Nowadays we are often confronted with a heart picture icon proclaiming someone’s love for everything from pets to people and commercial products as printed on bumper stickers, T-shirts, mugs and such. Rather than using this mostly secular focus, people of faith tend to understand the heart as a source of spiritual wisdom such as spoken of in the Hebrew Scriptures book of Proverbs chapter 2, selected verses, as translated by our Orthodox neighbors, the Monks of New Skete, who say "If you take my words to heart, turning your ear to wisdom, tuning your mind to understanding, then you will come to know God, for the Lord himself is giver of wisdom. Then you will understand what virtue is, justice and fair dealing: all paths that lead to happiness."
Those of us who practice Yoga are probably familiar with the body’s energy circulation system known as the chakras, based on wisdom of ancient Eastern religions. Of the seven major chakras which align from the base of the spine up to the crown of the head, the heart chakra holds position number four. This chakra is the gateway between the humanity oriented lower chakras and the alignment with the divine associated with the upper chakras; its main concern is with love and ability to relate to others as well as ability to love and respect ourselves and to be creative as well as wise. How is it, then, that you understand the meaning of the heart in your faith life? Or to put it in other words -- what is it that you know by heart?
Since moving to Bennington in 1977 and joining with the faith community as a member of Second Congregational Church, I have come to know by heart the words of a commission statement spoken by the congregation in unison at the close of each Sunday’s worship service. Often during the week before our next Sunday meeting I am compelled to remember various phrases from this commission as I encounter people and events of my life -- it helps to keep me true to what I know by heart. So here are the words which originate in the tradition of the Anglican Church:
"Go forth into the world in peace. Be of good courage. Hold fast to that which is good. Render to no one evil for evil. Strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak; help the afflicted; honor all people; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit."
Benediction by the pastor and passing of the peace among us then follows as we go out to keep within us peaceful and courageous hearts blessed every moment by the Holy One. So may all in our community share in the blessing.
Jane Norrie is a lay leader in healing ministry and a representative to Bennington Interfaith Council from Second Congregational Church, UCC.