A Common Heart
Those of you who were present at my ordination might remember the sermon that was delivered by Rev. Christopher Mathewson. He is a childhood friend of mine. But before he was a friend, he wasn’t. Let’s just say that one swim class my freshman year of high school held a pretty painful scenario of ridicule between Chris, a lean, athletic guy, and myself, who was not. Over the ensuing years together in high school, we became closer and saw past this painful introduction. And today his is among the souls closest to my heart.
Today Rev. Chris is a pastor at a church in Pittsburgh. We spoke yesterday about how he and his young family are all holding up in light of the shockwaves of grief reverberating there. And he shared that a boy in his son’s class lost three relatives in the shooting. And he shared that he wept in church that Sunday. And he shared about the multitudes gathering round a rally cry of peace at an interfaith gathering he attended.
Centuries and centuries ago the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman army. This event in year 70 of the Common Era was a true catastrophe. It influenced the very heart of Judaism. When the Rabbi of the Jerusalem temple was taken to safety by a family member in an activist group who moved swiftly to preserve his life, he looked at the remains of the temple, at the sanctuary, and discerned in time that it was another sanctuary, a deeper more private place, that would henceforth hold the worship life of the Jewish people. He said that the new temple would be rebuilt in every Jewish person’s heart.
Though Jewish temples now mark the entire face of the globe, our forebears’ message of inviting communion with the divine into our own selves, into the bodies that house our souls, is just one of the manifold ways the minds of Jewish thinkers, Jewish believers, Jewish heroes have helped to shape the very ways we love one another as members of the human family. An attack on a Jewish temple and the sacred bodies of our family members is an attack on humanity—not only metaphorically, but factually and historically.
It was at Thanksgiving time our senior year when after a pick-up game of football in the drifting snow, Christopher invited me to his home. There we talked longer than we ever had before…in the hot tub. The warmth of the water and the laughter I knew in the conversation melted the chill from years before when my body was the object of his mocking attack. And it just kept melting into the tears we shed together over lo, these many years—tears of struggle at all life has shown us, tears of pain at all that life has taken from us, and yet still tears of joy that seem somehow to stream the very walls of our hearts at times, overflowing with the blessed assurance of the sanctity we find in one another’s hearts.
And may it always be so.
Rev. T. J.