When the carols are stilled

In today’s gospel, Jesus shows compassion for the multitude in the desert likening them to sheep without a shepherd – and He began to teach them many things. There are many lessons to be learned but perhaps the first lesson is compassion. The last two years have been years in which one only needs to look around and in the midst of political division, acrimony, and worse there are stories of great compassion. Stories which remind me of this first lesson.

As the Christmas season winds down, I am reminded of a poem by the theologian Howard Thurman:

When the carols have been stilled,
When the star-topped tree is taken down,
When family and friends are gone home,
When we are back to our schedules
The work of Christmas begins:
To welcome the refugee,
To heal a broken planet,
To feed the hungry,
To build bridges of trust, not walls of fear,
To share our gifts,
To seek justice and peace for all people,
To bring Christ’s light to the world

When the Song of the Angels is Stilled

Compassion

The gospel today is Luke’s account of the blind man on the roadside who cries out: “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”

The underlying word is eléos – I don’t know why they translate it as “pity” – the meaning is “to show mercy,” indicating a response roused by an underserved affliction in others. It denotes a kindness resulting from a relationship. Continue reading

Compassion

Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” (Mark 10:47)  Chuck Roberts was not an exceptional person – at least not in the way the world would account for such things. He graduated high school, held a number of jobs, saved a little, married, and settled down to have a family. He was laid to rest at age 32 on a gray raining morning. His wife Marie and their two small children stood at the graveside – no money, no insurance, no near-by family. Chuck was the only wage earner. They had never been rich, but now they were on the edge of poor ready to tumble in head first. Continue reading

Fatigue

In the dark days of December with the pandemic raging, we hoped for the availability of vaccinations. Vaccinations were announced, the infections seem to be retreating, we began to make plans for travel after the long discontent for our masks, restrictions, and the new normal which we hoped would not become normal at all. And then vaccinations slowed, masks were dropped, the Delta variant spread, fights broke out on airlines, governors levied fines against businesses requiring vaccines even as they claimed federal overreach, and the late summer saw an epic rise among the unvaccinated. A night show host, joking one hopes, suggested that unvaccinated people at the hospital should be a lower triage level than vaccinated people. Schools restarted, closed, went virtual, were protested for requiring and not requiring masks. Nobody likes wearing a mask. Why isn’t everyone vaccinated? What happened to personal liberty? Isn’t this supposed to be over.

But whatever your take on all of this, we are tired – we have pandemic fatigue. Continue reading

An Exodus to Compassion

gospel-of-markThis coming Sunday is the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, a gospel in which Jesus calls to the disciples. “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” As noted in yesterday’s post, it is not just the disciples who answer the call. A multitude of people respond and not just follow Jesus, but anticipate him so that when Jesus and the disciples put ashore, the people are already there in that deserted place. Perhaps the place which Moses and Joshua spoke of looking to a greater “rest” (anapausasthe) the word also used of our eternal reward – truly, the ultimate intention of God. In this way,  And so the people are on a second exodus to find rest. Continue reading

Come away and rest

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

Rest. A break from all the bustle and activity. A chance to renew, to stop, to slow. An end, a pause from work, if only for a little while. An opportunity to stop doing that you may simply be. A space in time to process, reflect upon, think, pray, to listen. We have lives filled with so much activity, so much work, so many obligations that the very idea of rest is as though the Holy Grail itself. Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t a complaint. I love my life, I love being in this parish. It’s more an observation that somewhere in all the things that make up a blessedly frenetic life, I think I’ve forgotten how to rest. It came to me last week as I stood in the very place where Jesus uttered those words to his disciples, realizing the deep need – and then someone on the tour asked, “Father, what do you think Jesus…” And the moment of my own musing and prayer passed. Continue reading

Life in mission: compassion

eremosA Heart Moved. 34 When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

It is easy to imagine the groan of despair that must have gone up from the exhausted disciples, when they saw, long before they had reached the other shore, that the inevitable curious crowd had followed and the possibility of rest was fading. It is probable that this natural weariness accounts for the note of irritation in their question to Jesus in v.37, as well as their obvious hint in v.36 that the crowds had had more than enough teaching already: “36 Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 He said to them in reply, “Give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Are we to buy two hundred days’ wages worth of food and give it to them to eat?” Continue reading

Everyone is looking for you

TheAnnunciationThe story of Job is the well-known biblical account in which a person’s life goes from prosperity and security, from joy to despair – and Job is the one who asks aloud what some of us only whisper – where is God in all of this? Job watches while his life unravels losing prosperity, family and feeling that the entirety of his life under assault. He has looked into his life and his heart, searching for his sin, then at least he imagines he can reconcile what has happened to him. But he is a blameless and upright man. Just when he thinks he had suffered and so much taken from him, then the assault encompasses his own body and he grows sick and covered with sores. No wonder he laments: My days … come to an end without hope. …. I shall not see happiness again. Continue reading

Come away

eremosThere are lots of studies that point to some truth in the adage that practice makes perfect – 10,000 hours of practice to be specific. It is a general number that is consistent across a variety of professions, sports, and skilled activities. Some recent studies in the Netherlands and England is that the benefits of practice are ongoing through the years – not just once a person has become proficient – and that once an elite performer reduces practice, their performance also declines because they practiced less. Continue reading

Life in mission: compassion

eremosA Heart Moved. 34 When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

It is easy to imagine the groan of despair that must have gone up from the exhausted disciples, when they saw, long before they had reached the other shore, that the inevitable curious crowd had followed and the possibility of rest was fading. It is probable that this natural weariness accounts for the note of irritation in their question to Jesus in v.37, as well as their obvious hint in v.36 that the crowds had had more than enough teaching already: “36 Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 He said to them in reply, “Give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Are we to buy two hundred days’ wages worth of food and give it to them to eat?” Continue reading