Damariscotta Baptist Church
Monday, May 21, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

07/22/12 Sermon

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer, Amen

 
 
A few weeks ago I shared with you my fear and dislike of riding on thrill rides like rollercoasters and double ferris wheels.
 

I hate that feeling of losing your stomach that takes place from the sudden drops and twists and turns.

Of course the technical name for what’s going on is the body’s reaction to g-force with the g standing for gravitational force. Your body reacts to the loss of gravity.
 

For me the better representation of the g would be gut force. ------I don’t react well when my gut is being pulled away from the rest of my body!

Now in our scripture today we see another kind of g-force.

And this g-force also has to do with a pulling at your gut; but in a little different way.

In the 34th verse of our scripture today, Mark describes Jesus’ reaction to the large crowd looking and waiting on him as a gut reaction.
 
Mark uses the Greek word splanchna which means to be moved as to one's bowels.
Jesus felt a gut pull, a g-force of love and care.
 
Now the word we use here to translate this is the word compassion.
 
But you know, I don’t think our definition of the word compassion seems to equate to this g-force of love and care that Jesus felt.
 

For us today, when we use the word compassion, we think about it as having pity for someone or feeling sorry for them.

But that understanding of compassion doesn’t have the same force behind it.
 
You see just because we have pity for someone or feel sorry for them ,it doesn’t mean we have a genuine love for them.
 
But Jesus’ compassion was a genuine love and care that permeated from the deepest part of Jesus’ being.
 
It was a compassion that led him to enter into people’s lives and relate in a way as to suffer with them.
 
In fact, that’s the best definition of compassion---compassion means to suffer with an individual; not simply to feel bad for them.

And Jesus’ very nature was compassion. If you think about it, Jesus himself is the g-force of God’s love and care for us.

Jesus’ coming is God’s incarnate action of being intimately involved in our lives as one of us; to suffer with us.
 
And since you and I are followers of Jesus, we’re called to model this kind of compassion in the world.
 

You see, even more than preaching and teaching or spreading the Gospel, Jesus wanted his disciples to have this g-force compassion….In fact we see this in the scripture today.

This scripture picks up with the disciples returning from Jesus’ sending them out two by two.
 

And upon their return they want to have Jesus to themselves to share what they had experienced (a little pat on the back?).

But because the crowds were so large they can’t have Jesus to themselves.

Jesus knows they need to get some rest and have time to be with him, so he tells them to get into the boat so they can find a solitary place.
 
But as we see that doesn’t work…..the crowds go ahead of them and are waiting for them when they dock.
 

And this doesn’t please the church people, I mean the disciples, who want to just have Jesus to themselves.

After all they knew him first, they had put their time and labor in for Jesus. Jesus was their property.
 
They get first rights. “You people who don’t know Jesus, that's your problem, you get him next”.
 

But Jesus teaches them (and us) that compassion for others overrules our personal ownership of Jesus.

You see, just having a personal relationship with Jesus is not what discipleship means.
 
In fact, simply teaching others, or preaching or singing or using whatever gifts we’ve been given misses the mark if it isn’t rooted in a g-force compassion for others.

So the question to us today is how do we go about having this kind of g-force compassion for others?

How do we grow to have a genuine love and care for others that isn’t simply feeling sorry for them but is instead willing to suffer with them.
 

Well to have a g-force compassion for others first means we have to move away from our comfortable church work and feel the discomfort of uncomfortable people work

Henri Nouwen in his book titled Compassion speaks of a term called “voluntary displacement”.

Voluntary displacement means we move out of our ordinary or familiar places to go where people are hurt and broken.
 
This is a stepping out of our boats, a leaving of our nets, a carrying of our cross to an engagement with lost and/or hurting people.

I can still recall when I first read Nouwen’s book and the challenge it was for me to step out of my comfort zone.

I began to attend men’s breakfasts which really took me out of my comfort zone.
 
Then I became part of the evangelism team going out to greet visitors and drop off brochures. That was way out of my comfort zone.

Then I became a part of a visitation team where I went to nursing homes. I’ll never forget the first few times when I visited a one armed man named James Darr.

James would hardly speak to me and I felt so uncomfortable. When he did speak he wasn’t real pleasant either.
 
But after several visits, I recall James telling me I needed to shave off my whiskers.
 

It became a joke whenever I visited. Finally one day, James trusted me enough to give him a shave. That was also an uncomfortable thing… but interestingly enough, it was also a wonderful blessing.

As a Christian, we are called to get out of our comfortable places, out of our comfortable church pew boats and displace ourselves into people’s lives.
 

Only when we do that, will we be able to experience that G-force compassion that Christ calls us to.

Now another way we follow Christ into having this gut force compassion for others is when we stop being fixers and we turn into fellow sufferers.
 
So many churches are filled with fix it people.

