Pentecost 8: Compassion That Gut Feeling

Sermon for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

People were attracted to Jesus.  It did not matter where he went, what he did, once word got out about him – he was swarmed with people.  One of the things that separates Jesus from the other prophets and healers is the compassion he had for the people around him. 

Now this is not just any kind of compassion.  The Greek word for compassion in the Bible means “Guts” and feeling.  So it is that feeling in your gut when you see something that moves you.  It moves you to the point of acting upon that feeling.  Compelling you to be involved if you want too or not.

Jesus had compassion on the people who are following him because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  They were in need of care, of protection, of pasture, of tending, of nurture.

Jesus’ compassion is not just a feeling its a movement. So Jesus acted upon his compassion and he reached out to those in need and he taught those who were following him how to be his disciples so they can show, to act upon compassion as well.

Today, the 30,000 youth and adults who attended the National Youth Gathering in Detroit are returning home.  This last week my Facebook and Twitter feeds were filled with images of compassion and transformation.

I watched as neighborhoods were changed as brush and debris was removed from abandoned homes, as parks were restored so children can use them again.  I worshiped with them as passionate and inspirational speakers talked about justice and equality and amazing musicians played songs of praise. 

Tears filled my eyes as I thought about the life changing experiences that thousands of our young people had, and the people of Detroit witnessed and had themselves.  One native resident said that looking at the youth groups wearing their brightly colored shirts  all over the city reminded them of a Skittles Factory exploding.

What they are learning first hand, and what we are learning as we watch them is that to be a disciple of Christ means that you show compassion to your neighbor.  It hits you in the gut, you get this unshakeable feeling and it sends you into motion for the sake of the other.

That’s the thing, you have to act upon this feeling even if it makes you a little uncomfortable.  You have go outside of yourself and that feeling in your gut will go away as your heart is filled with the love of Christ coming through your experiences.

 After many conversations the ministry team decided to host a monthly community meal here at Faith Lutheran Church.  This will be free to anyone who wants to come and if we are successful, then maybe we can do it 2 or three times a month?  Maybe, like the fellowship table we can have a weekly meal so we can ensure that two times a week, those who need a meal, those who need to feel the love and support of a community can gather together and be filled physically, emotionally and spiritually.

My stomach is turning with excitement and energy as I imagine us doing this important and well needed ministry.

However, I also have questions.  How are we going to do this?  Do we have everything we need to be successful?  Can we get enough volunteers to help?  Will people know that we have it and come?  How are we going to get the food that we need? 

Even though I have these questions, that the feeling that I have in my gut, that feeling of compassion —— radiates throughout my body like an adrenaline rush and it will not go away unless I, unless we    listen to God and carry out our call of mission, to respond to and share God’s love with all people.

Unless we take what we learn, what we experience here on a Sunday morning and we enable other people to experience the same thing.  Just by the simple act of hosting a meal for the community we are living out our call by responding to God’s love.  Giving to others what we are blessed to have, to use the gifts and talents of the people of this congregation to benefit others.

However, we may let those questions that we have, those doubts over take our desires, overtake our feelings of action.  When that happens we are unable to know the full reality of what we can to do as individuals or as a congregation as people of faith.  So let us join together and act upon our gut feelings, let us try something new, something that God is calling us to do.

We also like to pretend that we have it all figured out. That we don’t really need true compassion or love.

This leads us to shut down, to build up walls.  Perhaps this is why people don’t trust the church?  Because you don’t really get something for nothing in this world right?  We are told over and over again that you have to earn what you receive,  there are no real free hand outs…..

But we have a one of the most powerful things imaginable here with us today……..God’s grace and God’s love. When we have compassion for one another and for those who are not a part of this church we are sharing God’s love and grace to the world.

The thing is, we are becoming that community now.  I see that compassion, that love flowing through our congregation in the things that we already do!  I see God’s grace and love shown in the way we care for one another and the way that we reach out to the people of Gardner and the world. 

Thank you for being that community and thank you for wanting to become a church that digs deeper into compassion and love for the sake of each other and for the sake of the world.  Amen

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