Living by Heart
Bewildered, Bleeding and Been Around
I was talking with a pastor friend of mine recently. She said on any given Sunday in her church in suburban Dallas, she speaks to three different audiences: the bewildered, the bleeding and the been-arounds.
The bewildered were baptized and confirmed and drifted away. They're back. They recognize basic vocabulary words like Resurrection and salvation, but only vaguely. They're not exactly sure why they're here or what they need.
The bleeding are those who just got bad news about the return of their cancer or the departure of their spouse.
The been-arounds are those who have been coming to church for years, but have a feeling Garrison Keillor is talking about them when he says that just standing in a garage doesn't make a person a car. There has to be something more.
On any given Sunday, there is an 80-year-old woman who is still worrying about something she said at Bible study last week: "I've been in church all my life, but sometimes I wonder if the Resurrection is just a story." There is a young man who can't stay in rehab, who is sitting behind a pillar and contemplating how his friends and family might be better off without him to worry about. There is the young mom or dad who wishes they knew more about the faith to teach the baby they hold in their arms.
Bewildered, bleeding or been around, God's command is the same: "Love me with your whole heart and your neighbor as yourself." God doesn't want much. God just wants your heart, the seat of your emotions, your inner character and your decision making. God just wants your caring, your character, your creativity, and your carry-through. By no coincidence, that is just what God gives to us, whether we're bewildered, bleeding or been around.
Strengthened by God's giving God's heart to us, we can give ours to our neighbor.
Douglas R. A. Hare, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1993).
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.