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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sermon for May 29, 2011

May 29, 2011 Aimee Bruno Gospel: John 14:15-21 1st Reading: Acts 17:22-31
Psalm 66:8-20 2nd Reading: 1 Peter 3:13-22

Many of you have read the book “Lonesome Dove” or seen the miniseries. Nick and I watched it a few years back and I’ve spent the last two weeks engrossed in this 900+ page novel—reading on the bus and Max and before bed, at lunch breaks, in the bathtub, on a blanket in the yard the day the sun came out, while I’m waiting for the noodles to boil, and every spare minute I’ve had. It is an engrossing book full of interesting characters and exciting adventures. I don’t mind that I already saw it, because I forget most of what I watch on TV and there are all kinds of details and twists and turns that they couldn’t fit in the miniseries.

The cowboys of the Hat Creek Cattle Company start out in Arkansas, but any good adventure means travel. It isn’t long before they’ve got someplace to go. It is something different that motivates each person. Augustus is going after Clara, the long lost love of his life. Jake Spoon is going after riches. Some of the young cow hands they take with them are on the cattle drive for the adventure and some because their families can’t feed them. Deets is going as a tracker, to do what he’s good at. July isn’t with these cowboys but you know he will cross tracks with them. He’s looking first for the man who shot his brother and then for his runaway wife. Everyone there has a reason for being on the journey. Those who don’t have a good enough reason to go, end up turning back, like the cook.

“Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is within you.” The same is true for each of us. Everyone has a reason—a motivation for being on this journey of faith. Each of us has a story about where we were before we were here, what brought us here, and what’s happened to us since we got here. We’ve all got a story about whether we found what we were looking for, or if we’re now looking for something different than when we started. We’ve all got a story about what we’re good at, how we each fill a role here at our church and how that has changed over the years.

How often do we tell that story? I’ve probably got it easier than you. I don’t usually like people to know first thing that I’m a pastor. I like them to see me as a human being first. But when they find out what I do, they often get curious and want to know how I came to this point and what I do all day. In seminary I had to learn to tell my story. We had to write our faith story so many times! We had to tell it in small groups and then for chaplaincy. We got pretty tired of our own story. However, it is good to have this skill when you meet someone new—to be able to pare it down to a two sentence faith story or a 30 minute story. Still when I meet new pastors, we often eventually tell one another the story of our journey of faith, an accounting of the faith that is in us. When people get curious about my story, it is always an opportunity for me to get curious about theirs and ask them to share about their journey. I’ve got an automatic “in.” I get to cheat a little.

Some of you know your own story inside and out. Some of you know each other’s stories. Some of you joined this church at the same time. Many of you have gone on difficult legs of this journey together and know each other deeply because of your shared experience. But some people here are newer. Even those of you who’ve known each other a long time have new parts of your story to add. How often do we practice telling our faith story to one another? Could that give us confidence in telling our story more widely in a respectful, and inviting way to those we meet?

It is also about more than sharing it in our faith community. Look at Paul in the reading from Acts. He’s telling his story in the government center. He’s had practice telling his story. He doesn’t start out telling the good news by saying, “People, you’ve got it all wrong.” He starts out by complimenting them, and praising their religion. He makes connections with where they are, mentioning the shrine of the unknown God and linking it with the God who created everything. He tells a story about our unity with one another, that we are from one ancestor, made of the same substance and all of us close to God. He brings up their own poets. He knows their culture. He’s being respectful as he tells what he knows about God and gives an account of the hope that is in him, “with gentleness and reverence” as it says in 1 Peter. You can tell he’s listened deeply to their story and also joined his with theirs.

There are people of extraordinary faith that you meet once in a while. I’m not talking about a painted-on smile. I’m talking about a genuine faith that keeps them firmly rooted, calm in a storm. When I meet those people, I like to ask them to give an account of the faith within them. I want a piece of that story to take with me so I can learn to be calm rather than afraid and so I can hold firmly to my faith when everything is falling apart. It makes my faith stronger when I hear those stories.

A couple of weeks ago a child who has been visiting the congregation asked me about baptism when we were sitting at coffee hour. She attends our church and two other churches, so I asked her if she’d seen a baptism and what happened and her thoughts on baptism. And I asked her if she wanted to be baptized here or at one of her other churches. She said at King of Kings and of course I was curious as to why. She told me that the pastor is nice, of course—she had to say that! And then she clearly gave an accounting of the faith that was in her, what gives her hope. She said that the people here listen to her and care about her.

