Home / Sermons / Hearts Wide Open

Hearts Wide Open

Posted on

The title for today’s reflections, Hearts Wide Open, initially emerged from one of the assigned bible readings for today that we didn’t hear read from 2 Corinthians. 2 Corinthians was going to be one of our two readings on which to reflect, but through the events of this past week the Spirit has shifted our attention to the Psalm instead. However, the title of the sermon—Hearts Wide Open—is what I would like to offer before you in this sacred space this morning.

For, Beloved, in a time of desert places and wild seas, I am going to ask you to turn away from the turmoil. Get comfortable. If you are able, place your feet on the floor, or sit in your chair in any way that calms you. Breathe. Breathe in the life-giving air that courses through our veins, from that first gasp at birth, to the final exhalation we will have on this earth.


Be aware.


Be aware of this place…

Be aware of the person to your left…

And to your right…

Sense whether there is anyone behind you…

Or before you.

Feel the interconnectedness.

Notice the presence of the Creator, the Great Mystery. God.

See God reflected in the lush hillside outside the windows.

The birds, squirrels, rabbits, any creeping or crawling things you might see…


Open your hearts wide.

Know that God is here. Armed with patience. Kindness. Grace. Love.

I invite you into this place, with the all the audacity of great faith. Or not. For our time is a time of dry desert places that threaten to suck the life right out of us, drowning us in wild, life-threatening waters. Images and words swirl about. It seems like the way of life that we have always known has been destabilized. It feels as if an endless storm is swirling about. And that… We. Are. Going. To. Sink.

Two images in particular this week caught my attention, and echoed over and over in my mind. Know that I do fact check my resources, and that I am aware there are conflicting stories in the media. Yet these are the stories that stirred my soul.

The first is really more of an “auditory image.” The “Womp womp” that was uttered by an adult, in front of reporters, in response to a question asked about the plight of a 10-year old girl with Down Syndrome. This young girl had allegedly been taken from her mother earlier this month and placed in detention after they, the mother and her 5 children… one with Down Syndrome… had illegally crossed into the United States. The Mexican government has suggested that the girl’s restricted placement was unwarranted, since her father (who they indicated is an American citizen) lives in the States not far from where the crossing occurred.[1], [2] As someone who spent twenty years working with children and adults who have cognitive and physical challenges, people who could not use speech as their primary mode of communication… someone passionate about giving people a voice, the tools they need to be fully included in life, at home, school, work, and the community… who supported people to be self advocates… a tidal wave of emotion swelled in my body as the horrific “womp, womp” played over and over in the news. At the same time that I kept hearing Jesus’ command to “Let the children come to me…And (Jesus) took (the children) up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them” (Mark 10:14, 16, NRSV).

Separation. Chained link walls. Mylar blankets. A handout given to parents highlighting the question, “How do I locate my children?”[3]

O God, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 38b)


Be aware.

Why are you afraid?” (Mark 4:40)


And then I saw the image that is reportedly going to be published on the cover of Time magazine the first week of July. Have you seen it? Have you read the words? Two images Photoshopped onto a stark, red background. I am aware that questions are arising in regard to the original photograph, but this image, this statement, speaks volumes through the lack of words. One simple image that sums up the lack of voice, the unheard cries of the oppressed, the victims fleeing violence, poverty. The Time cover is of a child, reportedly a two-year old girl in tears, whom the photographer reports was “a brief moment in time of a distressed little girl, whose mother is being searched (by border control agents) as they are both taken into custody”[4] upon their arrival in Texas. In the image, the young girl, dressed in bright pink, stand… small… at the bottom of the page… crying. Her isolation, her despair, is contrasted against the imposing figure in a dark suit on the right side of the page. Other than the word “TIME” at the top, the only 3 words are “Welcome to America.”[5] And the echoes of the children, the 2,000+ youth, the cries of their parents, ring out in the words from the Psalm:

God “does not forget the cry of the afflicted…God has made Gods’ Self known, God has executed judgment…The nations have sunk in the pit that they made…”


And I hear the people in the boat, yelling at the top of their lungs in fear, as the storm rages about, “Jesus! Wake up! We are perishing!



Be aware.

Because fear is lurking. Despair is breaking forth in overwhelming helplessness. Fatigue is looming.

And here, as our boats are being swamped Jesus asks, “Why are you afraid?” (Mark 4:40)

Beloveds, this is where I ask you to have faith—however you define it. Whether you the sense deep in your gut that you come here today with rock solid faith, a smidgen of faith, an uncertain faith, or no faith—I invite you to open yourself to Jesus’ presence. For there is Great Hope embedded in today’s scripture. In the storm that rages all about, be not afraid. Have faith.

