What makes for a hardened heart?
Consider, for example, all of the life junctures and experiences captured by Romans 5:1-11 (from this week’s Revised Common Lectionary texts) that can lead us to harden our hearts:
Suffering, instead of producing endurance,
can produce a bitter or jealous heart.
Endurance, instead of producing character,
can lead to a vain, self-confident heart.
Character, which might grow hope,
may also grow idolization.
And hope, which might be full of God’s love,
might instead be full of wild disarray.
What produces a hardened heart? What hardens your heart?
Discontent and fear of scarcity harden the hearts of the people in Exodus 17:1-7. According to Psalm 95’s retelling of the Exodus 17 story, it’s doubt — asking God to prove holy faithfulness when God’s works are already clear — that hardens hearts.
Tracing the examination of hardened hearts through John 4:5-42 requires a more narrative approach, if you choose to take it: an examination of the hardened biases against Samaritans, the heart-hiding defensiveness of a woman too accustomed to her community’s condemnation, the perplexed hearts of Jesus’ friends who do not fully understand their teacher. Hardening our hearts can be a temptation at every turn, from any angle within a life story.
What makes for a hardened heart? And — in this holy journey of Lent — what makes for a heart’s breaking, its softening, its transforming, its renewing?
Share your preaching notes and brainstorms with your colleagues here in the comments as you sermonize toward Sunday on these Revised Common Lectionary texts.
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