What a clear testimony from a little girl! She knew what it was that drew her here and kept bringing her back and was drawing her into a deeper relationship with God. Even though she’s a kid, she feels that she’s treated like a fellow human being at this place. And that isn’t the case everywhere she goes.

Isn’t that the world we live in! We don’t always get treated with respect, like human beings. We don’t always listen or get listened to. The world puts us down and tries to keep us down. Sometimes our church does, too. Last week I talked about how we could be more tolerant with each other and just deal when we feel uncomfortable with others’ behaviors. This week, I want to share that although we can always do better, for many it is happening! I had a proud moment when I heard this girl say that this church is doing its job. It is listening to the little children and the elderly, the hungry, the disabled. It is seeing the human being in each person, seeing God in each person, the holy, our oneness in Christ. There is no difference between this little girl and any one of the rest of us—she is a child of God and we will treat her so. And the same is true of each person, if you’re in a wheel-chair, if your eyesight is failing, if you’re divorced, if you are gay or lesbian, if you are bald, or pregnant, or emotionally unstable, or talk too much or too little, or sing off key—this is a place where everyone is valued and treated with respect and according to this little girl, it is really happening at this place. So keep up the good work!

And don’t just let it happen here, but take it to everyone you meet during the week—listen to them like Jesus listens to you. It could make all the difference in a person’s life.

I would probably have chosen for you to have a conversation this week, to share with one another an accounting of your faith and hope. However some of you feel this disrupts the flow of the service. So I’m going to invite you to do it at coffee hour. Share a bit of your faith story this week at coffee hour and find the chance this week to be curious about the faith of someone you come into contact with. Ask them what gives them hope and really listen and be ready to share a little of where your hope comes from in a way that honors both of you as fully human children of God.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sermon for May 22, 2011

May 22, 2011 Gospel: John 14:1-14 1st Reading: Acts 7:55-60
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 2nd Reading: 1 Peter 2:2-10

I’ve probably preached on this text 20 or more times, because it is the most often chosen text for memorial services. Maybe some of you even have this Gospel lesson picked out for your service someday. At those memorial services I always wonder what people think when they hear this reading. Many don’t attend church on a regular basis. This might be the only sermon they hear all year. And I don’t get the chance to go into the particulars of the gospel at a time like that. We’re there to remember a person we love. We’re there to be comforted by God’s presence. We’re not there for the pastor to explain this text in detail so we catch the full meaning.

So now I get to do just that. I love this text and it can be very comforting to people who grew up in the church or who have a strong faith to sustain them. To them/us, it says, there is a place for us. We will be with God. Our faith and belief have led to a life of generosity and love. We can trust God and be at peace. We are in God’s hands.

But this text has been misused. It has led some to question whether their faith or belief is good enough. It has led to some people telling others that if they haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior then they aren’t good enough believers and their faith doesn’t count. It has led some people to decide that everyone else besides Christians are going to hell. Far from causing people’s hearts not to be troubled, this reading has done some of the most damage and caused some of the greatest anxiety of any text in the Bible.

If we start at the beginning we hear some calming words of Jesus, “Calm down, people. It is going to be okay. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be anxious.” This is one of the best reasons this text works so well when a loved one has died. It starts with comforting words. Often hearts are troubled because the loss is so deep. How do you say goodbye? Did you say everything you wanted to say? Do you carry guilt about something you did or didn’t do? How will life go on, and how will it be changed? This phrase is like the hand of God on our shoulder giving us comfort for our troubled hearts.

Jesus’ followers’ hearts were troubled, because no sooner had he been raised from the dead, he hangs around with them for a month or so, and now he’s making a farewell speech that he’s going away again. He’s going to ascend to God. He’s not going to be there physically anymore. They just got him back from the grave! Now he’s leaving! Certainly they were troubled.

The next part talks about the Father’s dwelling place. There is plenty of room for everyone. That is also very comforting when someone has died. You can almost picture them there. Sometimes it is used to say just the opposite—that space is limited in heaven. And is the Father’s dwelling place only in heaven? We sometimes call the church God’s house, when describing it to children. The reading from 1 Peter describes a structure of stone, with Jesus as the cornerstone. This was probably written not long after the temple had been destroyed. Imagine if you were hearing this sermon as you stood over the smoldering ruins of our church after an earthquake. That’s the situation in which Peter is preaching.