Science is showing us that “negative feelings life anger and fear (can) not coexist in the same space with positive ones like happiness and gratitude.”[6] Yet, as Diana Butler Bass points out, “For far too long, politics has been a game of tit for tat, a reciprocal arrangement of corrupted gratitude geared toward enriching those at the top of the social pyramid who control the flow of benefits to everyone else.”[7] In her book, Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks,” Bass states that, “We are like fish swimming in a polluted river… We get used to the toxicity… For the good of all, we must resist the status quo, we must clean up the water. Here is where gratitude and resistance combine. Gratitude resists unhealthy environments and empowers the possibility of change.”[8] For in the way that our brains work, fear and gratitude cannot be held in the same place in the same time.

Church, the waters in which we are being tossed about are toxic. We must be resilient. We must resist. We must clean up the waters about us. And the tools of resilience and resistance include—yes… action—but also responses such as prayer, Sabbath, and practicing gratitude. For, as Bass discovered through her research: “…negative emotions—fear, envy, greed, entitlement, resentment, anger, and regret—block gratitude, causing ‘self-alienation,’ broken relationships…resulting in a worldview that is ‘deeply false to human nature and the nature of the universe, a distortion of reality.’”[9]

I am not suggesting that we ignore the injustices and needs of our sisters and brothers who are experiencing homelessness, or those who are working 2-3 jobs and not able to make the rent… or the women and men that are returning to our communities after being incarcerated and are not able to find jobs… or the children and adults who are unable to obtain necessary mental health care… or those who are detained in one of the two ICE detention centers in Wisconsin (there is one in Juneau and one in Kenosha). Yes, there ARE indeed times and places where we need to show up, call our representatives and senators… vote… serve a meal, donate bandages… Yes, there are tables to be flipped—but in following the Way, the teachings of Jesus, there is also the need to Be Not Afraid. To give thanks. To sing praises to God.

Bass writes that, “Gratitude begins with a profound awareness of abundance and builds communities of well-being and generosity. Gratitude opens toward grace.”[10]


So in this time of great windstorms and waves, which beat into our psyche and flood our souls—Breathe.

Open your hearts wide.

Know that God is here. Armed with patience. Kindness. Grace. Love.

And practice gratitude. Sing. Write. Draw. Plant. Walk. Dance. Bike. Sew. Cook. Pray. Be resilient. Be resistant to the fear.

Following worship today, I invite you to write down your words of gratitude on the sheet provided in the Fellowship Hall. If you have kids with you today, ask them to participate too. Today, and each day, hold this question in your heart: For what are you grateful?


Be not afraid.

Open your hearts wide.

Be resilient.

Go forth, and transform the world.

Can I get an Amen?



~ Pastor Kris


Reflection on 2 Cor. 6:1-13 and Mark 4:35-41 offered June 24, 2018



[1] Swenson, Kyle, and Amy B. Wang. “‘Womp Womp’: Corey Lewandowski Mocks Story of Child with Down Syndrome Separated from Parents.” The Washington Post. June 20, 2018. Accessed June 21, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/06/20/womp-womp-outrage-after-corey-lewandowski-mocks-story-of-child-with-down-syndrome-separated-from-parents/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.94d4b06135b5.

[2] Partlow, Joshua. “A 10-year-old with Down Syndrome Was Taken from Her Immigrant Mom under Trump Policy, Mexico Says.” The Washington Post. June 19, 2018. Accessed June 21, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/international-outrage-grows-over-separating-migrant-children-from-parents/2018/06/19/13d0332e-73cb-11e8-bda1-18e53a448a14_story.html?utm_term=.ae08a813bbc9.

[3] “Next Step for Families.” Accessed June 21, 2018. https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/assets/documents/2018-Jun/next-steps-for-families.pdf.

[4] The Cover Features an Image of a Crying Toddler Taken Getty Photographer John Moore Superimposed next to President Trump. “Time Cover Backlash: Magazine Stands by Illustration of Crying Girl next to Trump.” CNNMoney. Accessed June 22, 2018. http://money.cnn.com/2018/06/22/media/time-cover-photo-critics/index.html.

[5] Willingham, AJ. “A Child’s Anguish Meets America’s Indifference on New TIME Cover.” CNN. June 21, 2018. Accessed June 21, 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/21/us/time-immigration-cover-june-magazine-trnd/index.html.

[6] Bass, Diana Butler. Grateful: How a Spiritual Movement of Thankfulness Is Transforming How We Connect to God and Others. HarperCollins Publishers, 2018. 28.

[7] Bass, Diana Butler. Grateful: How a Spiritual Movement of Thankfulness Is Transforming How We Connect to God and Others. HarperCollins Publishers, 2018. 162.

[8] Bass, Diana Butler. Grateful: How a Spiritual Movement of Thankfulness Is Transforming How We Connect to God and Others. HarperCollins Publishers, 2018. 165.

[9] Bass, Diana Butler. Grateful: How a Spiritual Movement of Thankfulness Is Transforming How We Connect to God and Others. HarperCollins Publishers, 2018. 36.

[10] Bass, Diana Butler. Grateful: How a Spiritual Movement of Thankfulness Is Transforming How We Connect to God and Others. HarperCollins Publishers, 2018. 165.


Image from http://carolbsdesignstudio.blogspot.com/2011/09/open-heart.html