February 24, 2019
The Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany
Good morning Seekers, thank you so much for letting me share parts of myself with you this morning. For those of you who do not know me, I was born and raised in NY, and I am first generation American. My parents are from Haiti and Martinique who have origins in West Africa, India, and Europe. I moved to the DMV from France in 2005, and I never left. I have twin daughters who are 18 years old and attend college in NY and Boston. I love my girls and I cannot fathom my life without them.
How did I discover “Seekers”? One could argue that I stumbled upon Seekers while waiting for the light to turn green, but I believe the Holy Spirit led me here. I was attending night classes around the corner and on my way home, I caught the red light and saw the church sign, and immediately fell in love with the name “Seekers” and made a mental note to check it out. But alas my memory failed me, and I forgot all about it until I found myself for the second time looking at the sign while waiting for the light to turn green. So, this time I was serious, I was not going to forget. You see, that very morning I had decided to seek God, again, so I took it as a sign. As soon as I got home, I went to the website. I read everything I could about “Seekers.” Literally, I read every single page on the website and printed out all the documents that I could so I could take my time to read them. I was pleasantly surprised with what I discovered: 1) there was no pastor; the church was committed to pastoring one another. I believe our model of pastoring is more in line with God’s original intent for the body of Christ, 2) the mission to carry out the first and greatest commandment Mat 22:35-40, and 3) helping others to see and walk in their call. Yes, out of everything I read, these three stuck out to me the most, so I had to meet the people behind the “website.” I decided to visit, and I stayed.
But there’s more to this story. I was seeking God anew because my heart was in pieces; I would even say shut down. I felt disillusioned by my old church, the church in general, my friends and myself. I felt like my heart tricked me, and I could no longer trust her, or anyone. My heart had shut down because of hurt, disappointment, fear, procrastination, doubt, anger, and unbelief. But I guess God left something in me that would cause me to persevere in my spiritual journey and to take heart and to seek God anew.
So, what does this have to do with today’s Gospel reading in Luke 6:27-38. Well, the answer is, everything. As Rebecca so sweetly shared last week (paraphrased), unless we empty our vessels, we limit what we can receive from God. I understand that to mean, unless I decide to let go of my pain, anger, rebellious ways, hurt, depression, (the list can go on), God can’t fill me with healing, love, joy, and peace, and more, if the “No Vacancy” sign is lit up.
So, before I begin, let us pray.
Dear God, I thank you for opportunity to share my heart this morning. May the words that flow from my heart bless you, those who are listening, and for those who stumble upon this written message. Amen!
So before I dive in let me reread Luke 6:27-38:
6:27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others, as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
Wow – what a scripture. I don’t recall if I had said yes to give this message before or after I read the scripture. In all honesty, even though it’s beautiful, and an ideology in which I can rest upon, I struggle to understand all its aspects, and to practice what it says, as God intended (what are God’s intentions?). I think, what about me, who’s going to take care of me, who is going to love me, who’s going to do “good” unto me? How can I possibly love my enemies, turn a cheek, when my heart is full of pain, distrust and frankly, shut down. I only have room for my girls, and some room for God, and a little leftover for some other folks, and lots of room to rebel. I am guarded, and self-protective. I wasn’t always this way. I’ve been a Christian for 30 years, and I feel that I am in a battle for my soul like never. My divorce was a piece of a cake compared to my heart today. Where do I begin? What would applying this scripture look like practically?
After sharing my heart struggles with MZB, she graciously lent me a book Ordinary Christians in a High Tech World by Robert E. Slocum. I thought, how interesting a title, and she invited me to read the section “A New Heart for a New Age.” Hmm I thought, that’s exactly what I need, a new Heart or maybe a new way of understanding my heart. I began reading, and I think to myself, wow this guy is on to something. Seeking deeper meaning into the “Heart”, not the human organ, referencing scriptures, Robert discovered that in the Revised English Standard, the word heart is written over a thousand times and three Hebrew words and two Greek words were translated into the English word “Heart.” It’s then that he understood that the English language could not adequately convey the meaning of “Heart.” To summarize, Robert concluded that the heart had different dimensions, an emotional (negative or positive), volitional (our will), ethical (discerning between good and evil), intellectual (seeking knowledge and understanding), and spiritual (encountering God). I like where’s he’s going with this. He’s speaking my language. I solve problems by making lists and categories; I can see the “heart” as “multidimensional” and can flow within this framework. I can see how it all connects together, and as I reflect on my current “heart condition” in response to this scripture, I can pinpoint the various dimensions, anger (emotions), my resistance (the will – volition), choosing to do good (ethics), understanding the intent or purpose (intellect), and being like God (spiritually) by forgiving others and showing mercy to those not deserving of it.
So, what is my response to this scripture now? I think it’s still hard to follow, but there’s something in me that is hopeful, and I am reminded of Jesus, and so I pray that God helps me empty my vessel of fear, bitterness, unforgiveness, so I can be an open vessel. So that I receive from God, so that I can love my enemies or perceived enemies. I pray that God would bless my boss(s), colleagues, and natural father, knowing that they are not the real enemy of my soul. I choose to forgive the men that were/are in my life, that used me and discarded me, and whom I discarded. That I would let go the biggest enemy of my soul which is the internalized judgment of myself and love the person God created in me.
I pray that God would make me willing; I am willing. Then maybe I can touch God or share in the holiness thereof and be like Jesus in some way. I may not always feel like it, especially when my emotional dimension has taken over, but it’s nice to know that my emotional dimension is not my whole heart, it’s only one part. Therefore, I can reign it in, and lean into the other dimensions of my heart to help me find the balance that I need so that I can live in alignment with Jesus. So, I can be holy and love God with all my heart, mind and strength, and when my strength fails me, it’s ok, it’s not all over – no need to throw in the towel. AMEN!
I end this message with a prayer, asking God to carry us, enable us, to help us so that we are made alive in Christ and a blessing to all as God wills.