He’s now asking not to focus too much on the building, but to visualize another kind of temple. He talks about a living structure and letting ourselves be built into a spiritual house. It isn’t about the church building or the temple, the stones and wood and carvings. God dwells in the community.

When Jesus talks about the many dwelling places of God, might that be our own bodies? Can we live in God and God in us before we die? The Gospels confirm that we can and do. When the people ask Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, “Where did we see you hungry and thirsty and give you food and drink.” He answers, “Whatsoever you did to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did also to me.” God dwells in people. That is God’s house. Sure there is plenty of room in the afterlife for our loved ones, but can’t we move into God’s house now and let God move into ours? Why wait?

Next we get reassured that where God is, we are. That works for both the living and the dead. Let’s live as if where God is, we are. Let’s go to where God has promised to be, especially among the poor.

Then Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father, except through me,” and “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Some hear this as saying, if you haven’t heard of the man named Jesus, then you’re toast. If you haven’t heard of him, too bad. If you’re Jewish, too bad. If you’re Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, or Athiest, too bad. It is a pretty harsh condemnation from the God of love. Is this the God we believe in? There are indications in both the Old and New Testament that the Jewish people are God’s people and have a place with God forever and even some foreigners. There are clues that those who lived before the time of Jesus have a place with God. Additionally, perhaps the many dwelling places refers to the wide variety of folks that God holds in God’s care and even redeems, maybe even of different religions.

Another way of looking at it is that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus’ way—especially his way of love and truth and life. Those who never knew him and those whom Christians have turned away from Jesus because of their hypocritical, judgmental and even violent ways, may still know Jesus’ ways and follow them. Should they be faulted that we misrepresented God to them?

What is Jesus way, anyway? His way of love and truth and life was about being honest, being with people he wasn’t supposed to hang out with, sharing his presence and teaching with nobodies, and giving life to all on the cross. I think he’s inviting us to try it his way. We have our way of trying to earn God’s love, or pretending to be perfect, or learning all the right answers, or getting lazy about our faith, or beating ourselves up. Those things have all failed us.

Jesus is asking us here to follow his way of service, of dying and rising to new life, of going where we’re not supposed to and breaking the rules, of telling the truth even when it isn’t popular, of sharing everything we have.

Just like the stones used in one lesson to destroy Stephen’s life and in another to build a spiritual house, acceptable to God, these readings and any in the Bible can be used to tear down or build up. If we remember that we are the dwelling place of God, maybe we will remember to be more intentional about building up, or letting God build up through us. And when our structures fall as they are bound to do, let’s remember that we are resurrection people and new life can come from the ruins.

I know that in our attempts to create a meaningful and rich worship experience, we have stepped on toes at times. We have torn some people down, when we could have been building them up and encouraging them. Sometimes maybe we get too focused on our own preferences and getting it just right, instead of just letting things be. When there is rambling during announcements or a particularly long and heartfelt prayer or we can’t hear everything that’s being said, maybe we don’t have to reign that in, but can let the spirit of God unfold even if it makes us uncomfortable. Maybe we should especially be looking for the presence of God when we are uncomfortable—it could be a signal. Jesus made a lot of people uncomfortable. His death stirred up a lot of troubled hearts.

When we’re troubled, that’s a good time to stop and examine ourselves, rather than point to someone else as the source of our unhappiness. Ask yourself, what is it about me that I am uncomfortable? Can I live with this anxiety for the moment? Can it teach me something about myself and about the rag-tag people that God calls home? Can it tell me something about why God would choose me, as fallible and flawed as I am, to be a follower and a leader in this community and a vessel bearing unconditional love to this world?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May 15, 2011 Aimee Bruno Gospel: John 10:1-10 1st Reading: Acts 2:42-47
Psalm 23 2nd Reading: 1 Peter 2:19-25

We learned this week that a close elderly relative of Nick’s was the victim of a scam. She thought it was her grandson calling her, saying he had been arrested in the Dominican Republic and needed bail, and by the way, don’t tell dad. So she sent the money. Then he called again the next week—the money never arrived. So she sent it again. Then he called again the week after, needing $40,000. She became very upset at that point—she didn’t have that kind of money! That’s when it all came to light. In the meantime she lost thousands of dollars. She’s embarrassed. She’s sad. Her kids told her she just has a big heart, but be sure to consult them next time.

Jesus said, “The one who does not enter by the gate is a thief and a bandit.” And, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” And, “The sheep will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.”

People fall for scams every day. These thieves count on the fact that grandparents may not recognize the voice of their own grandchild or know what’s going on with their grandkids, or even what country they are in. The person calls and simply says, “Hi grandma, it’s me.” They count on the elderly to guess which grandchild it is. They don’t even need to know the name of the person—just call them grandma and it will melt their heart. This poor boy was crying and carrying on on the phone with her. How could she not reach out to him? And these scammers use a tactic to keep people from asking relatives their advice, “Don’t tell dad or mom.” I’m sure you’re all too smart to fall for anything like this, but anytime someone asks you to keep a secret like that, red flags should go up all over the place!

Sometimes religion has been used to scam people. People have been duped out of possessions and money in similar communities to the one mentioned in the book of Acts this morning. The crying televangelists have begged for money to help the poor or keep the station alive. All too often these televangelists are living in luxury and the money isn’t going where they say it will.

I noticed last week my godson put on his Facebook page his answer to a quiz, “What is the most told lie?” He chose an answer among 5 other answers, “Religions.” Ouch. I felt dissed as a pastor, and like a failed godmother. I hope he didn’t mean everything about religion, but I may never know, because I only see him once or twice a year. How can I pass on the faith to a kid who never goes to church and who I see so infrequently? Am I to blame? What could I have done differently? He’s 15—am I already too late? From his answer to this quiz can I assume that he sees Christians, or even me, as a liar, a thief, and a bandit? Is it appropriate to ask him about this—to take time out of the few hours a year we have together to debate him, get defensive, get him to clarify his questions and try to answer them as best I can? Or is it better to let him wrestle with it and find his own way and just continue to show interest and concern in his life, living and sharing my faith in a quieter, less pushy way? Can I just quietly respect his opinion without it reflecting on me and let his life unfold how it will? If I judge him won’t I make religion more of a lie? That’s not what we’re about!

And maybe it isn’t religion I need to pass on to him, but abundant life. That’s what Jesus stood for and came to bring, not religion. That’s what God wants for us. That’s what I want for my godson, even more than sitting in church or beating himself up about his sins.

It isn’t wealth that I want for him, even though that sometimes gets confused with abundant life in our culture. His family has that, at least way more than mine did at that time. Last year he went with his class on a trip to the East Coast. They went to Ground Zero, the Liberty Bell, and countless other historical sites, along with an amusement park. I was a bit appalled at the expense of the trip, but pleased that he could have that experience when he’s at such an impressionable age. That kind of experiential learning will be with him his whole life. It could shape what he chooses to do with his life, how he sees people who are different from him, how he sees his place in history. I hope that it was more than an expensive diversion, but that he grew in abundant life and that he will want to share abundant life with others because of that experience.

I have been privileged to accompany some of you on your journey in abundant life. For some of you it has been the transition to retirement. Some of you have reflected on your working life in anticipation of retirement. Some of you have jumped in with both feet. Others have dawdled on the shore, sticking your toe in to test the waters. But you all found abundant life your own way—volunteering, caring for grandchildren, traveling. It has all led to abundant life. For some of you, it has required a move, or several moves. When you didn’t expect to find abundant life in a retirement home, it found you!

And I feel that even the journey toward death can be a journey of abundant life. It was with Judith and it was with Darleen. Even those who resist and struggle come to the point where abundant life is handed to them and they go peacefully into the arms of God.

It is a difficult image of Jesus as the gatekeeper, keeping some out and letting some in. It sounds like he picks and chooses, loves and hates. Shepherds used to lay across the opening of the fence to protect the sheep at night. They were the actual gate. If we think of Jesus laying across the threshold, putting himself in harm’s way to protect the sheep, the people—that might be a more helpful image. And during the day he gets up and lets the sheep out and accompanies them on the hillsides all day long as they eat grass and shrubs, checking them for injury with his staff, going out in search of them when they get lost, leading them to water and greener pastures. And if you remember some of the other sheepy texts in the Bible—“’none shall be missing,’ says the LORD. It isn’t a matter of the gate letting in some sheep and not others, protecting some sheep and not others. All the sheep are there, under God’s loving care. And he calls them all by name—did you know that sheep can learn their names and come when specifically called, like cats or dogs? At least like dogs. My cats all think their names are kitty, kitty and go where they please and come when they feel like it! But they know my voice. They aren’t going to come when the neighbor calls kitty, kitty. We found that out the hard way when we asked our neighbor to feed our cats when we were gone one time. Our little Bitey disappeared for the week, rather than come when the neighbor man called!

So what does that mean for us? We are a community, a flock. Our neighbors, too, are in our flock. We try to make sure our neighbors are fed. We work together with other flocks, other congregations, to share the pasture and the abundant life at the pantry. We are working on strengthening our flock and community as we work on redevelopment in the areas of evangelism and serving, visitation, and worship. We are moving forward with plans for our church to have more focus and relevance for today. The flock has to always be moving forward. If they stay too long in one place, they eat every green thing there and then all of a sudden look up and wonder where all the green grass went. The shepherd keeps them on the move, rotating fields where they can eat and fertilize, providing for abundant life.

Sometimes abundant life means suffering—that’s part of life. Change is difficult—it may mean suffering. Giving to others may mean doing without something we might like to have—it might mean a little tweak of pain here or there as we give something up. I know Bible School is a time of abundant life, and boy do I ache at the end of the day, at the end of the week! It takes a lot of work and time and encouraging. And it is all worth it in the end. We don’t suffer in vain. It is all for the cause of abundant life. So please don’t think the second lesson is telling you take abuse of a spouse or child or bully or scammer, or to abuse yourself and torment yourself with shame or self-hatred. Yes, Jesus suffered, but he also stood up for the truth and what was right. Yes, they abused and tortured him and hung him on a cross, but not before he stood up to them and made them see the wrong they had been doing. Yes, he gave up his life, but it was for the purpose of sharing abundant life with those who didn’t have it. We will suffer and go through growing pains. We will die to our old ideas of who we are and we’ll have to let go of some things we thought were central in order to make room for Jesus to transform us and grow us. But it is always in order to bring us to abundant life and for us to share that abundant life as widely as possible with all God’s beloved children.

"Blessing of the Gate" by Jan Richardson
Press your hand to this blessing, here along the side where you can feel its seam.
Follow the seam and you will find the hinges on which this blessing turns.
Feel how your fingers catch on them—top, bottom,the slightest pressure sending the gate gliding open in a glad welcome.
Wait, did I say press your hand to this blessing?
What I meant was press your hand to your heart.
Rest it over that place in your chestthat has grown closed and tight,where the rust, with its talent for making decay look artful,has bitten into what you once held dear.
Breathe deep. Press on the knot and feel how it begins to give way,turning upon the hinge of your heart.
Notice how it opens wide and wider still as you exhale,
spilling you out into a realm where you never dreamed to gobut cannot now imagine living this life without.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gospel: Luke 24:13-35 Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
1st Reading: Acts 2:14a, 36-41 2nd Reading: 1 Peter 1:17-23

The heart is a wondrous and mysterious organ. I bring it up because it is mentioned in all three readings this morning. Plus the fact that on Wednesday morning I got to see my fetus’ heart beating on the ultrasound. We could see all four heart ventricles and see them beating. The heartbeat was 130 beats per minute, which is in the normal range although it could be higher. I just take it as evidence that I will have a calm child. I would have been fascinated to see that kind of image on any kind of creature, but multiply that curiosity by ten because this creature is inside me with half my DNA and someone I’m going to be caring for in a few months.

When I was a chaplain in the hospital I had the most amazing opportunity to witness a bypass surgery. I’ve never seen anything so amazing in all my life. I don’t want to gross you all out, but to see them when they were ready, put the heart back in the chest cavity, and to watch it start beating again—it was truly a miracle. The life-saving surgery, itself, was a miracle. The fact that that tissue beat as a heart was a miracle. The way the blood carries oxygen to the cells and the carbon dioxide and other poisons away from them—I just can’t get over the miracle of the heart.
There is a lot more to the heart than just blood being pumped all over the body. When we get upset, our hearts race. When we are in love, our hearts leap—literally, I have felt it myself. We associate hearts with love, maybe because of that tight feeling in the chest that we feel. Our hearts send our bodies messages with different chemicals. Our hearts tell us things our minds can’t.

The first reading this morning talks about a crowd being cut to the heart. Something that Peter has said has touched them very deeply. It wasn’t a soft, comfortable feeling like a pat on the back. It was a jolt. It might have been a little painful. They were cut, not to the skin, not to the bone, but to the heart. Peter is telling them that Jesus is the Messiah. And they recognize some truth in what he’s saying. It isn’t easy information to take in. If Jesus is really is the Messiah, their lives are going to change. They thought they’d be following a strong Messiah and take up arms to fight the powers of oppression with him. They thought he would ascend the throne and tell them all exactly what to do. They thought when the Messiah came, they would be rich and well-fed and their enemies would be their slaves. But this isn’t the Messiah they got.

Instead of all the things they expected to be doing, they have to repent, turn around, change direction. Their minds have to change direction. Their hearts have to change direction. They have to be washed clean in baptism. They have to die with Christ. They have to be vulnerable to the powers like Christ. They have to give of themselves like Christ. What else could they do? Their hearts are being cut with a knife. They see clearly. Their hearts perceive the truth of Jesus’ way, of Jesus’ teaching. Now that they have heard Peter’s testimony, they can’t go back. Their hearts are going forward. The heart only pumps in one direction. Sometimes the heart doesn’t get all the blood pumping the right way and it gets stuck in a ventricle in a circular pattern and causes the heart to become enlarged. When the heart pumps the blood forward, the enriched blood goes out and nourishes the body. And the blood on its return picks up all the nasty stuff that needs to be removed. It is only forward with the blood and the heart and it is only forward with God’s people and God’s plan.

The second lesson talks both about the blood and the heart. It says we were ransomed by the precious blood of Christ. The blood in the Jewish faith, is the life. They understood without blood you can’t have life. That’s why they are so careful with blood. When they butcher an animal, they are careful to spill the blood in a certain way to cause the animal little to no suffering. Where blood is spilled, special handling instructions are found in the Old Testament. If you have someone with a hemorrhage, that person must be isolated. Women had to be purified after childbirth or menstruation. It was all considered very powerful and potentially dangerous. So now we’ve got this powerful blood of Jesus coming to our aid. And in Holy Communion we also drink that blood. It seems for one thing, the Christians wanted to differentiate themselves from Judaism. The early Christians said, “We’re not Jewish.” They asked some people to choose one religion or the other and this blood imagery and communion was one way to do that. They co-opted a symbol of danger and power to be avoided and turned it around to one with saving powers that you should come into contact with. It was Jesus being willing to pour out that blood, to die, that showed us how to die and rise to new life. And maybe some of this blood imagery was because early disciples of Christ did die in horrific ways for their faith. And this was another way to reassure them.

The second reference in the second lesson says, “Love one another deeply from the heart.” This has nothing to do with blood. This isn’t about our physical bodies. This is a love that cuts deeply. It isn’t just actions. It isn’t just feelings. It isn’t just going through the motions. It is forgiveness. It is sacrificial love. It is a deep connection of community. It isn’t based on what you can do for me. It is the kind of love that Christ has for us. And when you think of that kind of love, it makes it hard to keep hating your enemies.

This whole debate about how we should feel about Osama bin Laden’s death and whether we should celebrate or mourn more violence in our world. We are probably never going to love OBL as he’s now being called, and certainly not deeply from the heart. But can we acknowledge that God knew him when he was smaller than my fetus? Can we acknowledge that his mother and wife and children loved him? Can we picture him in God’s arms? Can we picture Jesus’ arms outstretched for him? I don’t know if there was any part of that man worth redeeming. But if there was then surely Jesus came even to redeem him. Maybe part of us is secretly or not so secretly celebrating, or relieved. And maybe there is part of us that is from God that is sad that it has to come to bloodshed and violence and wonders what further violence this could generate. Let’s pray for the soul of OBL and for his family and friends and for love instead of hatred in our world. That’s what it means to pray for your enemies.

And now to the gospel reading. The disciples on the road to Emmaus—their hearts are slow to believe. Hearts can believe! Hearts can hope. You can ponder things in your heart, like Mary did. Later these two realize their hearts had been burning while Jesus was talking to them. It wasn’t heartburn. It was that feeling when your heart knows something and you don’t. Your heart is trying to tell you something. “Pay attention!” Maybe it is part of what we call intuition.
By the time I am fully pregnant, my blood flow will have increased 50%. It might make me dizzy. I need to drink more water. I need to eat right and take more iron and vitamins. As that part of me increases, I can’t help but think about the growth that can’t be measured on the sonogram or by standing on a scale. How will that intuition part of me grow and how will I grow toward motherhood? It is a work of the heart that is apparently never finished as many of you have been showing me.

Our faith is never just a matter of the eyes because we believe what we haven’t seen. It isn’t just a matter of the brain, getting our mind around God’s love for us—it just can’t be done. It is a matter of the heart: God reaching our hearts with a word, a promise, a loving act. It is a matter of God challenging us and cutting to our hearts, softening our hearts in love toward one another, and filling our hearts until they are overflowing and until we love the world with the heart of God.