What makes for a hardened heart?

Healed 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.

Rachel G. Hackenberg is a United Church of Christ minister, soccer mom, blogger, and author. Her book Sacred Pause plays with words to refresh our relationship with The Word.

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2 thoughts on “Revised Common Lectionary: Hardened Hearts

  1. Frances Taylor Gench’s “Back to the Well: Women’s Encounters with Jesus in the Gospels” is a great resource to use. The chapter on The Woman at the Well is filled with gems of all kinds.


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