I Read the Harvard Business Review During Sermon Prep...And, Other Interesting Facts About This Sermon

Proper 11B, Pentecost 8, July 19th, 2015 
Readings here

He had compassion for them. 

This is the sentence I keep coming back to in today’s Gospel.

He had compassion for them.  

And, isn’t that what we long for.


To have another person express empathy and understanding in response to our own need.   

And, isn’t that what the world asks of us.

To be the kind of person who is able to express empathy and understanding in response to the needs of another.  

He had compassion for them.  

He had compassion for them, compassion grounded in his own humanity, compassion grounded in knowing what pain is, knowing what suffering is, of feeling hunger and thirst and the experience of sickness.  

Jesus could imagine their need because he’d felt their need.

And, this then, becomes our faith. A God who can imagine and respond to our need because God has felt our need. A God whose relationship with us is grounded in both passion and compassion.

In passion, calling us ever beyond ourselves, to a bigger love, to a more than faith, to an impossible possible.

And, in compassion, granting grace and mercy freely and lavishly.  

This brings me to the letter to the Ephesians...while my own Study Bible entitles this “The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians” there is clear scholarly consensus that this letter was neither authored by Paul nor written to the Ephesians (one of the clearest pieces of evidence is that unlike other letters attributed to Paul, there is no direct reference to Paul’s personal experience of Ephesus or the people there--and since, according to the Acts of the Apostles, Paul spent three years in Ephesus that omission seems odd). 

So not by Paul and not to the Ephesians. But, rather by an unknown author or authors with the aim of teaching the recently baptized.  

And, that begs the question, what do those new to a life of faith need to know?

They need to know that outsiders have been brought in and they are one in Christ.

They need to know that as followers of Christ they follow the law of love and that in Christ there is peace and reconciliation between all peoples.  

They need to know that they are part of something beyond themselves and that they exist in relationship to each other as well as something we have grown to know as the Communion of Saints.

The Communion of Saints is the whole family of God, the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt, bound together in Christ by sacrament, prayer, and praise. (Catechism BCP 862).

Let’s sit with that for a moment...

we are bound to those we love and those whom we hurt as an extension of our own membership in the communion of saints.

we are bound together, the whole family of God, the living and the death.

Those whom we love and those whom we hurt.  

And, is that not a call to compassion?  A call to extend love and empathy and forgiveness and grace and mercy to the entire family of God?

The letter to the Ephesians bids the community to have this kind of compassion, to remember that they too were once outsiders and that as followers of the Way of Christ they are called to reconciliation, they are called to have compassion for their fellow saints and members of the household of God.  

He had compassion for them. 

And so, we as the body of Christ in the world, are called to compassion.  

Passion and compassion, the love of God calling us beyond ourselves and into the heart of the love that brings healing to the hurting. 

I’d like to end with a poem by another favorite poet of mine, Cynthia Rylant.  A poem entitled, God Got a Dog.

God Got a Dog 

He never meant to.
He liked dogs, He'd
liked them ever since He was a kid,
but He didn't think
He had time for a dog now.
He was always working
and dogs needed so
much attention.
God didn't know if He
could take being needed
by one more thing.
But He saw this dog
out by the tracks
and it was hungry
and cold
and lonely
and God realized
He'd made that dog
somehow He was responsible
though He knew logically
that He had only set the
world on its course.
He couldn't be blamed
for everything
But He saw this dog
and He felt bad
so He took it on home
and named it Ernie
and now God
has somebody
keeping His feet warm at night.

Somehow, he was responsible.

And, he had compassion for them.

For whom are we responsible?

To whom will we show compassion?

And what will inspire our passion?


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