April 15th, 2024

By the Way: Cross your heart?

By Rev. Nancy Cocks on March 2, 2024.

Did you ever say “Cross my heart!” when you were a kid? Maybe make a little X on your chest? Crossing my heart was my first “liturgical” gesture, long before I was ordained. It was a sign I was telling the truth. Or that I would keep a childhood promise.

The “heart” stood for commitment to truth-telling and schoolyard integrity – not unlike how the Bible speaks of the heart. The heart is God’s target for gifts of love and mercy, inviting beloved humans to return love and faithfulness to God.

Perhaps crossing your heart was an ancient symbol that a word was trustworthy, spoken by an honourable life.

Yet listening to the news these days, I wonder what fills many human hearts. There is so much anger, so little trust; so much harassment, even hatred acted out against those who don’t measure up to some hidden but heartfelt code.

An author I read recently wonders if angry, anxious hearts are actually empty hearts, echo chambers for the opinions of others. He argues too many hearts now lack the assurance of God’s love and mercy which can open our hearts towards each other, including those who seem very different.

What would you say fills your heart these days, if “heart” symbolizes what matters most to you? When our hearts are angry or anxious, our past is telling us what “should be.”

Such feelings are often triggered by what we’re missing, by what’s changing. But that little childhood gesture, crossing your heart, looks to the future. It declares we will keep our promises. It commits to trustworthy action to build a trustworthy future.

When God’s love and mercy fill our hearts, we stand open to a future where God works together with us for goodness to thrive. Psalm 51 prays: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” We could surely use a new and right spirit these days, O God!

Rev. Dr. Nancy Cocks is a retired Presbyterian minister

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