With An Open Heart
“Go with an open heart,” Linda encouraged me as I went off to the Annual Meeting of the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Christ last week in Yakima.
It been quite a while since I had been to one of these gatherings. Post-Easter has been, for some years, a busy time for me speaking at clergy events, conferences and sometimes the Annual Meeting of other UCC Conferences in different parts of the country.
I wondered if I would still know anyone. I wondered if anyone would know me. My fears appeared confirmed when on Friday afternoon I stepped into the swirl of some kind of happy hour on a plaza or courtyard outside the Yakima Convention Center.
I couldn’t see a single person I knew. Not one. I strolled over to a scruffy looking guy in a t-shirt and shades, drinking a beer, at a stand-up table. “What’cha drinking?” I asked. I joined him for an IPA. We chatted.
He was a vet, had served in Afghanistan and Iraq, now a stay-at-home Dad in the Yakima Valley. An eight-year-old son, an eleven-year-old daughter. I told him that he wouldn’t regret it, this time with his kids.
He said something about his church and his pastor. Gradually it dawned on me that I was at the wrong meeting. This was a meeting of some regional Lutheran body. No wonder they were drinking beer! No wonder I didn’t recognize a single person there.
I chuckled at myself, chatted some more with my new friend, finished my beer and moved on. Turned out the UCC was meeting inside. Lutherans on the patio. UCC in the Ballroom. We were drinking ice tea. I considered becoming Lutheran.
Once I found the right group, I did know people. They knew me. I was welcomed warmly, a prodigal returned. It was nice.
On Sunday evening I went off to Horizon House in downtown Seattle, a large retirement place associated with my former church, Plymouth.
Once again Linda sent me off with the words, “Go with an open heart.” As in Yakima, I would see people I hadn’t seen in some time, many since I left Plymouth.
Back when I was a pastor at Plymouth I spent a lot of time at Horizon House, as many of the older members lived there. They still do, except now it’s a new generation of Plymouth members — people who had been in their 50’s and 60’s. Now in their 70’s and 80’s.
So many people. So many memories. I was touched, really overwhelmed, by their affection.
Sometimes we, or I’ll say I, close my heart. Shut it down. Maybe we don’t know what we’ll find out there. Beyond that, there’s plenty going on these days to make us cranky and edgy. No doubt about that. But when you close your heart, love can’t get in.
In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus speaks to his disciples of a coming time of testing. “Many false prophets will arise and lead people astray. And because of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold.” (24: 11 – 12) I’ve always been struck by that warning, those words. In hard times, don’t let your love grow cold
So this week especially, with Laura’s ordination in a few days, my heart is open and, as Wesley put it, “strangely warmed.” Thank you God.
And spring. Spring helps. Golly, it was wet and cold for a long time this year. Bless your heart. Keep it open.