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April 28, 2016 · 16:28

Compassion  (Proper 8B)

Mark 5, verses 21-43

I remember reading of a man who was once involved in a terrible car accident.  When he was cut from the wreckage, there was so little life left in him that the paramedics and then the doctors gave little hope of survival.

However, after the surgeons had done their work, he did survive – but at what cost: both legs were gone, his left arm was missing together with part of the collarbone.  Only a finger and thumb remained on his right hand.

However, he still possessed a brilliant mind, enriched by a good education and broadened with world travel.

And it all was wasted.  There seemed to be nothing he could do in his helplessness.

A thought then came to him.  It is always a delight to receive letters, but why not write them.  He could still use his right hand with some difficulty.  But to whom could he write?

Was there anyone shut in and incapacitated as he was, and whom his letters would encourage?  He thought of’ men in prison.  They did have some hope of release, unlike him, but it was a try

He wrote to a Christian organisation concerned with prison ministry.  He was told that his letters could not be answered, as this was against prison rules.  However, he decided to start on this one-sided correspondence.

He wrote twice a week and it taxed his strength to the limit.  But into these letters, he put his whole soul, all his experience, all his faith, all his wit, and all his Christian optimism.

It was hard writing these letters, often doing so in pain, and especially since there was no chance of’ a reply There were times when he got discouraged and was tempted to give it up.  But he carried on.

At last, he got a letter.  It was a very short note written on prison stationery by the officer whose duty it was to censor the mail.

All it said was ‘Please write on the best paper you can afford.  Your letters are passed from cell to cell, until they literally fall to pieces’

I bring that rather moving story to your attention because it tells us something of the nature of’ compassion.

Compassion is about giving. It is about giving unconditionally, without thought of reward or acknowledgement.  It is about going on giving even it’ sometimes it hurts.

It’s about DOING rather than just talking.  Words are cheap; actions cost.

Look at our Bible story for today.  Here is Jesus, being jostled by the crowd, as he tried to get on his way to see a little girl who was terminally ill.  It would be noisy, frenetic, and, no doubt, frustrating.

Yet, Jesus gave up precious time for the woman who wanted to be healed.  He gave all of his time and attention to this poor anonymous woman in the crowd.  Jesus had time for her, because compassion always has time for everyone, even the apparently hopeless and worthless of folk.

It cost him time, and, more importantly, it cost him something of himself.  He felt his power ebb out of him, when she touched him.  No real help can ever be given except at the cost of something of oneself.

There must have been days when from morning to night, Christ was surrounded by people begging him for help, and he freely gave it.  Every time he gave, it cost him something.  All the time, he was using himself up.

It was not simply wisdom that Christ gave to people; it was not simply healing; it was Himself.

Supremely, he gave of himself on the Cross.

Look at that Cross – beneath it, all the cruelty, apathy and self-centredness that lack within humanity was on display.

But from it, flowed all the love, forgiveness and compassion that God has for us, his errant children.

With the sign of the Cross in our hearts, with the divine compassion alive within us, let us start today with a burning desire to practice the same compassion with a new humility, a new liberality, and a new joy

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Reimagining Christmas

Reimagining Christmas
by Sheldon C. Good | December 2013

A movement is underway to free people of faith from the yoke of Christmas consumerism.
CHRISTMAS, ON THE surface, looks like the most wonderful time of year—the season of love, lights, carols, candles, and family reunions, the time when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Look a bit deeper, though, and one might notice a more idolatrous narrative shining just as brightly: consumerism.

Circle of Protection for a Moral Budget
A pledge by church leaders from diverse theological and political beliefs who have come together to form a Circle of Protection around programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world.

From Black Friday to New Year’s Day, we are inundated with the commercial demands of Christmas. For many, the list of things to do and gifts to purchase can seem endless. We buy into the mantra that the more money we spend, the more love we convey. We become lost in crowded stores, endless websites, and credit card debt. Christians often struggle to faithfully observe Advent, a time of waiting and preparation for the miraculous birth of Jesus.

While many of us purchase this spurious version of Christmas, a new movement has been born. It’s called Advent Conspiracy (AC), and its participants are seeking to turn Christmas upside down by exchanging consumption for compassion.

“Advent Conspiracy is not a four-point checklist on how to do Christmas. If anything, it’s a chance for us to rediscover the wonder and the mystery of the incarnation and what that means to us personally and what that might mean for the world,” said Greg Holder, lead pastor of The Crossing church in the St. Louis area.

