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Give Us Hearts of Flesh - A Message from Bishop Russell

”I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36: 25-26 My son texted me yesterday after the killings in Uvalde Texas. “I will never understand.” All I could muster back was this, “It is evil. Be grateful you do not understand.” What my son does not know is how his words pierced my own heart, too. I have heard many sermons in my life. I’ve probably read more than I’ve heard. And I’ve preached more than a few, too. Thinking back, I can count on two hands the sermons I remember vividly. I once heard that the effects of preaching are more like filling a pool with a dripping faucet than a fire hose. I do recall one sermon that was a firehose. It was preached 30 years ago from the pulpit of the chapel at Virginia Theological Seminary by the Rev. Churchill Gibson. The sermon was based on the verse from Ezekiel, “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” The preacher said something to the effect, “I am not so sure giving a heart of flesh was such a good idea. A heart of stone would be much more invulnerable and defendable. A heart of stone does not break, or ache, or feel. But God has given us a heart of flesh that feels, hurts, and breaks. Even more, it is a heart capable of love that enlivens us and affects us to live in a way that is loving, feeling, and vulnerable. We are called to be people with hearts of flesh, not stone.” To be honest, I am not sure if these were his words, or my own just now. What matters is that in the last two weeks, I have had to come face to face with my heart of stone. I first realized it after the killings in Buffalo. I forced myself to read the story several times until my heart began to beat again. The seemingly endless and senseless horrors that we have endured in this country for the last 20 years has taken a grave toll on my heart. I also realized it seemed I was not alone. It seemed to me that the public outcry in the wake of that evil was more muted than in previous times. And then the unfathomable horror in Texas yesterday. When the Rev. William Sloane Coffin’s son was killed in a car accident, he said “When parents die, as my mother did last month, they take with them a large portion of the past. But when children die, they take away the future as well.” The tragedies of the last several years have taken away from us. There is much for us to do; there is change needed; there are policies to fix. With God’s help, we are capable of more. And yet, for me on this dark and dreary morning, I will begin with my own heart. God forgive our hearts of stone, hearts numbed into indifference, apathy and complacency by the senseless evil in the world. Forgive our hearts of stone, hearts hardened by our pride, certainty and arrogance. And give us hearts of flesh. Hearts that break and ache for those who grieve this day; hearts that hurt for those whom this event breaks open the trauma of the past. Give us hearts of flesh that beat in step with your love and will love even in the face of horror, hatred and evil; Hearts that pound for justice and peace among all people. And give us hearts of flesh that pulse with the courage and conviction to act in the name of that same love, no matter the cost. Amen. +Russell

Also commended to you are the following statements:

  • Bishop David Reed of the Diocese of West Texas prayer request

  • Bishop Mark Edington of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe


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