The following is a sermon that I will give at the first worship service of the year. I think its message is one that everyone can relate to.
Heartbroken, Open hearted, Heartfelt, heartbeat, heart and soul, heart space, heartsick, Bighearted, Coldhearted, Disheartening, downhearted, fainthearted, halfhearted, heartache, heartily, heartless, heart-filled, heartthrob, heavyhearted, lighthearted, softhearted, stouthearted, wholehearted. All of these words are part of our language because our hearts are not just a physical organ. Our hearts are the connection between our physical being-ness and our soul.
The heart of the matter is that all of humanity growing spiritually. But, honestly what does that mean in every day language? It seems as if our hearts must break as they open, which may be exactly the heart of the matter. We are “Broken Open” as Elizabeth Lesser’s book tells us.
And honestly it doesn’t feel all that great to be broken, broken open
We live lives behind self-constructed castle walls. We build these walls as a form of protection against the hurts, wounds and unexpected arrows flung at us by fate and fortune. The deeper the wounds- the thicker we build our walls. Some walls are almost impenetrable… almost impenetrable. No one is able to completely isolate themselves from the light of Love. No one is beyond redemption. No one can completely ignore their heart in their heart of hearts.
Spiritual practice breaks down our walls and this happens in tiny steps of which we may not even be aware. We turn around and realize that we did not react from the same old pattern. We woke up, even if it is only for a moment. Of course we will go back to sleep. We always go back to sleep.
When I was thinking about giving this talk today I meditated and in my meditation I was pondering all of the words and phrases that we just named. Heart broken, open hearted, compassionate heart… but, I also clearly heard in my head, “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.” I read this book in high school. It was the time of the Civil Rights movement. It was a time of turmoil and heartbreak and struggles: riots, beatings, assignations that rocked our country in our very hearts, to our very souls. So, hearing the name of this book in meditation, of course, I needed to revisit it and see what was there that would help with this talk. “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” is a story of John Singer, a deaf man and the people he encounters in a small town during the 1930s. It’s interesting that the people John Singer meets feel drawn to him and confide in him and he can’t hear what they are saying. He is safe. Therefore, in essence they are talking to themselves, baring their hearts to man that can’t hear them. John Singer has his own heartbreak that he carries alone, unable to communicate his pain. Each character has a story of their own heartbreak, broken dreams and sorrow- very much like all of us in this room.
At the end of the story, Biff Brannon, the owner of the diner in this little town, suddenly awakens… “Then suddenly he felt a quickening in him. His heart turned and he leaned his back against the counter for support. For in a swift radiance of illumination he saw a glimpse of human struggle and of valor. Of the endless fluid passage of humanity through endless time. And of those who labor and of those who—one word—love. His soul expanded. But for a moment only. For in him he felt a warning, a shaft of terror... he was suspended between radiance and darkness. Between bitter irony and faith."
Moving beyond our castle walls is unbelievably terrifying and most of us can only do it with tiny forays into the light and like hermit crabs we quickly close back up after only a moment or two in the light. It is my prayer that each of you will open your shell for just a moment and feel safe enough to feel the light during this our offering here today.
Even if it’s only for a moment I hope that you feel safe enough to rest in your heart, like our friend the hermit crab open your heart enough to feel the light. Rest in the arms of God. You are safe here. And like Biff feel that moment of radiance. If you feel it once, your’ heart will long for it again and again.