Sunday, February 1, 2015

The God Who See Us Whole

I will give thanks to God with my whole heart- Psalm 111. Whenever I have seen this phrase, I so often think of it as speaking about the force of our commitment. But I was reading from Jan Richardson’s work on the Painted Prayerbook which is one of the online devotional sites I utilize. Richardson sadly lost her husband a little more than a year ago, and she has been focusing upon how her life is altered and yet how God is rebuilding her. She approaches this week’s lessons with a question that caught my attention. She asks about wholeness in a different sense. The sense where sometimes our hearts don’t feel whole. That there is in some way a sense of incompleteness, and then encountering the lessons as offering a view of God’s wholeness into those un- whole places. So here’s the question-Where might we instead of having whole hearts, have instead, a hole, that keeps us incomplete?

Perhaps we are falling prey for example to what Deuteronomy warns against- believing that some false god is our source of completeness. There are a lot of those to choose from. Food, possessions, activities, work, and more. What might we be hoping will fill that space? Sometimes each of us has that feeling.

The singer Jewel wrote a song called “A Hole in my Heart.” Part of the lyrics say, “There’s a hole in my heart, and I carry it wherever I go.. it travels with me down every road. There’s a longing, lonesome and deep, kind of bitter, kind of sweet. Time stealing swiftly, children having children of their own, and around life’s merry go round goes, and there you are wanting what you cannot hold.”

If this day, you are wrestling with a hole in your heart, perhaps it’s hard to imagine a wholehearted cry of thanksgiving. Yet here you are, and our calling in Christ is to help you find wholeness

But to complicate life, Paul tells us that while we are often trying to fill our own sense of what makes everything right, we must be mindful that individual choices have consequences for the health of the whole community. Maybe the hole we want to fill is the church just “perfect” while someone else is finding that desire to be a stumbling block to community. There you are, wanting what you cannot hold. Yet it is here that we are met by Jesus.

In our gospel today we hear of Jesus’ encounter with the man possessed. I’m not here to talk about what exactly was possessing the man and speculate about what it was. Because, more importantly is what possession looked like. And it is just as true that we all, are possessed by things that keep community and wholeness at bay. Here comes this man into a place called the synagogue. That word’s very meaning is people drawn together. But he’s been unable to be there. Imagine that man, seen by those around him as unable to be whole, told he cannot be whole-not physically, or in community. Imagine believing that you can never be whole.

And in one sense we can’t be whole if we are relying upon our power to achieve the wholeness, to fill the void, or heal a breach.

Yet, each of these passages shows us something of the wholeness in which God created us, and is working out within us. And each shows us that actions speak louder than words. We are drawn to acknowledge the liberation Christ brings us. And that only Christ can bring. That’s the last line in Jewel’s song- There’s a hole in my heart in the shape of you. There’s a hole in us that only God can fill. Maybe that’s the song we can sing to God. Whole heartedly. There’s a hole that only you can fill, God. The good news is that God wants to fill it. And that this is more than just words. It has to be more than words because otherwise we leave here just the same.

Jesus teaching in the temple happens in a way that shows he is something more. But it is when he liberates a man from what has denied him wholeness that we see God’s words come to life. This is what amazes people- a glimpse of God’s power that is more than just words. That the forces of separation cannot possess Jesus. And in our midst he shows that God’s desire, rooted in love is that they not separate and possess us either. This is what God is building in us and through us.

So perhaps the question that the gospel asks this day is: How might it be to open your heart—no matter how broken—to the One who sees you whole?

And then- How might it be to open your heart to someone who also has a hole? And help them see Christ

Our actions and words can perpetuate isolation and despair or center others in Christ who is our salvation. We gather here to believe and to share the glimpses of “what it means to have a whole heart, to live in a way that recognizes that, broken though we may be, God sees us complete and is about the work of helping us live into that completeness, not just for ourselves but for and with one another.”

That’s amazingly good news for all of us! So I close with the poem written by Richardson- Blessing for a Whole Heart

You think
if you could just
imagine it,
that would be a beginning;
that if you could envision
what it would look like,
that would be a step
toward a heart
made whole.

This blessing
is for when
you cannot imagine.
This is for when
it is difficult to dream
of what could lie beyond
the fracture, the rupture, the cleaving through which
has come a life
you do not recognize
as your own.

When all that inhabits you
feels foreign,
your heart made strange
and beating a broken
and unfamiliar cadence,
let there come
a word of solace,
a voice that speaks
into the shattering,

reminding you
that who you are
is here,
every shard
somehow holding
the whole of you
that you cannot see
but is taking shape
even now,
piece joining to piece
in an ancient,
remembered rhythm

that bears you
not toward restoration,
not toward return—
as if you could somehow
become unchanged—
but steadily deeper
into the heart of the one
who has already dreamed you


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