Give them a project or give them an individual who needs assistance and they can be very productive in fixing the situation.

And that can be important.
 
But again at the heart of what we do is a genuine compassion and love for others.
 
Now this isn’t to be mistaken for pity.

As I mentioned earlier, many have confused compassion with a practice of distant, guilt-ridden pity.

You see, at the heart of trying to fix people is actually a desire to remain distant. If we fix you we don’t have to stay with you.
 
Fixing also can be a selfish, unconscious desire to get the person to stop bugging you.
 

For example, when you hear of an individual in need, you feel obligated and guilty to help them.

I believe it was the great Christian psychologist Seward Hiltner who basically said that deep down, people who are fixers are individuals who have not experienced grace.
 
They have deep hidden guilt and believe they are responsible for people’s plights.

And so by fixing them they feel better about themselves as the guilt is taken away.

This self-centered pity of the fixer is also a way of strength and power.
 
Fixers don’t mind helping others but if the shoe were on the other foot it would be a whole different situation.  
 
But the true G-force compassion that Jesus calls us to, is one where we simply put ourselves into the suffering.
 
Jesus put himself with people---he touched those with leprosy, he ate with sinners, he was a red-blooded man who was simply one of the people.
 
And everybody knew that about him. I like verse 54 in our scripture.

Mark tells us that when Jesus got out of the boat the people recognized him.

Seems like such a small thing. But to recognize him means he was familiar to them.
 
It wasn’t as if they recognized him because he was a TV star. They recognized him because he was one of them; who laughed and ate and walked and talked with them.

For us to be people of compassion we have to stop being strong fixers and instead grow to be people who are real and who are vulnerable.

We don’t need to fix. We simply need to listen and let ourselves suffer with them.
 
Now the last way we grow into this G-force compassion of Jesus is when we choose to enter into our own suffering in order to enter into other people’s suffering.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who is known for her work in the field of death and dying and the stages of grief has offered many people hope and life after loss.

Kubler-Ross as a Swiss teenager had lived thru WW II and witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust. She had witnessed the horror of Jews being mowed down by machine guns.
 

In an interview in which she was asked what led her to devote so much time to issues of death and dying she said: “it began in a concentration camp, where I tried to see how children had gone into the gas chambers after having lost their families, their homes, their schools and everything. The walls in the camp were filled with pictures of butterflies, drawn by these children.

It was incomprehensible to me.  Thousands of children going into the gas chamber, and this is the message they leave behind–a butterfly. She said “That was really the beginning”.
 
Another example was St. Francis of Assisi.

He is of course well known for his compassion and charitable love for others.

But before that he had a terrible dislike for lepers. They disgusted him and the smell of their rotting skin repulsed him.
So Francis decided to do something about it. He went to a leper, knelt at his feet, took his hand and began to kiss it.
 

Francis points to that moment as the day when he changed and became a man of genuine compassion.

Entering into suffering is what changes us.
 

This past week I was driving to pick up Abby at cheer camp and a church had a sign that had some very profound words.

“Suffering is the friction that polishes grace”.

When we are willing to enter into the areas of our own suffering, our fears, our brokenness, our weaknesses--- we experience grace ourselves and we become vessels of grace for others.

We are able to have that g-force compassion for others because we know what they’re going thru.

I love the Divorce Care Ministry here at the church---MaryAnn and Marvin who both experienced divorce have become vessels of grace for others who are experiencing this loss.
 
I like the picture of the heart on the bulletin. It’s a heart covered with a band-aid and stitched up.
 
It’s a heart that can relate and can suffer with others.

Jesus had that kind of heart for us. A heart that was one of us; a heart that broke for us; who saw the crowds coming to him as lost sheep in need of a shepherd.

Jesus  was willing to suffer with them first and foremost.
 
So today ask yourself where am I broken? Where do I need to enter into my own suffering in order to have compassion for others?

And also ask yourself, who do I want to avoid? Is it homeless people? Is it people with addictions? Is it older people or younger people, disabled or immigrants, or different ethnic groups? 

Whoever or whatever it may be, our hearts become vulnerable and softened and we GROW in our compassion when we enter into the suffering………
 
In closing, this morning we’re being reminded that the One we follow is the One who had a G-force compassion for us.
 
His heart tugged for us, it broke for us, it died for us.
 
So today let us draw near to his vulnerable heart and ask him to show us where we need to grow in our love and care for others…
 

Let’s let go of the comfortable religious “churchy stuff” that we define as faith and step into the uncomfortable people business.

Let’s stop trying to fix others and instead let’s be first and foremost willing to suffer with them.
 
And let us enter into our own suffering that we might be vessels of grace for others who are suffering too…………
 

Today let us grow in our compassion in our gut------ as we remember his g-force, gut  compassion for us.

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen