Sundays:  Pastor's Class 9:00 AM (Ephesians)
               Divine Liturgy 10:30 AM

Wednesdays: Pastor's Class 10:00 AM (Psalm 119 deep dive)
                    Divine Liturgy 7:00 PM



May Your Hearts Live Forever

February 24, 2024 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

MY GODChrist Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
February 25, 2024
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Lent 2
May Your Hearts Live Forever

May your hearts live forever! Psalm 22:26

When Jesus was dying, scripture records “seven last words” that he spoke from the cross. We will hear them again a few weeks from now, on Good Friday! Music to our ears one and all! Bitter suffering and death for Jesus, but peace and calm, for all who “take up their cross” and follow him!

But for the moment let us focus on just one of those words, which is the opening verse of today’s Psalm: “My God My God why have you forsaken me?” (Ps 22:1)

These words help us to realize the result of our sins – as we heard in last week’s epistle “sin, when it is fully grown, produces death,” and here we see Jesus dying that death for us! (James 1:15) But let us also hear his words from today’s gospel: “Whoever, then, will be ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; the Son who is Man will likewise be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." (Mark 8:38)

Those words, “My God My God why have you abandoned me” come from verse 1 of today’s Psalm; but whenever Jesus quotes a Psalm we can safely assume that he prayed the entire Psalm and not just one verse. And so let us also hear another verse of our Psalm, v.6 to be precise: “May your hearts live forever!”

This too is part of the Lord’s Prayer from the cross as he was expiating the sins of the world – as with eagle eye he saw the blessed result of his passion – namely that our hearts should be made alive forever. And though we sometimes take our eye off the ball, the reason we follow Jesus through thick and thin, is precisely this: that our hearts might live forever!

Now as you may know there are two great expressions of the Holy Christian Religion in the world: the Eastern Church, and the Western Church. The Eastern church is comprised of Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christians, the Western church of Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and a few mainline Protestant church bodies as well.

In the Western church we talk a great deal about sin in terms of crime and punishment: “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.” It is a concept we know well – that the wages of sin is death; but also that “Whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

But there is another way that we can talk about sin. Not in terms of crime and punishment now, but in terms of the life and death of the heart. “May your hearts live forever!”

When we are baptized we enter into divine life. When we confess Christ in holy liturgy, and takes up our cross day by day to follow him, we are enrolled by the Holy Spirit into the very life that God himself lives!

We don’t mean by this that man is God, or becomes God, we must never say that. But we read in 2 Peter 1:4 that by the sacraments we enter into communion with the “Divine Nature.” Or as Saint Paul would have it we “gain access into this grace in which we now stand.” (Rom. 5:4)

With now purified hearts; alive with the love of God, we enter into the Pure Love and Perfect Unity that exists between the Father Son and Holy Spirit; and in so doing we can stoutly sing with hymnist Horatio Spafford, “All Is Well With My Soul.” “All is well with my soul.” “May your hearts live forever!”

But more than that we cannot say. Cannot say because the language has not yet been given us to speak it, or minds to understand it! Even Saint Paul, when he was taken up the “third heaven,” (that is the 3rd of 7 levels) he returned speechless. All he could say was that he saw things, and heard things there that is no man is permitted to tell. May your hearts live forever!

And so while Western Christianity frames sin in forensic terms; the Eastern church plays the same song, but in a different key. She speaks in terms of spiritual life and spiritual death. “May your hearts live forever!”

But let us be clear that in bible-speak HEART does not mean the emotions, but the heart that Jesus prays for from the cross – that it should live forever – is the New Man that we become, by his cross, and our sacramental union with it.

When Adam and Woman “committed adultery,” as it were, against their God … when they left their “First Love” (Rev. 2:4) … they suffered a spiritual heart attack! Their hearts stopped beating for God so that now God was dead to them, and they to God. Now they were “offline” and could not get back on. Now their hearts were cut off from the source of life; from divine blood flow; and they had to fend for themselves, and find what hope they could in a world suddenly turned against them!

But as every Christian knows that was not the end of the story! but only the beginning! The beginning of the Greatest Story Ever Told, because our Lord is good, and his mercy endureth forever.” (Ps. 118:1)

Rather than hold our first parents accountable for their sins, and bring them to an evil end, God restored them! He rescued sin-FULL man, by sin-LESS Man – the “Only Son From Heaven” who prays on the cross “May your hearts live forever!” A prayer the Father answered by giving us New Hearts, now with his Law deeply etched and inscribed upon them, as we learn from the Prophet Jeremiah! (Jer 31:33ff)

Moreover today’s Psalm fits perfectly with today’s gospel and epistle. In the epistle we hear these glorious words, “For while we were still weak, at the appointed time, Christ died for the ungodly.” And again, “God demonstrates his very own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”

And so Jesus says, “if any man would come after me let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me,” even if such “taking up” involves rigorous denial of fleshly lusts; hourly battle with sin and Satan; suffering for Jesus’ name; laying down our lives for gospel’s sake; and patiently watching with hopeful eyes as “our outer self wastes away,” knowing at the same time that our “inner self is being renewed day by day!” (2 Cor 4:16)

May your hearts live forever.
May your hearts live forever!
May your hearts live forever!