Gospel: Luke 24:13-35
Reading: Acts 2:14a, 36-41
I invite you this morning to stop and take notice of the beating of your heart. Find your pulse – either on your wrist or on your neck, wherever you can feel it strongly. This is fire. Pure energy. Just as the energy from the sun animates all life and ignites chemical reactions that enable the flourishing of life, this fire is also within us, igniting millions of chemical reactions that enable us to exist as the beings that we are. Consider where this pulse came from and how it came to be you. Feel your blood pulsing, keeping your cells alive, bringing oxygen and nutrients, and taking away carbon dioxide and other waste products. How amazing the heart is! Consider how it beats throughout our lives, the four chambers working together, the network of veins and capillaries stretching for tens of thousands of miles, if laid end to end about 2 ½ times around the earth. Continue to note the beating of your heart.
I remember the first time I heard Sterling’s heartbeat through the monitor at the midwife’s office—the fast beating whoosh, and each time after that. I remember seeing his heart on the ultrasound—I could see all the chambers. And now to hold him close and feel his heart beating, fast when he’s upset or has been running or jumping, slowing as he sleeps. What an amazing miracle that this organ is that beats inside each one of us.
The heart is involved in so much more than just pumping blood. According to Rollin McCraty Institute of HeartMath Director of Research, "The heart is a sensory organ and acts as a sophisticated information encoding and processing center that enables it to learn, remember, and make independent functional decisions.”. He discovered that the heart’s electromagnetic field, as measured by an electrocardiogram (ECG), in one individual could be detected and measured in another person when the pair either were seated within three feet of each other whether they were touching or not. The heart of one person sends out signals that affect other people nearby.
The heart is busy doing all these things that we are just beginning to understand, yet how often do we take a moment to be aware of what our heart does for us, how it affects us and others?
The heart is mentioned several times in the readings for this morning. In Acts, Peter is addressing a huge crowd of Jewish people of every language and nationality there in Jerusalem. Upon hearing all that Peter shares about Jesus, how he is the Messiah, many in the crowd were cut to the heart. They were touched. They had a physical reaction to this news. They knew about Jesus. They were the ones who had cried out for him to be crucified not two months before. This feeling of being cut to the heart may have been a mixture of shame a guilt, with some hope mixed in and some joy. Here were Jesus’ friends addressing them who had cried out for him to be crucified. The disciples didn’t come to shame them. They came to share the good news of God’s love, forgiveness, and new life for all. The hearts of those in the crowd were probably hurt because of what they had done to Jesus. In the heat of the moment and the pressure of the crowd, they’d acted rashly and cruelly. But now, they’d had some time to reflect on their actions. They may have seen him suffering there on the cross. Many of them likely had regretted their actions that day. Now Jesus’ friends were offering them acceptance and welcome. They were forgiven. They were invited to be part of something life-giving and new. They were invited to be part of the promise for all, for their children, for those who are far away. They heard loud and clear, each in their own language, it doesn’t matter where you come from, what language you speak, or how you’ve been cruel in the past, you are welcome to join with Jesus in life and love. They were invited into community which would strengthen them and give them new vision and awareness.
While we’re not quite having 3,000 baptisms today, it’s not a competition, and this is one of the largest groups of people we’ve welcomed here in a long time. Today God says to these new members that we are all in one community, God’s family. How wonderful that folks here at King of Kings took notice that someone they knew was searching and thought to invite them, that our website was able to convey the kind of welcome that Christ extends to us all, that through open minds and open hearts we’ve embraced these new people in our midst, that these folks have come to accept us for who we are with all our shortcomings and failings, and that together we make a new community. We gather together and affect one another’s hearts. Together we look with the eyes of our hearts, we share our stories of faith, we share our struggles, and together we try to see Jesus and his love and we try to be Jesus’ heart reaching out in love and generosity to those in need.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus calls the disciples slow of heart. He calls them foolish. He calls them slow of heart to believe what the prophets have been saying in the Bible all along about what the Messiah would be like and that he would be raised and that he would bring new life to all people and draw all creation to himself.
