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    Jul 22, 2018

    Compassion

    Compassion

    Passage: Mark 6:30-34

    Speaker: Father Will Lowry

    Series: All

    Category: All

    “As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd…..” (Mark 6:34a)

    At first glance, today’s Gospel seems to be just a bracket for the two miracle stories that the lectionary has us skip over: the feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus’ walking on the water. What we are left with: the return of the Apostles and their report of success on the mission they were sent on and Jesus entering a new land of Gennesaret and healing more folks is easy to just kind of pass over because of the attention the miracle stories garner.

    If we only scan over these parts though, we miss something VERY important. Something that encompasses the whole meaning of the Good News of Christ, something that is implicit to Jesus’ entire ministry and the reason for the incarnation of “The Word made flesh”.

    One little sentence - actually it isn’t even the whole sentence - it’s a phrase that provides us with the standard for the whole of the Gospel. “As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd…..” (Mark 6:34a)

    “And he had compassion - for them.”

    The word “Compassion” is Middle English: via the Old French “compassio” from the ecclesiastical Latin “compati” meaning literally ‘suffer with.’

    The definition from Merriam Webster is - concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. Some of it’s synonyms are: empathy, fellow feeling, care, concern, warmth, love, tenderness, mercy, tolerance, kindness, humanity.

    But, I think it is even more than that - more than just showing concern. Having compassion is also about stepping into the puddle of mud and wallowing in it with others. It’s not just about caring, it is also about doing and being.

    This word - Compassion - is the word used over and over again in Holy scripture to describe Jesus’ actions and thoughts about his fellow humans.

    The incarnation of Jesus - God’s revelation to humanity about God’s self - a person who literally embodies, in the flesh, the deity we call God - the One who created us - sustains us - and gives us new life - if this person’s first action, first thought upon meeting new people, is to have compassion on them - what does that say about the character of God? What does that say about what and who God is?

    God didn’t just care about us enough to create us - God became flesh and experienced every bit of humanness that we did - especially pain and suffering. God knows what it is to be human.

    In the second part of the Good News from Mark we are told how much need there is for compassion in the world.

    The trip to the land of Gennesaret is intended to be a trip for Jesus and the disciples to get a little rest. They are headed toward “The Wilderness” - for some R & R - some time to recharge - Sabbath time.

    However, as they approach Gennesaret they are recognized. And the great need of healing and compassion become the main event. I believe we can equate the need of healing and compassion in Gennesaret to that of the world.

    Everywhere we turn there is need for healing from our own and other’s brokenness. The world needs - each of us needs - the healing touch and compassion of Jesus.

    There are a great number of afflictions that people were are in need of healing from: Sickness, broken relationships, mental anguish, physical hurt/pain, spiritual pain, broken dreams…. I’m sure you have your own list.

    And that is where the Good News is. that Jesus/ God has compassion for us. Remember, that word compassion means much more than just giving a rip. It means that God in Christ suffers with us - stands beside us in our hurt, our pain, and promises that it will be better… And that no matter what God will not leave us - that God loves us.

    That is quite a different approach than most other worldly religions and is countercultural to much of how our world operates. It seems we haven’t changed much in 2000 years.

    To one degree or another both secularly and religiously we have made much of our world and our God about radicalized wrath and just vengeance. An eye for an eye, you get what’s comin’ to ya’, watching out for my own and get what I can existence. We thank God for what is good and ask why God has forsaken us when times aren’t as good.

    For us, as followers of Jesus, we have to reject that kind of theology and mentality - because Jesus does. Jesus is rooted in love, in hope and in compassion.

    The portion of the Letter to the Ephesians that was read earlier talks about division - how the Gentile and Jewish peoples were divided because of their differences.  

    As a kid riding in the back seat of the car with my sister we had an “invisible” line drawn across the back seat between us. This was my side, and that was her side. I’m pretty sure at some point there might have even been a piece of tape put on the seat. It was a way for my parents to try to get us to keep the peace.

    Inevitably, at some point an elbow, or foot, or a well placed finger would cross the line and the peace would turn to war. Eventually, there would be walls of pillows or bags or whatever could be found to strengthen the divide between us and peace would be found again.

    As the poet Robert Frost wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

    We have become a culture of fences. We create separation in so many places in our lives. We do it so much that we have lost compassion for one another.

    Earlier this week I noticed in my house what compassion looks like in its infant stages so to speak. And it is something that happens a lot around my house.

    Norah had injured herself, not anything major, but enough to make her cry a little. Her sister watched from across the room and came over to check on her. She approached with a concerned look, knelt down and lifted Norah’s face up by the chin - and asked “you okay sissy?” And then she gave her a big hug.

    Did you hear that, really hear that? I said earlier having compassion isn’t just caring. It’s about stepping into the puddle of mud and wallowing in it with others. We must be willing to get down on the ground and meet each other wherever we are - look people in the eyes and and let them know they are loved. 

    There is quite a bit of talk about radicalism and division in the world today. Whether it is talk about religious institutions or political parties, or even in how we support or oppose things we like and dislike.

    What would it look like if we applied Jesus’ model of Compassion into our lives more intently and deeply?

    That said, I think that radicalism is the way that we as Christians must approach the world. We must become “radical” in that sense - We need to be “radically compassionate” in the world.

    Jesus doesn’t love people in spite of who they are, he loves because of who they are. That is our example.

    If we can find a way to show compassion in even a fraction of the way that Jesus did we will make the world a better place, we will make Northwest Arkansas, Bella Vista, and St. Theodore’s a little more like the kingdom of Heaven.

    Amen.