In 2006 Holder and two clergy friends—Rick McKinley, lead pastor of Imago Dei Community in Portland, Ore., and Chris Seay, pastor and lead elder of Ecclesia Church in Houston—realized that they and their parishioners “were getting through the season with no sense of joy or celebration, with almost a sense of survival.” In response, the three pastors formed Advent Conspiracy to help people turn away from the hyper-consumerism of Christmas.

AC’S CORE tenets are quite basic: Worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all. When lived out, however, these principles have subversive power to not only turn Christmas upside down but to transform lives.

WORSHIP FULLY. This principle distinguishes AC from other people speaking out against consumerism.

“How we worship and whom we worship begins to shape us as people,” Holder said. “We worship Jesus as King; we make no apologies for that. Christmas is the story of a king entering into our world and our story, calling us to a different way. We’re spending billions of dollars worshiping this king? I don’t think so.”

SPEND LESS. U.S. Americans spent $579 billion from November to December 2012, according to the National Retail Federation. AC pushes back by inviting people to spend less.

In Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World?—a book and DVD produced by the founders of AC—“radical consumerism” is cited as the fastest growing religion in the world, promising “transcendence, power, pleasure, and fulfillment even as it demands complete devotion.”

“Part of saying ‘yes’ to Jesus is that we say ‘no’ to overspending and to overconsumption,” Holder said. “We don’t say ‘spend nothing,’ but ‘spend less.’”

GIVE MORE. In response to spending less, AC encourages people to give more—not just monetarily, but relationally. The most meaningful gifts, AC organizers suggest, often involve spending time with those you love, making a gift yourself, or purchasing a present from another sustainable source. To give more is to prioritize quality over quantity.

AC encourages people to give some of the money they saved from spending less to those whom Jesus calls “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40). For example, Kate Townley—the global outreach director at Journey Church in Bozeman, Mont.—encourages children and congregants to give back to the international community.

“If we can help children and upcoming generations see the benefit in giving, then we have a shot at changing the culture of Christmas—at least within Christianity,” she says. “We are quite convinced that Christmas as-is is not the celebration Christ would want.”

LOVE ALL. By spending less and giving more, people can worship Christ more fully and experience the fourth principle of AC: Love all.

“Picture entire churches,” say the authors of Advent Conspiracy, “deciding that some of the money they are saving by giving relationally and resisting cultural norms should be given to the ‘least of these’ in our communities and world—that’s when Christmas still makes a difference. … The presents around the tree aren’t stacked quite so high, but the stories of worship and love grow richer and deeper.”

ADVENT CONSPIRACY grew slowly the first few years but has accelerated ever since. The first year, five churches participated, collecting nearly half a million dollars for charity. Since then, reportedly thousands of people from myriad denominations and traditions around the world have taken on the AC challenge. Because AC is not an institution—it’s a movement, a catalytic idea—there is no way of knowing exactly how many individuals, families, churches, and groups have participated over the years. But the vision of AC is taking root around the world.

Since 2006 AC has partnered with Living Water International, resulting in donations for nearly 1,000 clean water projects in more than 20 developing countries. Many churches are now involved directly with Living Water as a result of their connection with AC. (Holder noted that a fraction of the money people in the U.S. spend at retailers during December could supply the entire world with clean water each year.)

Advent Conspiracy recently started sponsoring International Justice Mission (IJM), a human rights organization that combats human trafficking. While people cannot donate directly to AC—it has no staff and no budget—AC encourages participants to give to life-changing organizations, such as IJM and Living Water International.

The Magnificat describes a God who “has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly,” and “has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:52-53). This radical vision can be found in AC and its capacity to help people of faith rethink Christmas, allowing participants to redefine priorities in service to God and others.

With so many people participating in this conspiracy of compassion, AC’s impact can be felt around the world.

Parishioners at First Evangelical Free Church in Manchester, Mo., where Dawn Manske is a part-time outreach coordinator, raised money through AC to help construct a center for survivors of human trafficking. Manske went with a team to West Bengal, India, to get a first-hand look at the center and to explore the possibility of establishing a partnership with an apparel manufacturer and its employees.

During the trip, Manske met dozens of girls, all between 13 and 16 years old, who had been sold, beaten, tortured, raped, and starved. Manske spoke with several people who encouraged her idea of launching a business to help survivors of trafficking. Her participation in Advent Conspiracy at her home church acted as the catalyst in moving her business—Made for Freedom—from dream to reality.

“AC connected my desire with a mission,” she says. “It helped me think about how we spend our money. I love the idea of buying less and giving more, but if you’re going to buy something, why not buy something that’s significant in multiple ways?”

