In a recent gathering of clergy I heard a presentation by Andy Stanley of Atlanta on change. In it he asked two questions based on his reading from the book of Nehemiah, where Nehemiah first hears of the awful things happening back in the resettled Judah and then, knowing that he is only a cup bearer to the King, is suddenly off on the adventure of a lifetime.
What Nehemiah hears from Judah is, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”
And what Nehemiah does is, after coaxing and commission from the Kind of Persia Artaxerxes, rebuilds the walls and gates of the city!
Andy’s two questions from all of this are “who are you,” and “what breaks your heart” noting that Nehemiah was “only” a cupbearer to the King, and what broke his heart was the disaster that was Jerusalem. This week more hearts were broken!
What breaks yours? And who are you?
No one could possibly have listened to the news about Charleston, South Carolina and not be heartbroken. Standing among the pews of a church in the midst of a bible study where he had been welcomed with hospitality so strong it almost swayed his murderous intent, a young white man, in cold blood destroyed forever nine precious lives, and all who knew them and loved them!
The horror is unspeakable. The racism and hatred is unfathomable. The callousness is beyond imagination. The terror something out of nasty brutish movie or TV show, or a world far away from our well ordered and comfortable lives.
And into this nightmare comes the questions: “Who are you?” Nobody much. “What breaks your heart?” This? If so, what will you do?
Andy suggested that a broken heart is just the place where God starts the dramatic transformation of a “nobody much” into an “apostle” (my word) that is, a sent one.
Maybe this isn’t the place or the story or even the event that has broken your heart. Maybe it broke over Nepal, or the rolling floods in Texas, or the unusable houses in inner cities of America. But whatever it is that has done the deed, listen up! You may be only the cup bearer to the King, but what has broken your heart matters to your Lord and Master, and now that once broken and now Risen Messiah has work for you to do.
Will you listen to the Spirit? Will you rise up and go? Will you like so many before answer, “Here am I Lord, send me!” May it be so.
Jeff Farley is the Pastor at the Otisville- Mt. Hope Presbyterian Church.