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A matter of perspective: from your head to your heart may be the longest journey you will ever make. (Here and Now).

One of the most colourful characters in the legal profession in Newfoundland must surely have been His Honour Judge James (Jim) Higgins. Many lifelong residents of St. John's have a story or a number of stories about his remarks and behaviour in court. As much as he enjoyed a joke at the expense of other people, he enjoyed the stories he told against himself even more.

He told about hearing a case that involved two brothers named Scott. It was a case regarding a dispute over property. The judge listened patiently, first, to one side of the argument and, then, to the other. Eventually, he asked the older brother: "Mr. Scott, how far is it from your house to your brother's house?"

"About 350 yards, sir."

"About 350 yards. Well, now, I suppose it is safe to say that, if it is 350 yards from your house to your brother's house, it must be 350 yards from your brother's house to your house. Isn't that correct?"

"I am not so sure, Your Honour. I will have to think about that."

"You will have to think about that? Why? If it is 350 yards one way, it must be 350 yards the other way as well."

"Not necessarily, Your Honour. It is six days from Christmas to New Year's, but it is a lot longer the other way around."

And so it is with a number of things. For example, the distance from your heart to your head is not a long one. How many inches? That depends, I suppose, on the build and size of the person concerned. In any case, the distance between the two is of little consequence.

However, the distance from your head to your heart is a different matter. It is, as homiletics professor Fred Craddock remarked, the longest journey we will ever make. It may take years to travel that distance. And there are many and various stops on the way between the two.

With some of us, it takes a long time for the things we believe in our heads to travel to our hearts. We may believe in compassion but do nothing about it. We may believe a lot of theological statements; yet, that is as far as it gets. It is head-bound and never reaches beyond that. We may believe the things the Scriptures say about us, our spiritual ancestors and the stories of Christian beginnings; yet, that is as far as it gets. The trip from the head to the heart, from the mind to the spirit, is a long one.

Our church is cautious of emotion, and there is wisdom in that. Yet, there is more to the gospel than understanding what is said in the Scriptures. (Even the devil is able to quote Scripture.) And there is more to the faith than a memorization of theology--ancient or modern.

Father Roy Hendricks, late of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, once wrote: "The Presbyterian Church in Canada has the best statement on the Holy Spirit I have read. And yet, I am told, the report has not been able to get from the shelf [at church offices] to the heart of the church."

It may be only a matter of inches from the heart to the head. It may be miles and miles the other way around.

R. Sheldon MacKenzie, who Jives in Sardis, B.C., is a retired professor from Memorial University in St. John's and a minister of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.
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Author:MacKenzie, R. Sheldon
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Date:Sep 1, 2002
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