16th Sunday after Pentecost – A (Proper 21) LSB #613
Text – Ezekiel 18:31a
Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, & make yourselves a new heart & a new spirit!
A FRANKENSTEIN HEART
“It was on a dreary night of November, that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, & my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, & a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.”
Those are the words by which author Mary Shelley described the ‘coming to life’ of the monster that was created, & animated, by Victor Frankenstein. As a novel, Frankenstein was a forerunner of the multitudes of horror novels & horror movies that have been written & filmed ever since. Nevertheless, horror did not begin with Mary Shelley or with Victor Frankenstein.
Depending on whom you speak with, one of the greatest horror movies ever produced was released just ten years ago. It was titled The Passion of the Christ. Scores of people could not watch the crucifixion with open eyes. Many refused to set foot in a theater or living room that was showing the movie, & that execution happened almost 2000 years ago.
Jesus’ crucifixion was a direct response to the horror of sin & the way it corrupted everything our heavenly Father had created. Over 6000 years ago it poisoned the relationships between Adam & his wife Eve, as well as between both of them & their Creator. It didn’t take long & their firstborn son murdered the second born.
In one way of looking at it, ever since Lucifer tricked Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, all of human history has been one long horror show. Not only disease & death entered, but hatred, bitterness & betrayal. We don’t just make mistakes. People don’t just ‘goof up.’ Willfully, intentionally & with malice we seek to injure other people, often the ones within our own circle of friends, family & congregation. In fact, the horror of sin is so brutal that you & I spend most of our lives suppressing the reality of it. We cover it up, push it aside, stick our head in the sand, whitewash it & flat out deny it.
Horror novels allow us to ‘pop the lid,’ so to speak, on that tightly kept box where we hide the darkest secrets of our soul. Horror movies are sort of like a coping mechanism which enables us to relieve the pressure of sin boiling beneath the surface of the beautiful image that we want others to see. The truth is all of us have a problem with being authentic.
If we are actually transparent to others, most of them will not be able to live with us. They’d be shocked & dismayed with the thoughts & the feelings that course through our mind & soul. Yet the same sin that has corrupted & twisted me, has done similar things to you. The greatest problem mankind suffers from is having a Frankenstein heart.
We try to make up & build & bring to life a heart of our own. It’s instinctive for us sinners to think we aren’t all that bad, because all we’ve ever known is the corruption of sin. Not a one of us has ever seen holiness & perfection. We have no way to grasp what that means. Listen to St. Paul write about this in his letter to the church at Ephesus:
“Once you were dead because of your disobedience & your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil – the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires & inclinations of our sinful nature.” (2:1-3a NLT)
Like the rest of the world you & I are also tempted to believe we can make our own path to God. Haven’t you heard thinking like this, “We may be on different paths, but they all lead to the same place”? It’s become popular to say, “I’m not religious, but I am spiritual,” meaning you’re free to choose from a buffet line of religious options. The implication is that you can put together your own spirituality. You can build your own path to heaven. You can create your own heart in order to be in relationship to the ‘greater power.’ All those suggestions deny the reality of what sin has done to me. Because of our sinful nature, we cannot achieve any sort of path to heaven. As St. Paul wrote, “…you were dead because of your disobedience.”
Now, aside from Victor Frankenstein’s theory, what can a dead body do? How many of you have been to a viewing at a funeral home? How many times have you gone to a funeral service? Haven’t you heard someone speak these words, “He looks so good”? Yet not one of us expects that body to sit up & begin doing things again, let alone building a path to heaven.
That’s what St. Paul is talking about in regard to spirituality, & Paul wasn’t writing to dead people; they can’t read either. Paul was writing to living, breathing, walking Christians & telling them that apart from Jesus Christ they used to be dead. They used to obey the devil. Paul wrote that all of us used to live that way.
People, there are only two paths in this life. One is the straight & narrow, & Jesus Himself said that few will find it. The other path is broad & easy, but it leads to destruction. It leads to hell. That is where building your own spirituality will take you. It’s like trying to make yourself a new heart. It’s going to get ugly. Hear these words of Victor Frankenstein:
“Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil as I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave or tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay?”
Going back, again, to Ephesians 2, “All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires & inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.” (2:3 NLT)
Horror movies are successful because in some way they act as a coping mechanism, allowing us subconsciously to address our fears. A far healthier alternative to hiding the darkest secrets of our soul is to confess them to our heavenly Father. He will not be shocked & dismayed by the thoughts & the feelings that course through our mind & soul. We don’t have to worry that our Savior will be unable to live with us if He knows the truth. He already did live with us, & died for us here on earth, in time & space.
The last verse of the OT reading stated, “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, & live.” There, our Lord is calling us to believe that He will forgive our sins. He will wash us & make us clean. In fact, in Psalm 51, King David even tells us how to: “…make yourselves a new heart & a new spirit!”
In this prayer to God, of Psalm 51, it states, “Let me hear joy & gladness; let the bones that You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, & blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, & renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:8-10 ESV)
That clean heart & right spirit is the spirituality every sinner needs, & whether or not people understand it, Jesus gave the one true religion to us in the Words of Holy Scripture. Yes, human beings, & human churches, do not always get things correct. Sin gets in the way of pastors & church leaders. Still, it is through the church that our Savior has chosen to work.
He sent His disciples out with the mission of establishing congregations to provide shelter & rest for the soul, as well as to proclaim the Holy Word.
Frankenstein the monster never could have brought himself to life. We can’t either, but instead of using lightning to bring life as Dr. Frankenstein did in the book, God uses His Word & Sacraments through which I die & rise with Christ in His death & in His resurrection. We die to our sinful nature & rise to our saintly nature.
In 2 Chronicles 12:14, God’s Word says of King Rehoboam: “And he did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the LORD.” (2Ch 12:14 ESV) In the reading from Ezekiel, God is not asking us to literally make a new heart for ourselves. The previous verse makes the point clear: “Repent & turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgression that you have committed, & make yourselves a new heart & a new spirit.” (Ezekiel 18:30b-31a)
When God’s Holy Spirit converts us from unbelief, one of the greatest gifts we’re given is the ability to repent of our sins. That repentance, empowered by God, is what makes a new heart for me, & for you, & for any of God’s children. That repentance is what Ezekiel is writing of when he says, “…make yourselves a new heart & a new spirit!”
Through the prophet’s words, our heavenly Father is calling us to seek the Lord, & to do so with our heart, not simply with our mind. Yahweh wants to create within us a new & clean heart, but He will not force us to accept it. He offers it to us freely, with no strings attached – simply trust & believe.
Those are not always easy things to do, especially when our very lives, & everything we’ve ever known, are hanging in the balance. Yet we only need look to our own efforts at creating life to find what a disaster we are apart from our Savior Jesus.
The monster cried to Victor Frankenstein, his human creator, “‘Hateful day when I received life!’ I exclaimed in agony, ‘Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust?’”
We’ve known those feelings in regard to some of our own creations, our own attempts to make for ourselves a new heart, or a new life, or any hope, other than, & apart from, our Savior. When we’ve failed in that way, Satan would tempt us to surrender to despair. Lucifer wants us to turn our back on God, believing that He could never forgive.
Yet, Jesus took on human flesh, born of the virgin Mary, in order to live & to die in our
place. He came to disprove the devil & to declare Satan a liar. Jesus is risen indeed. He’s calling you even now to rise to new life again this day. Your sins have already been paid for by Jesus. To repent of them is simply to receive the new heart that our Lord & Savior gives. It is faith in Jesus that truly makes you well. Amen.
O Lord, my God to Thee I pray: O cast me not in wrath away! Let Thy good Spirit ne’er departs, but let Him draw to Thee my heart that truly penitent I be: O God, be merciful to me! O Jesus, let Thy precious blood be to my soul a cleansing flood. Turn not, O Lord, Thy guest away, but grant that justified I may go to my house at peace with Thee: O God, be merciful to me. Amen.
 Shelley, M., Frankenstein, (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1994), p. 34-35.
 Shelley, M., Frankenstein, (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1994), p. 33.
 Shelley, M., Frankenstein, (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1994), p. 93.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet