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Heart Your Mind
July 21, 1991

MARK 6:30-44

"He must be kidding." "It's impossible; can't be done." "It's never been done before." "We've never done it that way." "There's no way 5,000 men, plus women and children, can be fed with five loaves and two fish!" Such were the kind of comments the disciples made when Jesus told them to feed the multitude.

Some of the crowd preceded and some followed Jesus and the disciples to the deserted place. Jesus spoke to them, taught them. When it grew late, and the disciples were especially conscious of their hunger, they offered a suggestion--a reasonable, sensible, practical, logical suggestion. "Send the people away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat." (Mark 6:36)

But, Jesus had other ideas. He said, "You give them something to eat." There was a major difference between Jesus and the disciples. The disciples reasoned with their minds. Jesus acted from his heart. The Hopi native Americans have a tradition that contrasts "head knowledge" with "heart knowledge"--a tradition that respects the strengths of both ways of knowing.

Our culture has emphasized head knowledge over heart knowledge. With the success of science came an increased admiration for the "scientific method." We have been totally smitten by facts and figures, by the hypotheses and data counts of a scientifically understood world. We have applied the methods of the physical to our entire culture as we study social science, military science, and political science.

What the Hopi called heart knowledge has generally been dismissed as untrustworthy and inferior. Men pride themselves on their head knowledge, and ascribe heart knowledge to women, calling it "women's intuition." When a man does make a decision based on heart knowledge, he calls it his "gut reaction," as if there is something manly about guts, in contrast to intuition or heart knowledge.

The disciples trusted their heads. They were rational, reasonable, common sense type of guys. They reasoned, "We are all hungry. We are in a remote area. It's obvious Jesus should adjourn the session, and let everyone go get something to eat." But, Jesus went by his heart, not his mind, and scandalized the disciples' sense of logic by telling them, "You give them something to eat."

Jesus challenged the disciples to let compassion override reason. Jesus challenged the disciples to go beyond the limitations of circumstances, common sense, and reason. Jesus wants his disciples to heart their minds, temper their reason with compassion, stretch their minds with faith, and act on behalf of people's needs rather than set limits on the basis of logic and reasonableness. Ray Bradbury wrote, "If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business because we'd be cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down."

Heart your mind, says Jesus. Let a sense of compassion temper and even override cold calculation. Live in a balance between head knowledge and heart knowledge, with the edge given to heart knowledge.

A good example of how to heart your mind is set by Jesus himself. Jesus practiced what he preached. Jesus constantly put compassion ahead of business, put people's needs ahead of his agenda. Jesus rarely stuck to agendas, schedules, and plans. He was constantly allowing himself to be interrupted, and he responded according to the dictates of compassion, rather than what was reasonable.

The passage read this morning begins with Jesus welcoming the disciples back from their first mission. Jesus realized he could not personally visit every village, preach every sermon, teach every class, heal all the sick. So he recruited, organized, and trained his disciples. Earlier in chapter six, we read how Jesus sent out the disciples two by two. They went to villages, and had resounding success. Excitedly, they returned to report to Jesus. I imagine they all talked at the same time, telling him of all they had done and said. After they bombarded him and Jesus realized they were now exhausted, Jesus prescribed a time of rest. Jesus himself balanced his busy, active life with times of prayer and meditation. Jesus said to the disciples, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." (6:30)

But, the best laid plans don't always work. The people saw them get into a boat, figured out where they were going, and decided to go too. The word quickly spread. Those who were near the destination, went on ahead and were there to greet Jesus and the disciples when they landed. Others arrived later. Soon there were 5,000 + people. Now, what will Jesus do? He invited the disciples to come with him to a deserted place all by themselves. They made a plan, now it was interrupted. What should he do? Try to find another place? Run out on the crowd, and keep his promise to the disciples? No, Jesus allowed himself to be interrupted. I suspect the disciples were not too pleased. It was supposed to be their time with Jesus, now they had to share him with over 5,000 people! No wonder the disciples felt the crowd could go scrounge for their own food!

But, Jesus evidently felt the needs of the crowd overrode the plan to spend time with the disciples. (v. 34) "As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things." Jesus deviated from the plan because of compassion. Heart your mind means to respond to human need when it is presented.

Interruptions often happened to Jesus. In the previous chapter, chapter 5 of Mark, Jesus was on his way home to Nazareth. He was planning a big preaching engagement at his hometown synagogue, but he was interrupted. A leader of a synagogue by the name of Jairus stopped Jesus, fell at his feet and repeatedly begged Jesus to come and heal his daughter who was lying at death's door. "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live." (5:23) What did Jesus do? He detoured. He delayed his important trip to Nazareth and accompanied Jairus.

But, on the way, Jesus was again interrupted, this time by a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. You might think after twelve years she could wait awhile longer, but Jesus interrupted his interruption and stopped to help the woman. She touched his robe, and Jesus was immediately aware that power had gone from him. He said to the woman, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."

By this time, because of the delay, people came from Jairus' house and said, "It's too late, the girl is dead." But, Jesus refused to get excited, and assured them the girl was only sleeping. Jesus went to the house, took the girl by the hand, and said, "Little girl, get up." Immediately she got up and began to walk about. After this interruption, Jesus finally went on to Nazareth.

Heart your mind means to deviate from our best made plans when compassion calls. I used to feel frustrated when I didn't accomplish what I set out to do. I have attended time management seminars. They convinced me that I was terribly inefficient, and taught me to make lists. Before I go to bed, they said, make a list of all that I need to do the next day. Then, prioritize the list. Write 1, 2, 3, etc. I remember returning from one seminar all excited about my new found efficiency. At the end of the next day, Ellie asked, "How did your day go?" I answered, "I didn't accomplish one thing on my list." Some days I arrive at the church before 9:00, and it is 11:00 before I reach my office, much less do what's on my list. I am interrupted, and in my work, the interruptions are usually people related.

I used to feel frustrated, disorganized and frazzled about the interruptions. Now, I look at Jesus. Jesus must have been a terrible administrator. He must have failed all his time management courses. So, I have now relaxed, or should I say, I am more relaxed. I still make my lists. In fact, I have piles of lists. I suppose I should make lists of my lists. My filing system is the pile method. But, now I view the interruptions as not being interruptions at all, but my work. My job description is about interruptions. People are my business. Compassion is the motivation. Interruption is the method. Sometimes, I must admit, I forget and act as if I'm too busy to be interrupted. When you catch me, say, "Doug, heart your mind."

Heart your mind, first, means to temper, even override reason, logic and limitations, and take a leap of faith. Secondly, heart your mind means to deviate from plans, schedules, agendas, and lists when compassion calls. People are more important than plans. Needs override lists. When the 5,000 need to be fed, lead with your heart. Rather than saying, "It cannot be done; it is illogical," say, "Why not!"

© 1991 Douglas I. Norris