Jesus calls them slow of heart because they missed the point of his teachings. They walked with Jesus for three whole years. Still they didn’t see what was right in front of their faces, Jesus. The Disciples heard the scriptures. They went to the tomb. The same is true of us. We miss Jesus right in front of us. Jesus tells us to look for him in the poor and imprisoned and hungry and abandoned.
Jesus comes near to us and walks with us on the road. Our eyes don’t see him. We see what we’re used to seeing. We blame people for their condition, we judge. We don’t look and listen for Jesus. We stand around looking sad, feeling sorry for ourselves. We cry out for God to get people back in shape, to make this world better, and we miss Jesus standing right in front of us.
What if we stopped and listened to the beating of our hearts? What if we stopped and made ourselves aware that the person standing right in front of us also has a beating heart? What if we stopped and acknowledged the miracle right in front of us? And what if we listen to them, their story about what makes them who they are and what they are passionate about? And what if we shared some of our heart with them about what makes us who we are? What if we simply accompanied each other, shared our presence with one another, our energy field? Might we be more likely to see Jesus there? Could that change our whole world view until our hearts are burning to know other people more deeply and to know ourselves more deeply, and to know God more deeply? Might our hearts then burn with the Holy Spirit that binds us together into community?
Out of that conversation between the disciples and the risen Jesus, comes an invitation. The disciples urged Jesus to come to dinner. Whenever we invite Jesus, he accepts. And as he breaks that bread at the table with them and blesses it, he is blessing them with his presence, and the day ends. The old passes away and something new begins to occur. Even though it is dark, and it would have made more sense if they had recognized him in the light of day, their eyes are opened and everything changes. Their whole history is reinterpreted, considering Christ’s presence from the beginning of the universe, through time, in every tree and river, to the moment of their birth when their heart began to pump oxygen, breath, spirit, that their very own lungs had drawn into their body, in every dark valley, in every loss, in every life lesson, in every moment of love and forgiveness. God with them at all times and all places.
Jesus reveals himself to the Disciples and reveals himself to us. It was in the breaking of the bread that he is revealed. It is in those times when we are broken, not quite whole, that we are ragged and jagged, awkward, when we are so aware of our own need, our own failures, that our eyes can be open to see Jesus offering new life. Just as our hearts pump blood throughout our bodies and sustain our life, Jesus’ love pumps through our lives, whether we are aware of it or not, God’s presence with us.
God came to be a human being with a beating heart, like all of us. And he allowed his own heart to be broken, with all the injustice he saw, all the people he met that were left out, all the children going hungry, all the cruelty that we inflict on ourselves and each other and this beautiful world. And he allowed his heart to be broken, literally, as he died there on the cross. His beating heart stopped. And he handed his heart to us, in this meal that we share almost every week, the body and blood of Jesus, the heart of Jesus, pumping life and love to all of us, his body in this world.
Now, together with Christians of every time and place we are asked to be Jesus’ heart beating for the world. We are invited to have a heart for the poor, the old, for teenagers, for little ones, for the tired, for the sick, for the oppressed and hungry. We get to be Christ’s heart in the world, full of compassion and love, aware of all the beating hearts around us and responsive to their needs.
We find ourselves confused and disappointed in life, feeling abandoned, guilty, and weary. Like the disciples, we are walking away from the cross, from all the difficulties we’ve faced. We find Jesus walking with us. We find people of God, people of faith walking by our side. We find God’s grace and forgiveness walking with us, listening to us, being with us in our sorrow. And in a meal, a relationship is recognized that has always been there, that opens our eyes to the Kingdom God is creating in this world.
This is a tiny peek at the Kingdom of God. Where else do you have such an interesting group of new members? Where else do you find this combination of gifts, passions, and life experiences? Where do you find this particular combination of beating hearts? Don’t let yourself keep walking without seeing. We break bread together at this table each week—extend that invitation to each other, get to know each other, have a compassionate heart, and find yourself seeing Christ and experiencing God’s presence wherever you go.