Monday, May 11, 2015

A Bleeding Heart

This week I was at the public hearing for the senate as they heard testimony about the State budget.
As I sat and listened to testimony after testimony I realized something I am a bleeding heart.
I heard stories of mothers who lost their children to drug overdose and I wept along with them.
I heard stories of mothers who spent long hours helping their children with developmental disabilities and I wept.
I listened to mothers who had children take their own lives because of depression that went untreated and my heart broke.
When I hear someone tell their story that is struggling my heart does bleed for that person.
I have tried to fight it.
I have tried not to let those stories get to me, but they do.
I know it is not good to be a “bleeding heart”, but I can’t help it.
And I think that is how you want your pastor to be.
I don’t think that you would want a pastor who didn’t care about people, about their stories and where they came from.
This morning’s Gospel is about letting our hearts bleed for others.
It is about opening those hearts so that we might be able to love each other as Jesus Christ loved us.
Interestingly enough the phrase “bleeding heart” has its origin in the Order of the Bleeding Heart, a semi-religious order of the Middle Ages honoring the Virgin Mary, whose heart was pierced with many sorrows.

This morning we have to start with the idea of love.
It is thrown around a lot in our world.
And the idea that we should love other people is in our culture, it is not just for religious people.
I don’t know anybody who would disagree that we should love other people.
And because of that what Jesus says to us this morning seems kind of like common sense.

I have been reading lots of articles about people who are not going to church anymore because they have heard it all before.
They have heard enough sermons on love to know that we should love each other.
I suspect that many of you already know that you should love everyone.

Here is the problem.
Love is not that easy.
It is hard.
Love is easy in theory, as a concept that we should generally be aware of and keep in mind.
But love in practice, in the reality of everyday life is much harder, because love demands of us more than merely being aware of it.
Love demands more than merely having groovy feelings about each other.
It demands sacrifice, and action.
Love has to be lived and experienced and not just talked about.
We can’t just say that we love everybody, but we actually have to show that love somehow.
And not everyone is easy to love.
Not everyone is easy to show that love to.

Jesus this morning in the Gospel actually tweaks the golden rule.
Jesus does not say, “Love others as you love yourself.”
Jesus says, “Love each other as I have loved you.”
Jesus loved us enough to die for us.
Jesus loved us enough to meet us where we are.
Jesus loved us enough to make us the center of his attention.
Jesus didn’t just love us in theory, Jesus loved us in practice.
Jesus showed us his love for us.

And perhaps that is why we come here every week.
Not because we get to hear something new and earth shattering.
But because week after week we need to be reminded of what we already know.
We need to be reminded to love others, because doing so is hard and exhausting.
We all have our limits.
We all have that spot that we reach in life when we have exhausted all of our capacity for compassion and we just can’t do it anymore.
And perhaps that is when we need to hear again that love is not easy, and demands the extra mile on our part.
We need to be reminded that it is OK to be a bleeding heart.
That is how we know that we are living right, that we are truly loving and giving of ourselves.

Perhaps that is what mothers know best.
Now not everyone here this morning is a mother.
But we all have mothers.
And perhaps some of our mothers are not the best.
But our mothers are the ones who loved us first.
It is where we learned love.
And if we you are a mother you know that being a mother is heart breaking.
It makes your heart bleed.
Because you will watch as your children do something that is not good for them and yet you can’t stop it.
You will watch as your children suffer through things in life and you will want to take away that pain.
It is heart breaking because you watch your children grow up and you wish that they would be young forever.
You watch them move away, and not fully understand the sacrifices you made.
But that is love.
Love is about having a bleeding heart, about caring for another person enough to give of yourself for that person so that they might have a better life.

I often think that if we could all have a good mother’s heart.
If we could think that it is all of our calling to be mother’s weather we are one to our own children or not.
If we could see all the children of the world as our children then we can become more loving and caring for those people who don’t do well in life, the people who make pure choices and have their lives in ruins that they are our children too.
That we care for them because it isn’t just about our kids but all kids.

In 1872 Julie Ward Howe wrote what came to be known as the Mother’s Day Proclamation.
Julie Ward Howe was also famous for writing the hymn, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”.
Her proclamation was a call to all women to stop the evils of war.
It says in part, “Arise, then, Christian women of this day !
Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears !
Say firmly :
We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies.
Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country, to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.
From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own.”
She wrote this after seeing the carnage of the Civil War and Franco Prussian War.
It is a call to see ourselves as having hearts not just for our own children but the children of our enemy too.
Because you see love is hard.
It is heart breaking to lose your child, your spouse.
It is heart breaking to lose any child and any spouse.
The kind of love Jesus calls us to is to see the heartbreak of another mother for another child.

So we leave here today with bleeding hearts.
That celebrates not only our mothers, but all mothers.
We weep with mothers who have lost children.
Mothers who wish to have children, mothers who failed, mothers who succeed.
We pray that all of us have the heart of true mothers and we might love as Jesus loved us as hard as that might be.

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