Plastic Heart

“I will take care of you, little buddy, because I made you …I put your heart inside.”

The words were spoken to a soccer-ball sized saber-tooth tiger perched on the back seat of the rental car between my son and his older sister. The tone of my youngest child’s voice was one of love and care, so filled with simple tenderness that my eyes glistened as I observed the scene.

I think one of the reasons I was so moved by the exchange is quite selfish. I know that childhood moments like these are soon to be gone. Zachary’s voice already shows signs of broadening. He is nearly as tall as his sister. He has noticed that the female of the species seems different in pleasing ways. Sweet affections for stuffed animals is a train rapidly leaving the station. As Daddy, a role I have cherished in life above all others, I am going to grieve watching that train as it disappears around the bend.

Of course we all know the build-your-own bear-dinosaur-tiger is a marketing gimmick. The scene is a kid- friendly restaurant in Florida, serving ridiculously expensive food surrounded by animatronic criters very large and very loud. After dinner, parents can buy the stuffing and an animal form. Children fill the form with the stuffing. Then they say a poem and do a dance before kissing a plastic heart and placing it in the chest of their newly created friend. The beast is bedecked with cute clothes and off the family goes to the cash register.

If it is a scene to tug the hearts of sentimental parents, then okay. Sign me up. You only live once on this earth and a dose of sweetness in a harsh and coarse world is worth 40 bucks every now and then.

The scripture teaches us to come to God with simple childlike faith and a heart opened to be filled. It further teaches us that God has “woven us together in our mother’s womb.” I love that imagery of God’s knitting needles carefully, individually, lovingly, tenderly sewing each of us together one at a time.

With all my heart, all my will, all my soul, and all my spirit, I believe this to be true.

And, being true, this reality brings very real implications for the Church and for those of us who are the Lord’s hands and feet in this world. For if we are individually and intentionally made, then not only is the Church an institution “ordained of God that shall endure until the end of time,” it is a body woven together of intentionally and lovingly created creatures.

Martin Luther is one of my favorite characters in history for many reasons. The fact that he changed the world is an important reason but, to my mind, not the most important. He was more than brilliant. He had a wicked sense of humor. He was a beloved teacher. He was a consummate family man and a warm and generous friend.

More than anything else, Luther was filled with purpose and passion. He didn’t make a rational, measured decision to throw down the gauntlet of Reformation. He did it because he had to. As one of the threads that knitted the Church together, and with a heart bursting with creative love, Luther was compelled to bring renewal. The fact that he could be at risk for imprisonment or execution was, by comparison, inconsequential.

My prayer for Reformation Sunday is that the Church will go about the work of the Kingdom in the knowledge that she is lovingly woven together of living, created threads. I pray that every one of us who serves the Church will have a greater awareness of our purpose and that we will be filled with such passion that, like Luther and the reformers of old, we will feel compelled to bring renewal to the Church.

I have always wanted to be like Martin Luther. I have always wanted to be scholarly, faithful, courageous, and passionate. I have prayed to be poured out for the Kingdom of God and the Church of our Lord Christ.

But today I want to be more like my young son. I want to reclaim the simplicity and tenderness that I believe God showed me when He took my form, filled me with stuffing, held my heart in His hand, said a little poem, danced a little dance, and placed my heart inside my chest.

“I will take care of you, buddy, because I made you …I put your heart inside.”