In pm's words
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March 9, 2016, 7:00 PM

Open My Heart, Lord


From our Mid-Week Lenten Series theme on "Open My Life, Lord."

 

Grace and peace to each of you this evening as we gather for our fourth Lenten Wednesday service.

We’ve called upon God to open our eyes, our hands, and our ears. This evening we begin to look inward to ourselves as we call upon God to open our hearts. To open our hearts to the ways of God, to hear the words of Jesus, and to open our hearts to be present and in relationship with those in need around us.

When I look back on my life I know that I’ve been pretty lucky. Unlike many I have not only been able to travel around the world, but I’ve always been blessed to live around the country and world as well. I’ve been blessed to see, to know, and to be present with so many different types of people.

And yet, I notice as I get older it becomes more and more difficult at times to see others with an open heart. As individuals come into the church office to receive help; there is that in-breaking thought of – how is this person trying to swindle me? Am I going to be taken advantage of? Am I doing the right thing?

The older I get there are times where I become cautious with those around me who are in need because somewhere I’ve either had an experience or been told of an experience where ‘that type of person’ did me/someone wrong so I should be wary – I should be guarded.

And, I think I remember the first time that I thought that. I was living in Italy and I believe we were traveling with my family in the historic area of the Campagna region – the former seat of royal power in Italy, we lived in Naples which is the historic capital of this region. One day my family and I went to visit the historic downtown sections of Naples as it is filled with wonderful art, architecture, history, and culture.

I remember watching a man approach a woman sitting on the street with her hand outstretched while she held on to a baby wrapped in a blanket. As he got closer, he took his wallet out to help this new ‘mother.’ When he got about a foot away and he was pulling some Lira out of his billfold, the woman threw the bundle in her arms at him. Naturally he went to catch the baby and he dropped his wallet. The woman snatched the wallet and she and an older girl ran away as fast as they could. Turns out, the ‘baby’ was just a doll with a cassette player with a tape of baby sounds wrapped in a thick blanket.

I remember thinking – well if that’s what they are going to do. I’m not going to help.

Another story. I was in high school and involved in my church’s youth group. We went to the Oliver Gospel Mission in Downtown Columbia to help serve the homeless food. While I served mashed potatoes and chicken, I remember being yelled at by a few men because I was being ‘stingy’ with the food. Couldn’t I see that they were hungry they would ask me – give me more. Yet, I couldn’t because the leaders of our group had given specific instructions on how much food is to be given so that more could eat.

I was torn. How much do I help – does the church help – without the thought that I’m just going to get swindled or taken advantage of or told off because it ‘wasn’t enough.’

I imagine that there are many of you who have felt the same way. Wanting to help – but, not knowing how to help, but also not wanting to be taken advantage of or to fall in the trap of enabling a person to continue living in the space and way that they are in.

It's tough. Yet, I am convicted by our scriptures this evening to open my heart to God’s call. To open my heart – our hearts – to what Jesus proclaims. To open the heart of the world to the Spirit’s guidance.

And, that’s not easy. It doesn’t help that our hearts close to those in need because of an experience we had or a story we’ve heard. A story we’ve heard from a friend (or friend of a friend) or something we saw on the news.

There is so much around the world that attempts to tell us that it is silly, foolish, dangerous to open our hearts to those in need. Don’t place yourself in that position.

And, yet we hear from Paul’s words to the church in Corinth this evening about how those things that the world sees as ‘bad’ that are lifted up in God’s eyes as righteous and good. And then Paul throws in that line that really tugs at us – he speaks as to children – open wide your hearts.

Children are amazing. Their love and hearts are always open wide to those around them. It ceases to amaze me and fills my heart with joy about how caring my children can be to those they don’t know. They’ve never met. And to those they never will meet.

They want to help and love because they are helped and loved. They know – even at that young age – that when people are hurting you help. You care. You love. You open your heart.

As we call on to God to open wide our hearts we know that it can be difficult and it won’t always be easy. But, we are called to open wide our hearts. To open our hearts so that we can proclaim Christ through our words, our actions, and our thoughts to those around us. Where we are called to err on the side of grace.

Where we pray to God that our hearts might be so opened as Lydia’s was. As she listened to Paul proclaiming the gospel – she and her household were baptized to live into the faith that God has called for all of us. Opening her our hearts and our life to the ones around us. Amen.

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