IVP - Strangely Dim - Behind the Booklet: My Heart--Christ's Home

November 17, 2011

Behind the Booklet: My Heart--Christ's Home

In 1947, among such earth-altering events as the partitioning of Palestine to incorporate the modern state of Israel and the formal establishment of the United Nations, two relatively inauspicious events took place:

  • "The board of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in the U.S.A. determined that the Fellowship should undertake its own deliberate publishing program, replacing the somewhat haphazard activities of the preceding years. That meeting came to be considered the official birth of IVP in the United States." This from the anecdotal history of InterVarsity Press, Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength.
  • "The sermon 'My Heart--Christ's Home' was first preached in the fall of 1947 . . . at the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley. . . . The evening sermon was not written out in manuscript form but simply outlined and preached extemporaneously from notes." This from an article in the March 1979 edition of Fuller Theological Seminary's Theology, News and Notes, and later published in the second revised edition of My Heart--Christ's Home.

Like I said, relatively inauspicious. A few years later an editor at IVP contacted the sermon's author, Robert Boyd Munger, asking for permission to publish it in booklet form. Munger said yes, forgoing such nagging details as a written contract, and IVP's most enduring publication began its now nearly sixty-year run in print.

The beauty of My Heart--Christ's Home is its simplicity. The concept comes from a recurring theme in the New Testament: in Christ God makes his home in our hearts.

  • "That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." (Ephesians 3:17)
  • "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." (John 14:23)
  • "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:20)

jesus knocks.jpgNot surprisingly, Munger is not the only person in the history of the church to associate the idea of a relationship with God in Christ with the virtue of hospitality. Paintings of Jesus standing at the door, knocking, were wildly popular in the nineteenth century, with Holman Hunt's being the most famous. George MacDonald and C. S. Lewis both played with the imagery of Jesus making his home in a person's heart or soul. Teresa of Avila portrayed the spiritual life as an "interior castle" that we penetrate gradually as God forms us in faith. More recently, Frank Viola played with the idea in his book From Eternity to Here, and--full disclosure--I riffed on the idea in my new booklet, The Parable of the Unexpected Guest.

But of all these notable players in the game, Munger is arguably the MVP. Sixty years after he delivered just another Sunday evening sermon, people are still reading it, talking about it, thinking about it, playing with it, struggling with it, praying about it, living it. Munger's story begins simply, with a relatively naive invitation:

 After Christ entered my heart, in the joy of that new-found relationship, I said to him, "Lord, I want this heart of mine to be yours. I want you to settle down here and be fully at home. I want you to use it as your own." . . . He was glad to come and seemed delighted to be given a place in my ordinary little heart.

It ends simply too, although with all (or at least most) of the naivete evicted:

"Here it is, all that I am and have forever. Now you run the house. Just let me stay with you as houseboy and friend."

He took my life that day. . . . A deep peace settled down on my soul that has remained. I am his and he is mine forever!

Simplicity on both sides, with the commensurate complexity tucked in between. Such is the story of any story, from "Once upon a time" to "happily ever after." Such is also the story of any life, from dust to dust, from strength to strength. Munger ends his sermon with yet another invitation, this one to each of us, to make the story of My Heart--Christ's Home our own story:

May Christ settle down and be at home as Lord of your heart also.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at November 17, 2011 6:50 AM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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