Compassion: Simple But Not Easy
The Rev. Laurel Hart, Deacon
Scripture: Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Rev. Sara forgot to hit the record button on Zoom on Sunday, so a video isn't available. She apologizes for the inconvenience.
As I usually do, I checked out the gospel for the third week of the month a couple of weeks ago. In the middle of the text assigned for today, from the source I was reading, was the story of the feeding of the five thousand. If you also happened to read ahead, you would have expected to hear that story as part of the gospel reading today. Surprise - that was edited out of today reading by the powers that be – not by me. But I’m just as glad to skip that discussion today.
There are a couple of threads running through the reading today. The first has to do with rest and rejuvenation. Rev. Sara has preached to us about the current deep need for revitalization of our bodies and spirits more than once recently. I don’t think anyone present is going to dispute the fact our faith community – make that the entire world has been through a tough time during the last fifteen or so months. It seems to me that coming out of the pandemic has been ten times harder than going into the original state of lock down. What is safe to do with or without a mask? What is the state government allowing today and will it change tomorrow? Does the CDC’s newest pronouncement clarify back to school procedures for the safety of the children? Some days I just want to escape to my bed and pull the covers over my head. But in this text Jesus isn’t suggesting hiding out to his apostles. He’d recently sent them out two by two to preach, teach and heal. They’d come back and now have joined up with him again. They are excited to share their experiences, however, they are bone tired. Now he is going to lead them to a deserted place to rest. Sound like he’s saying let us relax and unwind and rebuilt our depleted reserves. Afterall, neither people nor machine can run on an empty tank. This is extremely good advice from our Lord – we should listen and put it to practice. As the reading progresses we learn that this is a short-lived rest for this band of believers. The crowds are both following behind and anticipating his route -they are running ahead to intersect with Jesus and his disciples. The news was spreading about the healing and the teaching of Jesus and people wanted to see and hear for themselves. Jesus and his disciples have just arrived unexpectedly in the region of Gennesaret a town which is located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. This is a region known for its numerous mineral hot springs which had been attracting the sick and injured for centuries. So, it not surprising that this location is flooded with desperately sick people and their families anxious to find healing for them.
The cause of this change of direction in the heart of our Savior is his realization that these crowds are hungry, and he needs to feed them not just with fish and bread but with love. Jeremiah told us “I will raise up a shepherd over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.” Jesus’ compassion is the mark of his deity and his connection with all people not just in his life and work but finally in his death on the cross. It is the pure essence of our believe in God’s compassion toward humanity and in our very pronounced Christian attitude toward God’s mercy, love, and forgiveness toward all people including us. Compassion is the deep feeling of empathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate their suffering. Distress is really at the heart of compassion, our own anguish, or the suffering of others of which we become aware. This feeling of compassion is not the same as the emotion of pity - because pity can be managed from afar – it can be one or more steps removed from our sight or hearing. We can walk away or close our eyes from the view of disaster when the only feeling is sympathy. True compassion can be emotionally challenging because the precondition for compassion is unconditional solidarity with the one for whom you feel the empathy. It means that we must first recognize and then be willing to release our desire to fix another’s problem, to accept we don’t have all the answers or solutions and just walk the journey with them shoulder to shoulder. Walking a tough journey can be so incredibly hard and it takes courage and faith. Yet compassion is at the heart of everything we do when we act with this feeling in our souls. It’s truly one of our finest qualities when we possess it, yet all too often it can be cast aside with consequences too tragic to speak of; to lose our compassion it is to lose what it is to be human. True compassion springs forth from an internal feeling – a self-acceptance of ourselves and our own individual weaknesses. Obtaining compassion starts and ends with what has happened in our own lives. When we learn to have compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves the healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: to make room for grief, for relief or misery, and for joy. Our acceptance of the compassion of God makes us accountable to and for others. To quote an unknown author “Have compassion for everyone you meet- even if they don’t want it. What seems conceit, bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.”
Are we ready to live out the compassion of Jesus in our profoundly troubled world? Amen.