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July 31st - Matthew 14: 13-21 "Compassion"

Matthew 14:13-21
13Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself.
But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.
14When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.
15When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”
16Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”
17They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”
18And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.
20And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.
21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Definition of compassion
Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Dalai Lama

The word of the day is compassion -
We see the compassion of our Lord that is translated into action
And the way in which our Lord helps the disciples to do the same.
It is a feeling and an action. Both. And we get in trouble as people and as church when we emphasize one over the other.
This text is a picture of compassion - in actually two stories - first our Lord with compassion who heals those in the wilderness and then the disciples and the feeding of the 5000
It begins with our awareness of others and their needs. In this text - our Lord was aware of people in the wilderness.
He came to be away from people - by boat and the crowd followed him. They left the city and came to be with him in the wilderness.
Which speaks to their understanding of their need of him. They needed healing, words of truth, the good news of the kingdom. He had something that they wanted and needed
And he was aware of their needs. Similarly the disciples are also aware of their needs. They are hungry. Maybe because they were hungry too We are people who have spiritual, emotional and physical needs. And God bless the disciples - they knew it.
But the point is - that the compassionate one is aware of the needs of others
Second part here is that he sets aside his own needs. (“now when he had heard this”)
. The news he had just heard was of the bizarre murder of John the Baptiser at the whim of Herod’s wife. Jesus’ withdrawal “to a deserted place” it seems, can only be understood as an self preservation strategy. We seem them humanity of Jesus here...grief, tired, maybe even exhausted

My ministerial training approves. “When the going gets tough, the wise go on a retreat!” A boat trip to a desert location, lots of sleep and rest, some journalling and reading. Regather and refocus. This is all good, so far. \
But seeing the needs of others, he then comes back into action for them.
He is in this example - what Henry Nouwen calls the wounded healer. He has his hurts and suffering, yet he binds himself to touch and reach out to others
Third - he calls us to bring what we have. The disciples see the needs of the people - but their solution to the problem is that they need to take care of themselves.And Jesus says NO You feed them" Remember, the source of the feeding is God, but the resources are the disciples
And their response is nothing but some fish and bread. And that is really it - God wants us to bring our nothing but….to help others. Nothing but….a few dollars, a car to drive, an afternoon, a couple of sandwiches, nothing but a prayer
We have something - not a lot and not enough, we think but we have something. And compassion is to bring our nothing but…which is really something
And the fourth aspect to this act of compassion - is that we do our work. Someone wrote that this text is showing us that the disciples are learners and workers. And working is part of what The work of the disciples, the "bread" of human effort, is honored, used, and magnified by Jesus."

You have heard this story many times and have you ever thought about this. 5000 men - which of course is more than 5 thousand people. A miraculous feeding - who did the serving, who did the clean up - who did the worrying and the stressing over the whole thing. The disciples. The disciples. And so - reminder - there is work involved in being the compassionate one
And finally there is this aspect to living the compassionate life - it is to be completely vulnerable and trusting that when God is calling us to help others and God calling us to use our resources and our energy in their behalf that God is going to do the rest.
The compassionate life is not just loving, suffering with, praying for and caring about.It is doing. It is putting ourselves on the line and trusting where we cannot see.
That is the compassionate life. It is the horizontal and the vertical together. It is moving from the belief in god to belonging to the kingdom
This morning we come to receive a vision of what God can do with Gods people who are open and willing
At the same time there is this word of challenge....and the challenge is the honest awareness of how difficult the compassionate life is....." it is not easy, but it's worth it"
It reminds me of a story told by Joan Chittister:
Once upon a time, the story goes, a teacher traveled with great difficulty to a far away monastery because there was an old monastic there who had a reputation for asking very piercing spiritual questions
“Holy one” the teacher said. “Give me a question that will renew my soul”
Ah, yes, said the old monastic - your question is - what do they need?
The teacher wrestled with the question for days but then, depressedgave up and went back to the old monastic in disgust
“Holy one, the teacher said, “I came because I am tired and depressed and dry. I didn’t come here to talk about my ministry. I came here to talk about my spiritual life. Please give me another questions.”
Ah, well, of course. Now I see.” The old monastic said
“In that case, the right question for you is not - “What do they need? The right question for you is, “What do they really need”
And I leave you with that question today - or perhaps saying it this way - who are the hungry in your midst?
And the word to all of us this day - is compassion and that hard challenge by Jesus to his disciples - YOU GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO EAT
There is the challenge of awareness....we live with each other...people whom have lots of needs...
• .sometimes they are physical ....to be fed or healed,
• sometimes they are financial and
• often they are emotional and spiritual…....to be heard, to be loved, to be affirmed, to know they ,matter and would call this divine awareness..
• .and what I am saying is that compassion may begin with our prayerful desire to see more deeply the need of others
Just to live in awareness of the needs of others is a challenge
And then here we are with our own issues....we may be tired, and grieving , we may be in physical and emotional pain, we may have our own financial problems and issues at work and there is always this voice inside of us that wants to say ….you think you have problems
But even more than that….we will bump up against our own
limitations...our limited resources and limited time and energy
It is no wonder that so many people and churches over the years stop at writing checks to help others. I can't do much but I can do that!
But the most difficult part of the compassionate life is really living and trusting God.
We seek to be a compassionate church - a servant church - a church who prays - thy kingdom come and then works to make that happen
As we follow the lived compassion of Jesus and the learned compassion of the disciples
And this is why I keep discovering in my own life
It is that when we have the courage to look with God’s eyes at the pain and the suffering in our world
When we have an awareness of our interdependence as brothers and sister in Christ
When we put our resources at the disposal of God - our money, our time and our energy
Then the miracles do happen - our our little bit is touched by the hand of the master
The Kingdom of God has come near - and we are at the table - enjoying the heavenly banquet -and we glimpse the eternal
It may be sitting in a hospital room with someone following surgery
Or playing games with a child from the neighborhood at Family Fun Day
Or watching the interactions during the week of our staff and some of the folks who come to AA meetings
It may be as we hand out groceries to someone who has stopped by
It may be just when a group joins together in prayer and sharing and is able to know that they are being heard, affirmed and loved
The kingdom of God has come near and we have glimpsed the miracle of God’s presence in our midst
There is an invitation here for all of us today to consider Jesus as the way, the truth and the life
To follow the one who sees us in our need, who brings healing and grace to every moment of our lives
Who calls us into an interactive relaitionship with God and each other that involves faith, trust, work…..and miracles.
Amen

St. Augustine

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