Saturday, February 27, 2010

Compassionate shepherds needed please inquire within

Image found at blog - Beyondmeds

In the last week the word compassion seems to have captured my heart and mind. I've been finding my thoughts draw to or brought to stories in the Bible that display Jesus in the action and work of compassion in his world. In a discussion at after-school Bible Study with some high school students, we thought long and hard on the question, "If you could have any of Jesus characteristics as your own, which one would you want the most?" We read this scripture to get our discussion started:

Matthew 9:35-38
"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."

We thought of many characteristics that Jesus had that we'd like: His ability to perform miracles, his level-headed temperament in dealing with conflicts and danger, his constant connection with his Father - God and so on. By the time our discussion had come to an end, we came to the conclusion that even though all the things we'd listed we amazing characteristics, that compassion was one thing that seemed to be the glue of Jesus ministry. At that thought we began to wonder, "If we all had the compassion of Jesus, what would our world look like today?"

Jesus compassion is the constant thread that seems to trace all the stories I can think of in the gospels.

For the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus took great risk by simply speaking to her and he did not stop there. He shared the gospel with her in a way that her existence of separation from her community was ended and she became the bearer of good news to everyone who lived there.

For the crowds that gathered to hear some good news, Jesus looked upon them with great compassion, and sometimes tears because they seemed so lost in the wilderness of life.

The compassion Jesus showed to those he called, as his disciple was astounding. To live with, work with and care for the needs of so many would take a great deal of compassion!

For the thief on the cross next to Jesus
, compassion was a gift given in Christ's last moments of life. Even in that terrible state and in such physical pain - compassion carries through.

Jesus healed people, gave them physical and spiritual food, restored relationships, and even over-turned the temple because the trading that was taking place there was keeping all who wanted to pray or worship God, from praying and worshiping. In all these cases, though the people involved and the expression of compassion changes, compassion is woven through all of Jesus' life.

On Friday evening, some people from two local Lutheran Churches got together to raise some funds for Disaster Service relief for the people of Haiti. The night of service was intended to be a well-needed fundraiser, but it also was an exercise in compassion. The group went to the Gateway Center, a local youth and family center, thrift store and community center, to take a tour and spent some time cleaning up a playroom for the community children and their parents that use it. Toys were sanitized, books were organized, and the floor was washed to prepare it for use in the coming day for a Story time for local children.

After that, the group went to JNP for a second service project. We learned how the Joint Neighborhood Project serves our neighborhood by helping families in need with meals, education services and even a nearly-new clothing store. The group was broken into 'families' to role-play what it would be like to be a recipient of their services. The students and adult were asked lots of questions, had to wait in line, and then had the opportunity to 'shop' in the pantry for the simple supplies to make nine meals for their family of three or four. The supplies were not fancy, but they were the resources that would help to provide some meals that would be nutritionally sound.

The evening ended here at the fellowship room here at First Lutheran Church. A meal of corn-soy porridge was ready and waiting for us to eat. This porridge is a hot or cold cereal that is provided for many people, who live on less than a dollar a day, world wide in disaster or extreme poverty circumstances. In many cases, these refugees will receive only one cup of porridge daily to help stay away the pangs of hunger. Our group was challenged to think about the realities of having only this porridge to eat. It's almost impossible for those of us in the U.S. to comprehend what it would be like to survive on this kind of diet when we can open our fridge and seem more varieties of food than many people in the world and even in our own community have ever seen.

By the end of the night, our eyes were a little more open to ministry possibilities here in our local community and around the world. It is moments like this that our lives can become more open to Jesus compassion. Sometimes all we need is a place to plug compassion in, and then we are freer to allow it to move us to action. As we learned on Friday, there are many places to 'plug in' right here in Jamestown.

It is a gift that we are called Christians. But that gift implies that we too are people that have compassion woven into the texture of our lives. How different would life be if we had not yet been introduced to Christ? It's amazing really how God draws the lines of our relationship with Him well ahead of the moment we admit we need a shepherd.

We all need compassion, like the Samaritan woman, like the crowds that followed Jesus, like the first disciples, like those who were healed, like those selling things in the temple, like the thief on the cross, like the refugees in Haiti, like the needy in our neighborhood, and like the people we all are sitting where we are. We all need a shepherd. We all need Jesus.

The compassion of Christ is something, that no matter or placement in life, we never become independent of. For some, I suppose, would say compassion and grace are one in the same. Either way, we all need it desperately. There is a harvest of compassion that reaches not only out to those in need, but it travels deep into the shadowy places of the internal life. The borders or barriers we try to hold up do not limit compassion. Compassion is unstoppable.

The harvest is many, but the workers are few. If today we ask what that small Bible study group asked earlier this week - "If we all lived out the compassion of Jesus, what would our world look like today?"

Our community is one filled and blessed by the compassion of Christ; it is our job as Disciples of Christ to weave the never-ending ribbon of compassion into our daily lives and give it to others. As we weave, we must remember that our compassionate shepherd is with us and helping us along to way... as Jesus promised in Matthew 28:20
" And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." With this promise, we can step into the world to fill the position of compassionate worker that is very needed in this moment and this place of harvest today.

1 comment:

Mel said...

There's an awful lot in this to absorb..... I think you spoke to it well.