Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Compassionate Christ


 Proper VIII+B           The Reverend Robert R.M. Bagwell+

28, June AD 2015          

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27       Psalm 130       2 Corinthians 8:7-15          Mark 5:21-                                                                              
Have you ever considered the derivation of the wordCAcom-passion@?  It comes from two Latin roots meaningCAto suffer with@Cto suffer with.

 

If there is any characteristic of Jesus Christ that has come down to usCit is that He was a person of immense, powerful compassion.  Perhaps that is why we have such a difficult time imagining an angry JesusCpurging God=s Temple of the money changers, livestock salesmen and vendors!  AMy Jesus wouldn't=t do that!@ 

 

Yet even this was an act of compassionCfor Jesus knew how the Temple sacrifice and money changing had become a racket.  No secular money could be used in the Temple,  remember Roman money had images of Caesar who was considered >god=.  This would seem to acknowledge his claims and to defile the God of Israel by having a Agraven image@ in the Temple.  Roman money  had to be traded for Aholy money@ and the rate of exchange was exorbitant!  No animal brought was ever perfect enoughCso a pre-approved animal from the Temple stock was sold at an extremely high price-- a racket even then.

 

We are the body of Christ, Paul tells us (I Cor 12)  but listen to what else he says:

" But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it."

 

ATo suffer with@Ctoday=s lessons deal with three examples of sharing in sufferingsCof compassion.  Compassion is what we covet for ourselves.  We want to be understoodCthough rarely do we feel that we are.  How can we become compassionate?CBy learning from Jesus= example given to us.

 

We Become Conscious of Need. The old song aboutCAPeople who need people@ had a kernel of truthCWe need one anotherCWe are called the Body of ChristCnot the blood and skin cells of Christ.That isCGod made us into a mysticallyCspirituallyCintegrated organism.  We are to be aware of the needs of our bodyCbecause it is His body.And that is responsible stewardship.

 

We read in the Epistle for today: For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.When we are generous for God, we imitate Christ Jesus. How aware of the needs of others are we? Sometimes the sense of needs can be overwhelming, but Jesus allowed needs to be brought to His attention.

 

That is how God usually operatesCNo prayer equals no answer to prayer. God often waits for us to pray. St. Paul says to Timothy in I Timothy 2:8CAI want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.@  Even we humans like to be asked for things rather than simply           expecting them like some entitlement.   In today=s lesson, JairusCan elder of the synagogueCWho held a prestigious position in the community  

 

Above allCJairus was Arespected and  respectable@.  Normally, Jesus and Jairus might never have met.  After all, identification with Jesus (a wandering Rabbi) could ruin one=s reputation and status in respectable Jewish circles.  Let=s just say it wouldn't=t get him any more levels up on the social register and prestige was the supreme value in Jesus= culture as it is in the orient today.

 

But as the scripture says, the rain falls on the just and the unjustCJairus was undergoing every parents worst nightmareCsick child with a life threatening illnessCno apparent answers at handCDESPERATION sets in, but it has been said that the kingdom of God is not so much for the well meaning as it is for the desperate. 

 

Jairus knows that either he must ask Jesus, no matter how questionable his methods or theology. This was his daughter=s last chance of survival!  Often it takes desperate circumstances to bring people to God when they can no longer depend on themselves or other human beings for answers or help. It has been said that God sometimes comforts the afflicted but other times, he must afflict the comfortable.

 

Jairus falls at the feet of this Holy Man and with obvious faith, begs Jesus to come to his house.  Isn=t it interesting: Jesus didn't ask him any questions, cross examine him about just what he believed about his ministry or ask for details: he just said, ALet=s go.@   Even as people ran to tell Jairus the news of his daughter=s death, saying, Ait=s too late, why bother Jesus now with a wasted trip?@  Jesus says these words   to Jairus who hangs all of his hope on them, words we would do well to chisel into our souls: ADo not fear, only believe.@  

 

Fear, my friends,  is the opposite of Biblical faith, not doubt as we sometimes think.  Faith is trusting and dependent love.  Trusting in God who is dependable.  As they approached Jairus= house all of the signs of death are thereCJewish funerals were usually held the same day as the death.  The professional mourners had been calledCevidenced by their sarcastic non-empathetic response to JesusCThere was no authentic grief there!

 

At that moment Jairus moved from an intellectualCorthodox and officially approved, politically correct faith to a livingCexperienced orthodoxy!   He knew this was real! None of this would have happened had Jairus not risked IHS and taken action.  Sometimes it is this despair that brings a cold, official, intellectual Christian to encounter the Living GodCand something happens to change them forever!  In fact is usually makes us very nervous when they tell us about it!!!

 

Jesus also risked here.  By touching a dead body, Jesus became ritually unclean.  But Jesus is the one who makes clean the unclean by the touch.  This is exactly the reverse of the normative use of the ceremonial law.  But it is this encounter with GodCthis experience with GodCthat gives us the motivation to express our compassion to othersCbecause of how much we have received.  The Collect speaks of the foundation of the apostles and prophetsCWhat was that foundation?  

 

It was an unshakeable conviction that Jesus ChristCthe ultimate and eternal Head had come down into history and broken into the very lifeCthe very meaning of what living was about.  They didn=t just know about HimCthey experienced Him and life was never the same. What was true then is just as true now. This still happens today. It changes our perspectivesCour prioritiesCour  everything!

 

CompassionCto suffer withCto shareCto meet a need.  If we only knew how much He loves us.  Shut your eyes.  Imagine a crossCput your best friend on the cross.  See the painCthe tears in your best friend=s face.  Ask themCAwhy are you doing this?@  The friend repliesCAI=m dying to be with you!@

 

By His death and resurrection, Jesus made this possibility of compassion a reality for He deals compassionately with us.  He shares in our sufferingsCas we share in His.  God calls us to respond to the sufferings of this worldCto reach out to them with hope.  To what is He calling us to respond  today?  We have seen so much pain in the world even this last year: Baltimore, Ferguson and now Charleston. Let us go where he calls us to go, do what he calls us to do and thereby share in Christ's love and sacrifice for the world.

 

God is near.  God cares. And God is able.  Those who come to Jesus in genuine need, do not need to leave disappointed.  Do not fear, only believe!  This my brothers and sisters is our missionC our messageCour identityCour charge.  Let us go forth with the power that goes forth from God through the Name of His Son Jesus and give this hope, this new vision, this Divine compassion to the world.  Let us pray.