A Heartless Crime
by Tom Goodman
August 1, 2012
An Irish church had its heart stolen. Let's make sure it doesn't happen to us.
For 900 years Christ Church Cathedral has housed the heart of Dublin's patron saint, Lorcan Ua Tuathail, better known today as Laurence O'Toole. Yes, his literal heart was contained in a wooden box bolted to the wall. But in March this year the iron bars surrounding the wooden box were wrenched open and the relic was snatched. Nothing else in the
building was taken, and police still don't have a suspect.
Cathedral staff said they were "devastated" at the loss of their heart. As I said, let's make sure it doesn't happen to us.
We can lose our church's heart, you know. It happened to the ancient Ephesian church. The book of Revelation opens with the risen Christ issuing messages for seven churches. To the Ephesian church Christ gave this warning: "You have abandoned the
love you had at first." (Revelation 2:4, HCSB)
Oh, they were dutiful enough. Jesus began his message to the Ephesians with praise, acknowledging "your works, your labor, and your endurance." What's more, he congratulated them for guarding Christian truth.
But apparently we can be dutiful and doctrinal -- and dry. When it comes to our actions, we can proceed through the Christian disciplines of prayer and Bible study and tithing as if on autopilot. When it comes to our beliefs, we can protect our
Christian convictions more out of unreflective habit than faithfulness.
In other words, we can lose our heart. "I have this against you," Jesus warned the Ephesian believers. "You have abandoned the love you had at first."
If you asked our congregation what ought to be our church's top priority, some would say, "missions," while others would say, "biblical study." Some would suggest "outreach" or "caring fellowship."
I think Jesus would praise us for these passions, and yet none of these things qualify as the "heart" of our church.
The heart of our church is our love for Jesus. We succeed or fail by the degree of our gratitude for his sacrifice, our obedience to his commands, our prayers for his power, our worship of his worth, and our anticipation of his return.
All of our church's many activities issue from that love, but must never substitute for that love. Ask God to keep you, or return you, to your first love!
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