Rich Paxson

[Here’s the post as I wrote it. Since I can’t remove the redundant post above, perhaps the website manager can do it for me.]

In what ways might Jesus be grieved by your own or your community’s “hardness of heart”?

“Hardness of heart” resonates with me these days. A week ago Dr. Reeder had me “etherized upon a table,” to borrow from T. S. Eliot http://bit.ly/1Ue7Wq6, so he could snake his cardiologist’s catheter into my coronary arteries to break up the occluding plaque and implant a medicated stent that would keep the offending artery open. 

I’m sore now but recovering quickly in spite of my impatience. What a small price to pay considering the alternative of a blocked “widow maker” artery. I forgive all the impertinence and effrontery of the hospital stay. After all, here I am writing about “hardness of heart” and now it’s time for forgiveness.

While medical practice and procedural checksheets may be straightforward and efficient, what about the practice and checksheets for forgiveness? I, along with tax collector Zacchaeus in this lesson’s Gospel reading, look for answers about forgiveness from a figurative perch above the crowd. But Jesus walks as easily below me, seeing my vulnerability and unforgiving behaviors, as he walked beneath Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree.

What does it mean to forgive? In a 2015 Aeon Magazine article Amy Westervelt (who also writes in the Wall Street Journal) wrote about forgiveness in the context of the middle-ground between what we want and what we have: “Letting Go: Science is discovering what religion has always known – forgiveness is good for us. But that doesn’t make it any easier.”

“‘Most of our disappointment in life stems from wanting ‘this,’ [Stanford University Professor Frederic Luskin] jabbed at the air with his left hand, the higher of the two, for emphasis, ‘and getting this,’ he said, jiggling the lowered right hand. Then he stared at all of us, intently. ‘OK? And forgiveness is about what you decide to do with this space in the middle. Are you going to adjust what you expect and let the rest go, or are you going to live in this space? Because I’ll tell you what, living in there is miserable.’” http://bit.ly/1Ue7QyM

Desiring in that place between the ‘left hand’ and the ‘right hand,’ inhabiting that middle-ground between what we think we deserve and the less-than-perfect world of daily experience hardens the heart. Life in a permanent in-between place occludes the arteries delivering the joy, openness, and renewal that feed the heart.

God, the divine surgeon, if we will only let God, opens our life-restoring arteries transforming the bitter, strangling rules of in-between life from constant conflict to freely caring for our neighbor. Along with Zacchaeus, I hear Jesus saying “… hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” http://bit.ly/1qZP1aW