Several testimonies are also documented in Advent Conspiracy. One story describes how the owner of a private truck line established an optional payroll deduction program for his 15 employees; he matches their deductions, with all proceeds going to Living Water International. Another testimony describes how a South African church threw a Christmas party at a local school for underprivileged persons and gave 750 children gifts they had specifically asked for; the church members’ children came along and celebrated alongside them.

Ecclesia Church, self-described as Houston’s holistic, missional, Christian community, also has multiple events throughout the Advent season to help parishioners engage the tenets of AC. The church hosts an annual Art Market featuring live music and more than 150 tables of products made by Ecclesia members and local artisans, including abstract art, baby clothes, pottery, and other items. A portion of the proceeds go toward AC-sponsored organizations such as Living Water International and IJM. In 2012, the Art Market raised $14,000.

In Portland, Ore., multiple congregations have used parishioners’ AC donations to partner with the city on local social justice initiatives, including poverty, sex trafficking, education, mentoring, and foster care. McKinley, a local pastor, said the churches always choose initiatives that parishioners are passionate about and can work with long term.

“We don’t just cut a check,” McKinley states. “We partner with the city around these projects.” Right now, more than 100 churches are rallying around foster care.

Holder hopes Advent Conspiracy sparks change not only for individuals, churches, and communities, but for generations. He wonders what it would be like for Christmas to look like something different, something deeper, than what many of us grew up with.

“What if Christmas weren’t just for me?” he asks. “What if it were something where we could reach across lines and do this together? If the story of Christmas changed the world once, which I think it did, what if it would continue to do that?”

Sheldon C. Good, a former Sojourners media assistant, is associate director of Eastern Mennonite University’s Washington (D.C.) Community Scholars’ Center.

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Compassion

Some people pity those whose well-being is worse than theirs  – particularly those who are distressed, depressed, suffering or disabled in mind or body

“compassion” is a better word; Compassion is the emotion that we feel in response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help.

Compassion is often given a property of “depth,” “vigour,” or “passion.”

The etymology of “compassion” is Latin, meaning “co-suffering.”

More involved than simple empathy, compassion commonly gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another’s suffering.

The Dalai Lama has said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion”

St Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians describes God as the “Father of compassion” and the “God of all comfort.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”

In  Jesus is the very essence of compassion and relational care. Christ challenges Christians to forsake their own desires and to act compassionately towards others, particularly those in need or distress.

Jesus assures his listeners in the Sermon on the Mount that, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan he holds up to his followers the ideal of compassionate conduct.

True Christian compassion, say the Gospels , should extend to all, even to the extent of loving one’s enemies.

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Jesus wept….

Jesus made a quick return to earth for a visit. He came upon a lame man, had compassion on him, and healed his leg. Further down the road, Our Lord came upon a blind man, had compassion on him, and healed him.

A little further down the road, Jesus came upon a man sitting on the curb sobbing his heart out. Jesus asked him what was wrong. The man cried out in agony, “I’m a minister!”

Jesus sat down beside him, put his arm around him……. and cried too.

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Letters to Prison

There once was a man who was involved in a terrible car accident.  When he was cut from the wreckage, there was so little life left in him that the paramedics and then the doctors gave little hope of survival.

However, after the surgeons had done their work, he did survive – but at what cost: both legs were gone, his left arm was missing together with part of the collarbone.  Only a finger and thumb remained on his right hand.

However, he still possessed a brilliant mind, enriched by a good education and broadened with world travel.

And it all was wasted.  There seemed to be nothing he could do in his helplessness.

A thought then came to him.  It is always a delight to receive letters, but why not write them.  He could still use his right hand with some difficulty.  But to whom could he write?

Was there anyone shut in and incapacitated as he was, and whom his letters would encourage?  He thought of’ men in prison.  They did have some hope of release, unlike him, but it was a try

He wrote to a Christian organisation concerned with prison ministry.  He was told that his letters could not be answered, as this was against prison rules.  However, he decided to start on this one-sided correspondence.

He wrote twice a week and it taxed his strength to the limit.  But into these letters, he put his whole soul, all his experience, all his faith, all his wit, and all his Christian optimism.

It was hard writing these letters, often doing so in pain, and especially since there was no chance of’ a reply There were times when he got discouraged and was tempted to give it up.  But he carried on.

At last, he got a letter.  It was a very short note written on prison stationery by the officer whose duty it was to censor the mail.

All it said was ‘Please write on the best paper you can afford.  Your letters are passed from cell to cell, until they literally fall to pieces’

 

This i tells us something of the nature of’ compassion.

Compassion is about giving. It is about giving unconditionally, without thought of reward or acknowledgement.  It is about going on giving even though it sometimes hurts: It’s about DOING rather than just talking.

