“Come and Be Fed … with Affection”
Pentecost 4B (Lect. 12)
Grace in the Park Worship
June 24, 2012
2 Corinthians 6.1-13
Take a moment and think about your family growing up. How was love and affection expressed?
Was your family one of those that did a lot of hugging and kissing and saying, “I love you?” Or was your family one of those who didn’t show affection much, but you knew you were loved? Take a couple of minutes to talk to someone near you, telling each other about what life was like in your family. After the break: I’ll bet there was a lot of variety in your conversations. Perhaps there were some cases where there wasn’t much love and affection expressed. I’m sure there were others where “I love you” was said a lot but not lived out. Love and affection are so important that we feel empty without them.
Many years ago, I heard a story about an orphanage. It was in Russia I think, but it could have been anywhere. There were so many babies in the orphanage that only a few of them could get any attention. Those babies who were handled and cuddled regularly did fine; those babies who weren’t didn’t do well at all. In fact, they were very sickly. Affection, even a little, is so important.
When I work with couples preparing for marriage, we read Jesus’ words in Mark 10 about divorce being caused by “hardness of heart.” We talk about the fact that hearts just don’t get hard overnight, and that the work of marriage is largely about paying attention to your hearts and keeping them soft. I think you could say it is also about making sure your heart is not closing, and that our work is about keeping it open.
“Our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. … open wide your hearts also.” The Apostle Paul writes these difficult, yet affectionate words to the Corinthians. The Corinthian church was a church that Paul founded and to which he was strongly attached. However, somewhere along the way there was a break in the relationship causing the shedding of many tears, on both sides. Much of the responsibility was on the Corinthians’ part because of their misunderstanding about what it meant to be an apostle sent by God. To many of them, because of all the suffering that Paul endured and because he didn’t act like the other “super apostles,” they thought he was deficient.
In the ancient world, it wasn’t up to the injured party to make things right, but Paul knows how important it is to bring healing and reconciliation to bear on their relationship. We who have been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, who have had our broken relationships fixed though we certainly didn’t deserve it, must work at repairing our relationships, even when it isn’t our fault. God opens God’s heart to us, has no restriction in affection for us, so we can do the same for others.
A number of years ago I became good friends with a member of my congregation I’ll call Bob. We regularly conversed by email and occasionally had lunch together. Bob is a good and faithful man who had not only supported the congregation generously, but supported my ministry, too. Somewhere along the way, something happened, I’m not sure exactly what, but Bob and I had a falling out that has permanently ruptured our relationship. I’ve tried everything I can think of to repair the relationship, but I have not been able to do so. I don’t tell you this to show what a great Christian I am and what a schmuck Bob is; it’s most likely the other way around. Rather, I tell you this because of the pain caused by closed hearts.
There are too many closed hearts in this world, and we in the church are not immune to them. That’s why it’s so important to come and be fed with the reconciling affection of God. God through Jesus Christ’s presence in, with, and under the bread and wine reconcile us to him. At the same time, God works in us to open our hearts to one another, risking being rejected. We cannot not be agents of affection and open hearts, no matter who or why. This is not because of who we are, but because of who God is, the One who has opened himself so that we may live. May you know God’s affectionate open heart, now and always. Amen.