what is the thing your heart most desires?

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” — Matthew 6: 19–21

“It pretty much comes down to three things: everything changes; everything is connected; pay attention” — Jane Hirshfield

What is that thing which your heart most desires?

A happy family? A good job? Nice home? Passionate, loving relationship? World Peace? Treasures in heaven? I found myself thinking about where our dreams and wishes tend to go when thinking about where our treasures lie and where our hearts might find themselves.

And it reminded me of the movie, Pirates of the Carribean, and Captain Jack’s Sparrow’s compass. You remember the compass, right? It doesn’t point to True North. Its real value lies in the fact that it points to whatever the possessor’s heart most desires. And so it seems to be the thing everyone wants to put their hands on in order to get to the thing everyone seems to want. The irony of course, even for Jack, is that once we get to that “thing”, it’s never quite what we thought it would be. For Jack Sparrow, it inevitably necessitates the need to let go of the thing his heart most desires — the Black Pearl, the Fountain of Youth, the Heart of Davy Jones. The “final thing” he desires never turns out to be the “final thing”. In fact, if you’re paying attention, there’s going to be a sequel, a further adventure for Jack Sparrow.

In the bigger picture, the ultimate purpose of the compass seems to be about how Jack’s paths ultimately overlap at moments that require some letting go, some sacrifice of what he thought he longed for because he discovers something of greater value in that moment — something that somehow, ironically, unavoidably perhaps, connects him with the destiny and critical needs of another. It ultimately connects him with compassion.

There is a telling scene in the first movie of the series, The Curse of the Black Pearl, where castaway Elizabeth Swann (daughter of Governor Weatherby Swann) pleads with Jack regarding what is the right thing to do for her, for her future beau,Will Turner, and for the crew, arguing that Jack may put on a swaggering pirate façade, and that his compass and his purpose are all about himself, but she knows that he has so much more honor in him than that. She adds, “I think that in the end, when the moment arises, you will find the honor and the courage to do the right thing.” Jack smiles as he walks off, saying, “I love those moments! I like to wave at them as they pass by.”

For Jack , this often means that every moment becomes a chance to re-check the compass for what it’s pointing to knowing full well, at least if he’s been paying attention, too, that he will have some decisions to make once he finds that desire. It will likely mean having to let it go for some greater good, and eventually, the continuation of his life’s story.

Jack’s story and predicament remind me about the text above — this universal problem of thinking that the one thing we think we really want is never really finally THE thing. Treasures here on earth versus treasures in heaven is really about what gives life to life and how we participate in that. Life in its deepest expression is less about acquisition and more about relationship — more about responding to each moment with attention, openness, improvisation … and compassion

Jack’s life is ultimately bound up, and even finds its greatest expression, in the lives of others. And isn’t this true for all of us? That we are inextricably caught up in one another’s lives and stories. And that when we reflect most honestly on what it is, that one thing, that our heart desires most, it is to be present in all these moments and encounters with depth and meaning and purpose — and that we will do the right thing.

This, in my thinking, is what compassion means — to be in the moment, wherever that moment might be, with others wherever they might be in their story. To feel with others the needs of the moment and respond from our heart. This is what we ultimately desire, I think, to belong and to be in relationship with others, and to be useful. To make some kind of difference in our moments, our relationships, our church and community with who we are and what we have to bring to the greater story of God’s presence in our lives and our world.

And it’s never really about the “thing”. These things come and go, fade away or become the objects of others’ envy and jealousy. What seems to last is connection and compassion — living in the sacred opportunity and invitation of each moment.

This Sunday, we’ll get to know one another a little more with our “this is one of us” interviews, a few stories, and looking at compassion from both the bible and a little bit of science. It’s as simple as doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. Which means it’s not that simple.

Sunday, March 31, in eleven:eleven, downtown,
This is Us
“What is the Thing Your Heart Most Desires?”
with Brad Thompson and the band,
and the music of Frank Turner, Train, and Elizabeth Wills

Hope to see you Sunday!


Rev. Tom McDermott
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven


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