The lectionary text for last week was found in 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, where Paul is imploring the church to "open wide your hearts." What did this mean for them? What does it mean for you? For me, having a genuine open stance toward the world is a critical aspect of faith. Without it, can we authentically say we are trusting God? After all, faith is, at its most basic level, trust. For me, this openness means that we stand with arms and hands open, treasuring all around us, not grasping, not fearing. Living this way is risky, but again, that is what faith is all about. It implies that there are no guarantees. It means that all of life is fragile, a gift, and needs to be shared.
This past week we all learned again how fragile life is as 9 people lost their lives because they attended a bible study at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. These nine new saints that we add to the list of martyrs are names we should not know, but due to this tragedy, I feel it is important to say them: Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons Sr., Sharonda Singleton, and Myra Thompson.
Now, more than ever, Paul's words to "open our hearts" should resonant with us. How closed must our hearts be to allow it to be clouded with racism and violent hatred? How hardened must our hearts be to the pain and suffering of those of gun violence in our country to accept these tragedies again and again as normative? How entrenched must our hearts be to accept the Confederate flag flying high on state grounds in South Carolina and elsewhere, as a heritage of bigotry, slavery, and treason?
Just prior to this lectionary reading, Paul shared (in 2 Corinthians 5:17) - "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away: see, everything has become new!" What does it mean to "be in Christ?" It means to be apart of a revolution. To be apart of a rejection of the world's ways of hatred, violence, alienation, mindless consumerism, degradation of the earth, and loving acceptance of whoever finds themselves at the margins of society. To be "in Christ" is to live as people who "open wide their hearts." To see the fallacies of the world and opportunities of the Kingdom. Make no mistake, there is an opportunity before us. We can go the way of the world and pay lip service with our virtual grief to Emanuel AME Church, or we can become "new creations" and work diligently to make laws that make this tragedy in our nation uncommon. To have the courage to speak about white privilege, about systemic racism, about electing individuals who hold that the 2nd Amendment, as it is currently viewed, is a corruption of the intended purpose. The amendment starts out with, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State ..." Are guns, especially assault rifles, "necessary to the security of a free state" now? If we are to be that "new creation" these old ideas must "pass away." The diabolical reality is that many of my brothers and sisters in the Church live and uphold this old idea as essential to their faith. Faith in what? Faith that they can protect themselves, holding tightly to their little spheres of control. Grasping at the illusion of total freedom and complete security. No, these are not an exercise in faith, but quite the opposite. They are tools of the powers and principalities of our world to enslave us to a cycle of violence, mistrust, fear, and a bent attitude of certainty.
What if the churched lived the way that Christ lived and taught: with open hearts, open hands, and open minds. Living with faith in this way means that our stories have power. When we share those vulnerable moments and allow others to break our hearts with their stories - never being the same again, we learn what it means to live with wide open hearts. My heart is breaking this week for the community of Emanuel AME Church and for those families affected. But as a "new creation" with an "open heart", I cannot be satisfied to simply seek to no longer hurt. I, in faith, must "thirst for righteousness" by working for justice, work for bringing a glimpse of the Christ's Kingdom into view, because as Paul implores us: "see, everything has become new!" Yes, that is my prayer today, that we - the church with wide open hearts, becoming new creations will live faithfully, boldly, humbly allowing God to take risks with our lives, to cast aside the old ways and live into God's future of redemptive possibilities.
I'm a follower of Christ, husband, father, friend, pastor, story teller, asker of questions, inspired by biblical narratives, social justice advocate, sports enthusiast, drinker of over priced coffee and general seeker of God's redemptive possibilities. Yeah, that about covers it. (If you discover something else, let me know!)