Words are cheap; actions cost.

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Compassion is the Most Vital Tool of my Trade.

Cashiering in a supermarket may not seem like a very rewarding position to most. But to me it is. You see, I feel that my job consists of a lot more than ringing up orders, taking peoples money, and bagging their groceries. The most important part of my job is not the obvious. Rather it’s the manner in which I present myself to others that will determine whether my customers will leave the store feeling better or worse because of their brief encounter with me. For by doing my job well I know I have a chance to do Gods work too. Because of this, I try to make each of my customers feel special. While I’m serving them, they become the most important people in my life.

Recently, an elderly man came to my register. I sensed immediately, by the expression on his face, that he was lonely. I wanted to brighten his day. But, how? I wondered. He had failed to 

respond to my smile, nor had he replied to my genuine greeting of “How are you today?” As I began to ring his order, I spotted a box of birdseed.

“Oh, I see you have a pet bird too. Aren’t they fun?” I asked. Suddenly a warm smile appeared on his face. Then he began telling me all about his parakeet.

You know, that little fellow is real company to me since my wife, Mary, passed away six months ago.”

“It must be difficult to cope with the loss of a loved one,” I commented thoughtfully as I placed his bundles into his shopping cart. “It certainly is,” he sighed heavily. “We were married for fifty years, my Mary and me,” he added–his eyes twinkling brightly from his memory.”

“How wonderful. Please come back and visit with me soon. I really enjoyed talking with you today,” I told him as he started to leave.

“You bet,” he answered. I noticed that although the loneliness on his face was still there, it had diminished somewhat.

My heart felt light. For I realised that I had done something worthwhile today. I had taken a few minutes to care and listen to a fellow human being, succeeding in making at least a tiny difference in this one, precious life.

………Compassion is the most vital tool of my trade. There are many sad stories to be heard while ringing up grocery orders. Many times I find I’m called upon to help nurture the emotional state of a shopper–just as the food they’re buying will provide nourishment to their bodies. Hearing of death, terminal illness, fatal accidents, and broken homes are all part of my job. During such times I try my utmost to listen with my heart, not only my ears. Often a single word of understanding or a mere look of genuine concern is just the right dose of medicine to help heal a bruised heart. When I succeed in easing some of the pain of another human being, it is then that I realise just how important my job as a simple cashier is.

The title of that article is Compassion is the most vital tool of my trade.  Whatever we do and wherever we do it – can we say the same?

 

(Maxine F. Dennis, “Compassion is the Most Vital Tool of My Trade” in Of Human Hands: A Reader in Spirituality of Work ed. Gregory F. Augustine Pierce (Chicago: Augsburg and ACTA Publications, 1991, 49-51)

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The Boy on the Bus

A young boy was once travelling on a bus.

He sat so close to a woman dressed in a grey suit that everybody assumed he was her son and she his mother, until finally another woman sat down on the same seat with them.

 When the boy put his feet up on the seat and got the other woman’s dress dirty, she turned to the lady in the grey suit and said, “Would you please tell your son to put his feet down because he is getting my dress dirty?”

 The lady in the grey suit pushed the boy away and said, “He’s not my son. I’ve never seen him before in my life.”

 The second woman looked at the young boy sadly for a moment and then started talking with him. She asked him if he were travelling alone.

 “Yes,” he said, “I always travel alone. My mum and dad are both dead and I live with my Auntie Jane. But Auntie Jane thinks that Auntie Mary ought to take her turn in taking care of me too. So whenever she gets tired of me, she sends me to Auntie Mary. I’m going to Auntie Mary’s now.”

 The woman said, “It must be hard travelling alone.”

“Yes,” said the little boy, “it is. But I never get lost.

 Then he said, “sometimes I do get very lonely. So whenever I see someone with a kind face I sit close to them, and pretend that I belong to them and that they belong to me.”

He continued, “I sure hope that Auntie Mary is home when I get there, because it looks like it is going to rain and I don’t like to be outside when it rains.”

 The woman reached over and grabbed the boy, hugged him so tight that it almost hurt and wished for a moment that this little boy who wanted so much to belong could belong to her.

 So whenever I see someone with a kind face I sit close to them, and pretend that I belong to them and that they belong to me.”

 The woman reached over and grabbed the boy, hugged him so tight that it almost hurt

Literally or metaphorically, should we not all try to embrace someone today with the loving kindness and compassion of Jesus Christ?

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What a Man!

https://www.facebook.com/video/embed?video_id=10151580997124307

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Unity – Rainbow

Unity - Rainbow

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January 27, 2013 · 09:24