Columbine, Sandy Hook, Fort Hood, Charleston, Orlando, Vegas. In the wake of these tragedies we are left asking ourselves what we can do. What is the answer? Where do we even turn to find an answer? Some people turn to the media and listen to the pundits on one side or the other talk about solutions. Some people turn to Washington DC and look for answers in legislation. Some people turn to the schools and social services and say we need a better way to teach tolerance and understanding. A friend of mine said that we need to look at what the psalms say.
I lift my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2
Our help comes from the Lord. God has given us all we need to address this problem and it starts right where we have been these past few weeks, with the same creed that Jesus used to guide his life. The same creed Jesus gave his followers. It is the Jesus Creed that can help us in times like this and it is the Jesus Creed that will help our world become a better place so I want to invite you to once again say it with me.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength… and love your neighbor as yourself.
In the face of evil there is only one answer and that is compassion and that was how most people responded when the shots started on Sunday night. It was compassion that moved people to shield those around them from the bullets. It was compassion that moved a man to cover his wife and save her from death. It was compassion for strangers that moved people to stop running and lift up those being trampled by the crowds. It was compassion that moved people to offer their vehicles to be used as ambulances. It was compassion that moved people to stand in line for hours on Monday in order to donate blood for those in need. It was compassion that moved people to give money and businesses to offer goods and services to the victims and their families. It was compassion and love for others that immediately come to light in the midst of the darkness and it is compassion that reminds us that evil will never win.
In the face of anther shooting, a lot of people are asking what we need to do to begin to turn things around and if we look to Jesus, there is only one answer. It is to love. In the face of injustice and oppression and violence – Jesus offered love and grace and compassion and he did it in all the daily routines of his life. There is a story of Jesus offering compassion that provides a framework for how we can grow in our own compassion. Luke 7:11-15.
It was an ordinary day. Jesus was walking into a small town when he and the disciples came upon a funeral procession leaving town. Obviously Jesus saw what was going on, he saw the procession and the mother out in the front leading the way, but we know Jesus did more than look at the mourners, he took the time to listen and learn about what was going on. We know that Jesus asked some questions because he found out that the young man who died was the only son of his mother who was herself a widow.
So the first thing Jesus does here is look and listen and learn and this is the first step in compassion. There is no compassion for others unless we take the time to look around and see what the needs are, and then we need to stop and listen to people share about their situation and it is only in listening that we learn how to help. Acts of compassion don’t come out of thin air, they come because we have be willing to look and listen and learn.
Have we really taken the time to look around our own community? What needs do we see? Who are our neighbors in need? Have we asked God to open our eyes so we can see where and who to help? Many people have commented on the role of prayer in the wake of mass shootings and maybe the prayer we need to pray is for God to open our eyes to the needs and problems of our own community so we can offer compassion right here.
When was the last time we stopped to look around or listen to our neighbors or learn about the needs in our own community? We will listen and learn all about what is going in Vegas 2500 miles away but then we forget to look in our own community.
Do you know our foodbank is in need? We serve 800+ people a month and money is scarce and we are heading into the holiday season when more will be needed. Do we take the time to learn about how the food bank helps and how we can be part of that? Have we listened to what kinds of food is most needed?
Have we taken the time to listen and learn about what the CROP Walk supports? How much money goes overseas and what stays here to support our own community? The first step in compassion is to look around to see the needs and then take the time listen and learn so we know how to best respond.
Jesus took the time to learn about this woman and her son. He learned that the woman previously lost her husband so she was already in a difficult situation and the son who died was her only son which meant that she now had no one to care for her, no one to provide for her. The death of her son left her alone and destitute. It is because of all that Jesus learned that he had compassion for her.
While Jesus loved all people, I wonder if he was moved in a special way here because this situation hit so close to home. Jesus’ own mother was a widow. Joseph died at some point so Jesus knew first hand that life for a widow was difficult. Jesus often spoke of the need to care for widows and orphans and I wonder if that compassion came from his own experience. Had Jesus personally seen both the need for compassion and the blessing those acts of love could be. Sometimes the place God can use us the most is in the places where we have personal experience. It is often where we have seen or received help that God calls us to help others.
Either way Jesus is moved with compassion or as it says, his heart went out to her, but it wasn’t just his heart – it was his hand too. Jesus heart went to the widow and his hand went touch the funeral bier so that the dead man could be raised to life. Jesus takes his heart filled with compassion and turns into an action. He reaches out his hand to help another. jesus links up with someone to do something.
