Sermon – 07-14-19 – Proper 10 – Cycle C
Scripture: Deuteronomy 30:9-14; Psalm 25:1-10; Colossians 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37
Sermon Title: “Is My Compassion True or Pretend”
With all your heart and with all your soul. Did you hear, “Surely this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. . . . No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.”
What is the commandment? From Jesus, as written in Mark 12:29-31 in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In the Gospel of John, when Jesus is with the disciples in the Upper Room, he says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12,13)
Of course, that is exactly what Jesus is about to do – lay down his life for his friends. Just this past week, I read of a father who tried to rescue his daughter when a rip tide caught them by surprise and the daughter was carried too swiftly to be grabbed. He drowned but the daughter lived. Success? He saved his daughter. He sacrificed his life for his daughter. On the other hand, Jesus’ sacrifice for us was a win-win act of love and compassion. Jesus really died but only for a few days. He lives, therefore we live!
Are love and compassion separable? Can we have compassion without love? Can we have love without compassion? The Dalai Lama writes, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”
Some of you were born with a generous helping of compassion and love in your bones and your heart and your mind. You are naturally like the father who, without hesitation, entered the mighty pull of the water to reach his daughter. When you saw the picture on our bulletin today, did you heart react? Natural love and compassion! Tears come to my eyes. Some of us were born with a bit more selfishness, less percentage of compassion and love. I know this is true.
Serving God in Pottstown for a number of years, I helped with the Homeless Ministry called “Ministries on Main Street.” I gave money. I volunteered with the community meals, with the overnight shelter, saying hello to these people on the street. But having a conversation with them, sitting beside them or across the table from them was not natural for me. The lack of cleanliness, the disorderly lack of teeth, the uncombed hair, the runny noses were automatic keys to turn off my compassion and love. Oh, I could feel sorry for them; I could shed tears for them; I could give an unusually clean person a gift card to a good hair salon; I could say to her, “Call me when you need to talk.”
In reality, I had no desire to stop what I was doing when the call came from this promising person who was blessed with living in four walls and under a roof when she called. I would be genuinely nice for about 5 minutes. After that, I was just trying to find a gracious way to end the conversation so I could return to my projects with deadlines.
It was not lost on me that other volunteers easily sat as friends with an unkempt person. I heard and saw other volunteers leaning back in their chairs, telephone to ear, for as long as it took, just listening and making affirming sounds every now and then. There is no way that I can justify my lack of genuine compassion. So I pray about it and work on it. I continue to help these people from afar.
I believe, with all certainty, that I, or any other person, could become the person who needs help.
Maybe health, mental or otherwise, goes south as we say. Maybe we are foolish with our money. Maybe we are suddenly laid off from what seemed to be a rather secure job. Maybe religious persecution is afoot. Maybe a cruel dictator comes to power where we live. Maybe our spouse declares that his or her love for us has vanished and instead of working together to have a loving home, we are plunged into having double expenses. Maybe, maybe, maybe , , ,
Maybe contentment becomes a lost commodity. There is no peace in our lives. I know a person named Bruce who lives in the high-tech society in California. Wealthy! Good physique! Leisure time is spent with other wealthy friends in luxurious style. Pity seems the fartherest emotion that I should have for him. But any level of compassion and love, that I can muster, fills my mind and heart for him. There may be laughter in his life, but I don’t detect joy, I don’t detect any contentment, any support system when life crashes or when even one day unravels. What kind of band-aid will do the trick?
You know. You are probably rooting for me to get to the point that only God in our lives can keep us afloat. Are we just after “afloat?” Are we just after the quiet pleasant day as we float on a mildly moving raft? Or we may be needing a bit more excitement like water-skiing behind a fast moving motor boat, or a walk over the Grand Canyon, or the biggest roller-coaster in the world and as it happens, it stops when we are at the top? For some of us we would be high with the majesty of God! For others of us we would be seeking God’s help with all of our might.
Seeking God’s help when we are in desperate situations. Feeling God’s presence wherever and whenever life call us. Genuine love and compassion wants that kind of connection to God for everyone; not just the clean person, or not just for the person who has no access to a shower; not just the wealthy person who is seeking for whatever is missing, not just for the person who is clinging to God for dear life for rescue from mental health gone awry. For everyone! When the joy of life is available, our compassion and love want to share it.
We won’t sing this tricky song, but there is a song that says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” In our Colossians 1 lesson, Paul writes, “May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.”
Another verse says, “He gives me living water and I thirst no more.” From John 7.38, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”
And then this verse, “The word of faith is nigh thee, even in my mouth.” Straight from Deuteronomy 30:14
Later we will sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Look for these phrases, “Thy compassions, they fail not . . .” and “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow . . .”
From Psalm 25,“Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love, for they are from everlasting. All your paths, O Lord, are steadfast love and faithfulness to those who keep your [commandments].”
Lord God of faithfulness, compassion, and love, inspire us increasingly each day. Amen