So soon enough many of you will start making your way to the center aisle to head out the doors to go downstairs for refreshments and conversations, others of you will be going to your own brunch at a local restaurant, and still others will be leaving to tie up some loose ends with shopping or just going home to relax. The only thing standing between you and the doughnuts and the coffee and your much-needed nap is the guy standing in the white robe asking the same question time and time again: "How are you?"
Each of you will respond differently. Even if you use the same words, you still respond in your own unique way with the eyes and the overall facial expressions and body language. But it's always a bit of an awkward situation. After all it's just a common question that human beings are trained to ask to create this sense of kindness and hospitality. And over time we tend to think it's too common of a question to actually mean anything, so we respond with our usual "good" or "doin' pretty well" or "not too bad," and we go on our way without giving it much thought at all.
And yet it doesn't take a pastor to realize there's obviously more going on in your life than a simple one, two, or even three word answer. It's just...do you really want to take the time and tell the guy in the white robe how you're truly doing with all those other people around you? Or is there a part of you that maybe does just a little, but you don't want to make all the people behind you wait in line for however long it's going to take? Or do you think the pastor has enough to think about that you don't want to add more to his plate? Or maybe the guy's only been here a few years anyway, it's still not quite enough to reel him into that realm of trust just yet. Or, you can be honest, you just want your coffee and doughnuts and that nap ASAP.
I get it. We're all on this same human level, not to mention far too often we've been drilled into thinking that talking about feelings and emotions and times that have deeply impacted us makes us appear weak. It makes us vulnerable. It shows we can't handle this whole life thing on our own. It's better to keep the answers to three words max and be on our way, and the world will just keep going round and round.
It will most certainly take more than one sermon from a guy in a white robe in Baroda, Michigan to change an entire culture developed over the centuries, and so I will only humbly remind you, in case you missed it, that one pivotal verse in the Psalm this morning: "pour your heart out before God." In case you missed out on the chance this morning, this past week, so far this year, or your entire life for that matter: "pour your heart out before God."
I know it's not easy to do it with people, including friends and family (even a pastor). You have a reputation to uphold. You must appear strong and resilient. You have to be able to take on all that life gives you. Nevertheless, in the eyes of God, you are a child, a precious one though, to say the least. But you're not strong enough to defeat death. You're not resilient enough to take on all the forces of evil. You don't have the capacity to save the world. Don't worry: Jesus already has all of that taken care of and then some for eternity.
So you can stop the act, at least with God for starters. You can let your guard down. God knows you well enough deep down that you can't handle the family drama, the lay-offs, the dwindling pension, the troubling prognosis from the doctor, and on and on. You can't do it all. But don't worry, God never expected you to, and God still absolutely cherishes you. "Pour your heart out before God."
Now maybe every time there's a break in the day, every time there's even a bit of silence whether that means no sounds around us or just in our mind alone; maybe that's a time that God is asking the seemingly too often-asked question, "How are you?" Yes, most of us humans don't always ask with the depth of sincerity that question deserves, but don't worry, God does. God means it more than you could ever imagine.
We pour our heart out each and every chance we get, whether that be when we wake up first thing in the morning, before we fall asleep, waiting in a doctor's office, driving to work. If we get distracted, if we trail off into the much-needed sleep, don't worry, God's going to still be there when you get back to your answer. God will wait to hear with holy adoration our inner-most thoughts and feelings we refuse to share with those around us. After all, God poured the divine heart out on the entire world for all times and places on the cross, so that all might be taken care of not by us, but through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, forevermore. And for that we give thanks to God indeed! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon