This has been a dramatic week here in America and around the world too, with the terrorist attacks in Spain, elections in Kenya and violence in Venezuela just to name a few. I have had so many emotions that it’s been very hard to process them all. We were on vacation the last couple of weeks thus we have not had a chance to process any of this in community with thinplace (the weekly gathering we host at our home in Nashville.)
What do we do with all of the junk that is coming up in our hearts and minds?
I’ve been doing a lot of pondering on how to process all of the craziness of the last few days. Andy Wade has two great posts on living into Shalom in the midst of conflict that if you have not read, I highly recommend! Part 1 and Part 2
And part of this week’s gospel lesson is also helping me process what I am feeling.
Sunday’s gospel reading includes Matthew 15: 10-20
The Pharisees have just given Jesus and his disciples grief about the fact that they don’t wash their hands according to ritual law and they don’t “follow the rules” on all the stuff that the Pharisees think are important in order to be “IN” especially when it comes to eating
Jesus responds :
16-20 Jesus replied, “You, too? Are you being willfully stupid? Don’t you know that anything that is swallowed works its way through the intestines and is finally defecated? But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It’s from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing. That’s what pollutes. Eating or not eating certain foods, washing or not washing your hands—that’s neither here nor there.” THE MESSAGE
16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
It’s what we vomit up that matters to God…
What comes out of our mouths that reflects what is happening in our hearts…
So how is my heart doing?….
I feel like I’ve had too much hate and violence brewing on the edges of my heart of late.
Anger at the way our president reacted to the racism and violence in Charlottesville. Anger at the evil that lurks in the hearts of my fellow citizens. As a follower of Jesus i am called to love… to love my neighbor and pray for my enemies and those who persecute me. This is hard work today. Hard to love in the midst of so much hate and so much brokenness. And it’s hard to see the image of God and the face of Jesus reflected in a Nazi flag waving, gun toting, anger filled young man….but Jesus loves him too. Even in his hate, even in his anger, he is loved by God …but God isn’t about hate and isn’t about sides and isn’t about violence.
And too much grief that threatens to overflow into bitterness, or anger, or harshness towards other people.
I have also had to really look at my heart in terms of racism. I grew up in the South and my high school was built on a Civil War battlefield and to top it all off, our mascot was the Rebel and our fight song was “Dixie.” For all of you who did not grow up in the southern United States, that is like we were still fighting the Civil War and had the Confederate Flag as a part of each football game. Back then, I didn’t think anything about those symbols being racist, or anything about how these symbols looked to someone who is African American. They were just symbols of the South to me. Thankfully I know better now, and have grown to see how much pain these symbols cause, and how destructive and evil the love of these symbols can become. Honestly, I didn’t really have any friends who were black until after college. That really is sad, but it is the honest truth. Thankfully, my parents raised me to see that all people are equal in God’s sight, all people of all colors and creeds are God’s children. Thankfully I was raised that the KKK was evil and racism was too. This was in stark contrast to some of my relatives who were extremely prejudiced and very racist. As a kid growing up in the South, I wasn’t allowed to call the Civil War the Civil War, it was the War of Northern Aggression, or the War between the States. And when my grandmother met my future husband who is from Ohio, he was considered a “damn yankee.” And she meant it. So there is sadly, still so much of the South that is stuck in the mindset of 1855 or worse, 1865. People who are still very afraid of any change or anyone who doesn’t look or think like them. These white southerners still want to be in control and still want to dominate their world. This is not the Kingdom of God.
So now what?
Today I have to ask myself, Am I trying to control my world? Or am I letting God be in control?
Am I afraid? What are the things I am afraid of? Can I let Jesus hold these fears and have my anxieties about the world, politics etc?
Can I choose to love, pray for and reach out to people who don’t think like I do? Even the racist members of my family? How do I love them? How do I share the love, joy, peace, and hope of Jesus with them? And what are the tangible things I can do to bring God’s justice and mercy to my neighborhood and my city? How can I be a part of the white majority that fights as Jesus would for people still suffering in my city right now from injustice and a broken system that essentially “enslaves” them?
Yes, with God’s help I can start with baby steps in all of these things.
What about you? How is your heart today?
What do we do with all the emotions that violence, and evil, and hatred bring up in us?
For me, I need symbols and rituals to help me connect.
We have a candle lighting ritual we do at the beginning of thinplace each Sunday night.
You can see that here.
We ask God to fill us with God’s hope, peace, joy, love and light. And when we end our time together, we blow out the candles and ask that God help us take hope, peace, joy, and love to the world and be the Light of God in our neighborhoods and jobs and schools. You can do something like this on your own, with your whole church community, or with your family around the kitchen table.
This week at thinplace we will all get a handout with three heart outlines drawn on the page. See photo below.
- On the large heart we will write down all the emotions that are swirling around including all the things that are bringing us stress and pain. And take the time to really talk to God about the things in our heart.
- On one smaller heart we will write down all the things we are grateful for. Write these things down in that heart.
Gratefulness and thankfulness help us experience the shalom of God and when we see all the gifts God is giving to us we are able to give love and peace away to others.
- The second smaller heart is the heart of confession. Write down the things you want to give to God to carry for you and the things you want/need God to forgive. Write these things down in that heart.
As we close our time together, we will then give that heart to Jesus and put it at the base of a cross and allow Jesus to have the stuff that is causing our heart grief and pain and causing us to vomit things that hurt others and ourselves.
I am praying this weekend, that we all can feel God’s hope, peace, joy and love, and that we can be God’s lights in our neighborhoods, our families, in our schools and places of work so that we can share in God’s shalom for all people.