Compassionate Observer – Aug. 2010

The bumper sticker said, “Compassionate Observer;” a bit oxymoronic.  Are we compassionate observers?  Do we observe, that is keep, compassion by practicing it, actually suffering with another; feeling the pain and problems of another?  Or do we simply observe compassion; i.e. watch it or see it, but keep ourselves safe and distant from it? Compassion!  Some people do it just for show; show-offs calling attention to themselves.  Others do it just to show how much they love Jesus; piety practiced in secret with thanksgiving.  Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit; portable sanctuaries.  Our heavenly Father wants us to show His Son Jesus to the world through acts of mercy.  Compassion is evangelical justice in the flesh.  As we do it to the least of these (hungry, homeless, prisoners, naked, thirsty), we do it to Jesus.  God invites all of us to be good Samaritans, offering mercy to those who lay wounded, half-dead, in the ditches of daily life.  Compassion is our “doing” after we have sat with Mary at the feet of Jesus.

As Jesus got off the boat and went ashore, he saw a large crowd—5000+ people—and he had a gut feeling for them.  We call it compassion.  Jesus had compassion for the crowd, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.  Notice, Jesus’ first response was words not deeds.  Later, when the disciples wanted to send the hungry crowds away to fend for themselves, Jesus commanded his disciples to feed them.  Compassion is words and actions.  To have compassion is to “suffer with” or to share the pain of another.  Compassion is a sensation of sorrow excited by the distress or misfortunes of another; pity; commiseration.  Jesus had compassion, because the needy were like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34).

Is compassion just a feeling for us (I feel for you), an emotional attachment (my heart aches for you), or is it a concrete action?  The word for compassion in Greek is Splanchna.  Splanchna isn’t a warm and fuzzy feeling kind of word.  Just saying it is kind of guttural.  The word probably has more to do with bowel movements than anything else.  It is one thing to have your stomach in knots, but quite another to have a blockage in your bowels.  Hold that thought for a minute!  Mark 6:34 can best be translated: “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, his stomach turned, his bowels moved; it was gut-wrenching; he was sick to his stomach.”  The reaction to the lost, bewildered, needy crowd before him that day was gut-wrenching for Jesus.  Jesus was moved in a very deep, almost physical kind of way.

Compassion!  Some people are driven by social ministry concerns; ACTION.  Bodies are fed, but souls are left starving; sheep without a shepherd.  Others spend their time preaching nice evangelical WORDS, but the words never translate into concrete social actions.  Jesus defines and demonstrates compassion as both teaching and action; sitting and serving.  Give a fish, yes, but also teach a person to fish.  Feed the hungry, but make sure you also give them the Bread of Life.  Compassionate Observer!  I’ve got a gut feeling that sheep, who have a Good Shepherd, are supposed to have a bowel movement for others.  What is your gut telling you?

Save the Date!  May 13-15, 2011 will be Compassion Weekend and Servant Sunday for members of Mount Cross Evangelical Lutheran Church.  We’ll join other area churches in cancelling Sunday morning worship and moving our portable sanctuaries into the mission field of compassion.  Christ Lutheran in Lakewood has done this for the past two years.  Last spring, on Compassion Weekend, almost 350 members of Christ Lutheran rolled up their sleeves, and offered some 2000 servant hours and $18,000 at 23 work sites.  Each work site became a worship service where compassion was observed; kept and practiced.

Laura Caddey, Vice President of Mount Cross, has volunteered to help coordinate Mount Cross’ Compassion Weekend.  Dave McInturff, Chairperson of Peace & Justice, is meeting with area churches and exploring collaboration and servant sites for Compassion Weekend 2011.  Everyone wishing and willing will have an opportunity to participate in showing compassion in the name of Jesus.  Watch future newsletters for more information, but for now, SAVE THE DATE: May 13-15, 2011.  Thanks for showing compassion for Christ’s sake!
more than a gut feeling for you,

Pastor Dave

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