, love God and serve God. Both the mind and the heart each take their part in the development of faith.
But to say this means that we have to look at the hard questions of life: How do I relate what I know to what I feel? How can I make sense of my feelings and what’s the proper relationship between the two?
What kind of hearts and minds are worthy of God?
Years ago a friend of mine gave a sermon at the ordination of another mutual friend. And in the charge given to the woman being ordained, my friend reminded this woman that she would only be able to minister in her parish if she loved the people with her mind and thought about them with her heart. During that whole service that was the thought that stayed with me: it impressed me because it defined so well what I feel is my relationship to you and to this parish community, and what I feel is our duty to faith and our duty to the larger community—to love with the mind and to think with the heart—thinking hearts and loving minds
There is a place in the mind for passion and there is room in the heart for perseverance.
Let me say a quick word about passion in the mind. Somehow most of us who are Episcopalians assume that it is not cool to be hot—particularly when it comes to an expression of faith. There is an elegant inscription on the tomb of the Countess of Huntington which reads as follows:
She was a God, righteous and sober Lady, bounteous in good works and Christian affections, a firm believer in the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and devoid of the taint of enthusiasm.But we need to be a people of enthusiasm, of passion. Passion has to do with love—not just feelings, but real, deep, penetrating love. And love, as we all know, is full of risks and dangers and disappointments.
Robert Frost described himself as having a quarrel with the world. He cared enough for whom and where he was that he never rested from his labors until his labors were ended. His tools were the pen, his resource was his mind, and his agenda was his heart.
To be passionate we have to care because a thinking heart accepts nothing less.
But passion can grow tired. Thinking hearts—absolutely. But loving minds as well.
There is room in the mind for passion but there must be room in the heart for perseverance. Perseverance isn’t sudden—it doesn’t come alive with action or fast accomplishments. And yet, without the heart there can be a whole lot of only sentiment. If we think with our hearts, we have the capacity to persevere—to endure—because our hearts have the capacity to set incredible goals, goals that can go beyond our minds.
Now, what is my point? Where is the gospel and the good news in all of this business about the heart and the mind.
Just this: the minds that we have, and the hearts that live within us, are gifts of God—we didn’t create them nor can we get along without them. It was Jesus in whom the thinking heart and the loving mind are found in their most profound human form—Jesus whose heart made him weep at the lost of his friends and at the human indifference he saw all about him. And it was Jesus whose passion—his love for the cares and wounds of the world, took him to the cross.
Jesus, whose mind disputed with the authorities of the temple and who, at the same time, loved them in the face of their hostility, indifference, and ridicule. It was Jesus who saw that real living was not “mere living”.
God calls us to holiness—to wholeness. We are called to the biggest and largest possible view and understanding of life from which nothing and no one is excluded. He calls the church and the world to a visionary reunion of the heart and mind—that if we accept that invitation—only God alone could imagine the kind of world in which we would live.
What we have heard with our ears and said with our lips, may we take into our hearts and show forth with our lives.
“Thou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all you mind.