Be the Gatekeeper of Your Heart
November 29, 2009
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
25Jesus said, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.”
34“Be on guard so that your heart is not weighed down by the worries of this life.”
This traditional gospel that begins the first Sunday of Advent is a mysterious one, isn't it? We read about all these anxious images of unrest, signs in the sun and the moon and the stars, and distress upon the earth. The point of this Gospel is that even when things seem to be at a complete upheaval, even when all kinds of things seem to be going wrong at once, God says this to us: take courage, lift up your head, have good cheer in your heart, because God is getting ready to bless you. Know that even though appearances are to the contrary, God has a blessing in store for you. That’s the point of this Gospel.
Then Jesus went on to tell them a parable. Look at the fig tree and all the trees. As soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourself and know that summer is already near. Even though things may seem rough, my friends, Jesus’s message to us is that something good is on its way. And that is what we should take home from this Gospel this morning. Raise your head up; stand up tall, because hope is on its way.
Now here is where we are getting to the point where I would like us to enter deeply into the Gospel, verse 34. Jesus says, Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness, and the worries of this life. This is what I want you to underline please: Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down … with the worries of this life. Take that home with you, won’t you? Say it with me, won’t you? Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with the worries of this life.
Jesus has a message for us today, and it is this: be the gatekeeper of your heart. Be on guard, says Jesus, so that your wonderful heart is not going to be weighed down by the worries of this life.
I want you to picture in your minds, please, a beautiful gate, a beautiful white sparkly gate with a clear blue sky behind. And out in front of this gate, is a little house. A little gatekeeper’s house. And you are in that house. And you have the control of whether that gate opens or not. And what does this gate protect? The gate is the gate of your heart.
I am suggesting that Jesus is saying this: "Be on guard! You be the one to control when the gates of your heart are open and when they are closed. Be diligent about when they are open and closed." Jesus is saying, "Don’t just let those gates be open to every negative thing that can possibly blow in. You decide when the gates are open, and when the gates are closed. Be the gatekeeper of your heart." You don’t want just any influence blowing on in. You be the one to choose.
You know, gate keeping is an important thing in our society. I notice that a lot of gate keeping goes on at the airport. Have you noticed that? Getting on an airplane is a lot different than it was fifteen years ago. I remember fifteen years ago, you kind of strolled through that little metal detector and just got on the plane. No more. It’s that take your shoes off thing. You have to put everything into the little container, go through in your stocking feet.
Boy, those people take good care of the gate, don’t they?
I know when I go through the gate at the airport; I always get stopped because I
wear suspenders. I have suspenders on under my shirt, and every time I go
through the metal thing, they say, “Sir, will you please have a seat over
there.” And I know I’m going to be there for awhile. And so when they finally
get around to me, I have to stand with one foot on one of the little markers,
and one foot on the other and put out my arms and the guy goes over me with the
magic wand. And it will go off and they say, “What’s this, Sir?”
“That’s the little buckle on my suspenders; would you like to see it?
“No,” he replies, “I have to pat you down.”
“Okay,” I say, “go ahead.”
Then he goes to the other side and the thing goes off and he says, “What’s this, Sir?”
“It’s the other little buckle on my suspenders. Would you like to see it?”
“No, I have to pat you down.”
“Ok, go ahead.”
I learned my lesson; I wear a leather belt now when I go through the inspection thing.
When I was coming home from Hawaii, before I went to the
gate I went to a little stand and I bought jam. I bought six jars of jam as
souvenirs. As I am going through the gate and the guard says, “I’m sorry, Sir,
you can’t take that jam on board.”
“Well, why not? It’s only jam.”
“Liquid, Sir. You are not allowed to take it on board.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, Sir, you are not allowed to take it on board.”
“But I just bought it over there; you think they would have told me.”
“Sir, you can’t take the jam on board. You may go retrieve your luggage and pack it with
your onboard luggage.”
“No, it’s all right. Would you like to keep the jam?”
“I am not allowed to keep the jam. Sir, it’s against regulations.”
“Okay, is there anything else we can do?”
“Well, we are making plans to hopefully give it to a food pantry.”
“That would be great!”
“But, it’s not in place yet.”
“I understand. Let me ask you another question. Do you get a lot of jam thrown away at this
“A lot of jam, Sir. A lot of jam.”
I said to the gentleman, “You know what. I appreciate you,
because I know you are trying to
keep us safe, and you are doing your job. I thank you for keeping us all safe.”
He said, “Well, thank you for that, Sir.”
Gate keeping: it’s important. But what’s more important than keeping control of the gate to your heart? What’s more important than keeping control of what goes in to your spirit?
I am suggesting in the spirit of Jesus Christ speaking in this Gospel that you close your gates to certain things. Like what? Like negativity. Jesus talked about guarding against the worries of this world, lest your heart be weighed down. Now of course, we all have to be practical, we all have to do the right thing in terms of precautions, but there can be so many worries that we let into our heart that it can weigh us down, and keep us from seeing the good blessing that God has in store for us.
And so the next time, the next time you find yourself overwhelmed with worry, say to yourself, am I being the keeper of the gates of my heart, or maybe I need to shut the gates to this worry and be opened to the voice of God.
What should you shut your gates to? Obviously, you should shut your gates to the worries of this world just like Jesus said. Shut your gates to negativity, don’t let it take root there inside your heart and grow. And shut the gates to other people’s negative opinions. You are a child of the most high God, that’s who you are. Don’t let other people put you down or say you can’t do this or you are not able to do that. Oh, don’t listen to those voices. Be the gate keeper of your heart, when it comes to who you are.
To what should you open the gates of your heart? Open the gates of your heart to God, who has something good in store for you. Open your heart to the voice of God who has something encouraging to say to you. Open your heart to love and joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self discipline. Open your heart to those good things and let them take root in your heart and soul. You will find your heart not burdened, but lifted up and light.
Oh my friend, you are the gate keeper of your heart; guard it well. And be conscious about what goes in, and what dwells there. When we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion, we say these words to each other, “Lift up your hearts,” says the celebrant, and the people respond, “We have lifted them up to the Lord.” It is God’s will that you have an uplifted heart, not a weighted down heart. Be the gatekeeper of your heart, and let God’s holy ideas and great possibilities into those gates, where they may live and dwell and grow in you.
God loves you; I do too. Have a wonderful week. Amen.
© 2009 Anthony J. Godlefski