Beyond our need to look, listen and learn we have to be willing to link up with others and do something to make a difference. Loving others with thoughts and feelings just does not cut it – we have to be willing to get our hands dirty. Love for those effected by hurricanes is nice but it is the hands bringing in supplies and hands putting together buckets and hands cleaning up debris and hands rebuilding homes that make a difference. It is hands being willing to link up with others in our community that will provide food for the hungry and offer support to the lonely and those in despair. It is hands coming together to do something that lifts up a community.
Jesus reached out his hands and touched the funeral bier, and when he did he got them dirty. I don’t mean the soot or dirt from the boards, he became unclean because he touched something that carried the dead. Jesus was constantly getting his hands dirty in this way. He touched lepers and laid his hands on children and lifted up defiled women and touched the sick and dead. Jesus hands were constantly in motion touching those in need and offering not just help and assistance but love and that love made a difference.
There is so much more than assistance that takes place when we reach out to others. We are offering relationship and love. We welcome people and show them they have value and worth. When we are willing to touch and help others we are lifting them up in so many ways and it is those acts of compassion that can help lift people out of darkness. It is this face of goodness in the presence of evil that can begin to soften hearts. Think of all the hands that were touching others and helping those in need on Sunday. Those hands got dirty and bloody and took risks and sacrificed and those hands linked up with others and together they helped bring light into the darkness and showed the world that good always overcomes evil. The work of those hands is making a difference today and showing us the answer. The answer is love.
As we face another tragedy in our nation, another senseless act of violence, we are left asking, what can we do? What is the answer? The answer will not come from our government or the media or any institution around us, the answer is us. Are we willing to love God and love others? Are we willing to reach out to help others? Our acts of love can be a witness to those seeking to bring about violence. We can be the light in their darkness or the hope that lifts them from despair. Who knows how the testimony of a community coming together to care for one another can be the force of love and goodness that maybe turns someone from evil plans. While the world may laugh at us, our help and the help our world needs comes from God who told us what the answer is, it is to love God and to love others. If will look and listen and learn and then link up with those in need we will begin to change the hearts of people which will begin to change the world.
So where do we start? The needs are so great, the world is so dark and there are so many problems that seem too great for us to solve. So where do we start, well we start right here. We start local. It was the local Las Vegas community that linked together to help. It was the people at the concert venue, locally right there that laid their lives down and lifted others up and so we start local.
What can we do right here and right now to help others? What act of compassion can we do this week that will help our family, friends and neighbors? There is someone in need right now that we know, God has put this person in our life and God is asking us to reach out and help them. There is an organization God is asking us to link arms with. There is an opportunity, a ministry, a mission God is asking us to serve with so that together we can be part of the solution to the violence we see in our world.
God is not asking us to change the world, God is asking us to change our world – right where we are and if we will all change our world then God will change the world. Thousands of people in Las Vegas changed their world and they are a beacon of light that shines in the darkness and they proclaim the truth that goodness and sacrifice and service and love will overcome evil. They started something local that is spreading and catching on and changing the conversation and providing answers and hope for our world.
As part of the creed for his life Jesus told us to love others because it would be this love that would bring in God’s kingdom. It is our love put into action that changes our hearts and lives and families and community. These acts of compassion are things we can learn to do, we can grow in our love for others by being willing to take the time to look and listen and learn about the needs we see around us. When we link up our hearts and hands with others in service and start local our world will begin to change so that God can then change the world.
It’s time that we as followers of Jesus stop looking to our government, our media, our schools and our society to bring about change and start looking to God because he has shown us the way. It is the way of Jesus who lived out this creed:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all you mind and with all your strength… and love your neighbor as yourself.
The Jesus Creed – Compassion
Read Luke 7 & 8 and identify all the acts of Compassion seen in the daily routines of Jesus’ life.
The five steps to developing a heart and life of compassion.
1. Look. Take time this week to look at our community and ask God to help you see with new eyes.
• Who do you see lonely? Hurting? In need?
2. Listen. Take the time to really listen to others this week.
• What do you hear at home? At school? At work?
3. Learn. Learn about different needs in our community.
• Learn about the current needs at our local food bank
• Learn more about what the CROPWALK supports
4. Link. Do something this week to serve others.
• Write out an act of compassion and figure out a way to do it. One suggestion is to help the FaithCentre Food Bank.
5. Local. Don’t become overwhelmed by the needs of the world, focus on one need in the local church or community.
• How is God calling you to make a difference in your world?
Memorize this verse and repeat it each morning.
I lift my eyes to the mountains,
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.