Last Sunday, Pastor Douthwaite riffed on the hearts of Valentine’s Day and on the sins of the “heart” that the readings from Deuteronomy 30 and Matthew 5 were exposing. Then he explored David’s prayer in Psalm 51 that God “create” in him a clean heart, tying in to the way God creates: ex nihilo (out of nothing)
From Rev. James Douthwaite, St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Epiphany 6 Sermon:
Moses is warning the people about their hearts turning away from God, and Jesus is teaching that sin is, in truth, not just what you do or not do, but heart disease. For He reveals that beneath all these sins are problems of the heart – anger, hatred, pride, and lust. Problems that even if you gouged out your eyes and cut off your hands, would remain. To be rid of these sins, you’d have to cut out your heart, which is to die.
So what we need, then, are new hearts, clean hearts. Which is also what we will sing after the sermon again this morning: Create in me a clean heart, O God. Those are words that David spoke after he did all those things that Jesus talked about today – after he lusted after his neighbor’s wife, Bathsheba; after he commited adultery with her; after he murdered his neighbor to cover it up; and after he lied about it by taking his cohort to be his wife and pretending that everything was on the up and up. In fact, even more than that – pretending that he was the good guy, taking care of this poor little lamb after her husband had been killed in such an awful way. David had heart disease.
And so God sent Nathan the prophet to speak His Word to David, to reveal the sin in his heart, which caused David then to pray: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:10). David needed forgiveness yes, but also a new heart. For only from a new, clean heart, could come right love.
And so David prayed: Create in me a clean heart, O God. That word create is an important one, for whenever God creates, he always does so – to put it in fancy, theological language: ex nihilo. From nothing. In the beginning, when God created all things, He did so ex nihilo: from nothing. He used no existing matter, but only His Word. He is the sole source of all things.
And so it is with the good that He gives to and works in us. To create a clean heart in us is not to use anything in us, to simply reform or improve our hearts, but to create new and clean hearts in us ex nihilo – from nothing already existing within us. By His Word of forgiveness alone He creates in us what was not there before, taking hearts that are by nature sinful and unclean, and creating in us new and clean hearts.