Sermon: Defining courage

When you hear the word “courage,” what do you think of? Is it someone like a fire fighter running bravely into a burning house to save people trapped inside? Is it a soldier on the front line of battle, with bullets whizzing by? I ask because these are maybe the sorts of things that would have come to mind a few weeks ago for me. The sorts of things that would have popped up before I learned the etymology of the word courage. Courage comes from the Latin root “cor” which means heart – like coronary. The original meaning of the word courage meant, “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.” In other words, to not hold back, to share everything of yourself, to make yourself vulnerable. 

Jesus shows us courage. Jesus’ life is a life that is lived out whole heartedly. Jesus shows us a life of one who is not afraid to share of himself, to be authentically himself. Jesus’ ministry was to the margins, to lepers, prostitutes, to tax collectors. It is important to understand this ministry stands in the face of a lot of social pressure.  Jesus’ ministry as much as anything is his willingness to be authentic, to be open, to be vulnerable in and against the force of incredible societal norms. 

Brene Brown is a researcher who has studied empathy and compassion.  She says that as you study the brain it becomes quite clear that connection is why we are here. Yet for many of us there is something that gets in the way of this connection. There is something that trips us up.  And that something is shame. Shame, she says, is the fear of disconnection. The belief that there is something about me that if others could see or if it were named would make me unworthy of connection. It is this fear that keeps us from living whole heartedly, form being vulnerable. Yet if we are unable to make ourselves vulnerable we end up closing ourselves off to the lives God intends for us, we shut down the paths of empathy, of love, of compassion. 

Lent is a time of reflection and repentance. It is clear to me that as part of this, we must include little self-work. For many people truly accepting that we are worthy of love is difficult. But in the end that is what this Easter story is about. It is God telling that we are worthy.  That God so loves us, that “He gave his only son.” 

The first step in loving our neighbors, even the first step in loving God, is that we must also first accept, that even in our imperfections, we ourselves are worthy of love and belonging. We must have compassion for ourselves. We must learn to be authentically us and appreciate that. For when it is when we accept this that we can become vulnerable with others. And when this happens, when we, like Jesus, are able to tell the story, to live the story of who we are, whole heartedly, that we are enabled us to make connection, to fully love and be loved, to find deep belonging in and as the body of Christ. 

There is a quote by author, Kim McMillan. “When I loved myself enough, I could feel God in me and see God in you. That makes us both divine. Are you ready for that?”

Answering this question is the work of Lent. And so, are you ready for that? Amen. 

Rev. Don Hanna

Alamosa Presbyterian Church