Deep Compassion

The Prayer of the Day for Sunday, cites the “deep compassion” with which Jesus “rescues us from whatever may hurt us.”

Christ’s deep compassion in the NT is often expressed using the word splangxnizomai, as when in Mark 6 he was overwhelmed by people in need coming and going, so he and his disciples didn’t have time to eat or rest.  He tried to go to a quiet place, but the crowd followed him.  He didn’t send them away, but felt sorry for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  They were people who didn’t know which way to turn and had no one to lead them.  So, despite being overwhelmed, he taught them.  Then at the end of the day he fed them.  He gave them what they needed.  These were Jewish people.  In chapter 8, he is among Gentiles on the east side of the Sea of Galilee.  He has splangxnizomai for them and feeds four thousand.  In the parable of the Waiting Father, the rebellious and unappreciative son has depleted all his resources including his self-respect.  He heads for home and we discover that the father has been out waiting at the end of the driveway all the time looking for his son’s return.  When he spots his undeserving son a long way off, he runs out to him and hugs him and welcomes him home and throws a banquet for him.

Splangxnizomai literally means Jesus, innards, his intestines went out to people who were lost and didn’t know where to find help.  If you try to pronounce the word, it sounds like one’s innards literally going outside the body, splat, splash, splang.  When Jesus says the way to express your love for God is by loving your neighbor or being a neighbor to someone, anyone in need, there  is no mental gymnastics which can give us an excuse for not having the same attitude as the one we claim as our Lord and Savior.  If anyone thinks they can manage such an escape, they are only fooling themselves.


Summer is Here


Early I took my keep-me-alive-for-another-day

Pills from their slot for Wednesday and walked

 Right past the blue tarped waiting grave.

Hurricane Barry provided a reprieve of two days

Now 90 plus through Sunday the forecasters say

And if that wasn’t enough to vex

They pile on top a heat index.

It’s time to head for International Falls or Grand Marais

Maybe even risk the road up to Hudson’s Bay.

To Whom Am I Neighbor

At the end of the text from Leviticus 19 we read yesterday it says, “But you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the Lord.”  And in the gospel lesson from Luke 10, in which Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan, the Lawyer cites that loving God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, is followed by “and your neighbor as yourself.”  Then the lawyer asks, “and who is my neighbor?”

But as Jesus so often does, he turns the question upside down and points it at ourselves.  At the end of the parable, Jesus asks “Which of the three (Levite, priest or Samaritan) proved to be a neighbor….  Jesus moves the question from who my neighbor is to whom am I to be a neighbor.  To whom do I reach out and help?  To whom do I risk giving help?  To whom do I expend time, money and energy to help?

Jesus says nothing about the worthiness of the man left for dead beside the road.  Perhaps if he had stayed home, where he belonged, he would not have gotten into this predicament.  Maybe he himself was a robber who had gotten beat up by other robbers.  Yet Jesus and the rest of the Bible does not ask the worthiness of someone in need or a foreigner or the poor, or a deaf or blind person, or the woman who poured oil on his head and feet or an orphan or a widow.  Jesus simply says to the Lawyer and to us, “You go, and do likewise.”

St. Jerome on the Good Samaritan

Jerome on the Good Samaritan

The Gospel reading for this coming Sunday, July 14 is Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37.

Jerome, was a priest and theologian, born about 347 and died on Sept 30, 420.  He is best known for translating most of the Bible into Latin, know as the Vulgate translation.

Jerome wrote: Some think that their neighbor is their brother, family relative or their kinsman.  Our Lord teaches who our neighbor is in the Gospel parable of a certain man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho.  Everyone is our neighbor, and we should not harm anyone.  If, on the contrary, we understand our fellow human beings to be only our brother and relatives, is it then permissible to do evil to strangers?  God forbid such a belief!  We are neighbors, all people to all people, for we have one Father.

Twenty Times

Twenty Times

We usually don’t get too excited about the book of Leviticus and that I’m doing prep work for a sermon from Leviticus likely won’t induce you to jump over the moon nor run away with the spoon.  However, if you are intrigued by what may result by Sunday, I invite you to show up at 10:00 at St. Paul’s, New Melle, Mo.  St. Paul’s is just north of the Catholic church on County D.

In chapters 18-19, the statement “I am the Lord your God.” Or a variation of that is repeated at least 20 times.  The reason we should not live as the rest of the world lives is because “I am Yahweh your Elohim.”  Therefore, don’t uncover the nakedness of your parents or any women or practice any other sexual aberration.

“You shall be holy for I Yahweh am holy (Kadesh).” (19:2) Am I supposed to act like God just because he’s God?  Well, yes.  Here’s the Gospel reason.  “I am Yahweh your Elohim who brought you out of the land of Egypt.”  For us the good news which tops even that is when Jesus, Yahweh become one of us, delivered us from slavery to not wanting to do what God wants us to do.  The Red Sea event cost pharaoh and his army their lives.  The event of the cross, cost God his life.

Therefore, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”  Respect one another sexually. Respect your parents.  Worship faithfully. Take care your neighbor’s need for food. Don’t lie to one another.  Don’t cheat each other. Pay living wages. Don’t slander one another. Stand up and defend your neighbor. Treat the stranger as you would a member of your family.

This text from Leviticus is paired with Jesus parable of the hated, untrustworthy, worthless, Samaritan who turned out to be a man’s neighbor.  Jesus blows to smithereens all the reasons we have for not taking care of others in their need.      

Gospel Implications

Last week we moved from God’s greatness and majesty
To those whom God looks on in Grace
The humble and crushed.
This week
We move from myself
To the whole congregation
to look upon all in our midst with care
including those humbled and crushed by life
Even the stranger, the refugee, the undeserving
Jesus says: Be neighbor to them as I was neighbor 
to you

Mother Church

The early church father, Cyprian wrote, “One cannot have God as Father who does not have the church as mother.”  Tomorrow as we read God speaking in the Old Testament Lesson from Isaiah 66:10-14, we have before us the image of a mother.  In Isaiah the mother image points to Jerusalem.  For us, it points to the church.  It calls us to rejoice in the church, be glad for the church, all who love her and all who mourn her.  For the function of the church as Paul puts it in the epistle lesson is to act in a spirit of gentleness.  We read in Isaiah, “That you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance.”  The church is to satisfy the longing for the pure spiritual milk of the word.  To in effect be a mother carrying a child on her hip and bouncing it on her knee.  The church is to be like a mother who comforts her child as announced in chapter 40, “Comfort, comfort my people.”

Whether we can rejoice over the church or whether we mourn it as not being what it once was.  God still has chosen the church to announce to the world as Peter did on Pentecost, “Turn to God and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.”  And then to offer the nourishment of the sacrament of salvation, Jesus body and blood in Communion. Thus, all may taste and see the goodness of God.

Grafted In Love

During the next three weeks our lessons will touch on being a neighbor.  Paul declares that in Christ Jesus we are free of obeying laws and rules (Galatians 5:1,13-25).  But, he warns, don’t let your freedom as an excuse for allowing your corrupt nature to take over.  Rather, use our freedom to be expressed in love for each other.  “But if you bite and attack each other, be careful that you don’t destroy each other.”   The of giving into our desires is hatred, rivalry, jealousy, angry outbursts, conflict and factions, and things like that.”

In the Gospel lesson (Luke 9:51-62) Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem where he will prove to be everyone’s neighbor on the cross.  He and his disciples were traveling through Samaria where a village refused to welcome them.  No love was lost between Jews and Samaritans.

Letting their corrupt nature win the day, two of Jesus disciples, the brothers James and John, volunteer to pray that fire come down and burn up the village. They did not regard Samaritans as neighbors.  Thankfully, Jesus turned and corrected them.

Therefore, we prayed this weekend, “Lord of all power might.’  God could have granted the brothers venge-filled prayer.  But God is “the author and giver of all good things.”  The good thing we asked for was that God would “graft into our hearts the love of your name and nourish us with all your goodness so that we may be enabled to love and serve our neighbor.”  In Jesus view, our neighborly love is not only for one another in the church, but also for those we think deserve a bit of fire from heaven.

That love must be grafted into our hearts.  That is done “through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.”

When Pastors Become Discouraged

My Old Testament reading for today from I Kings 19 recounts how the prophet Elijah became so discouraged that he wanted to die.  Queen Jezebel had declared him a dead man for wiping out her prophets to Baal.  Elijah runs down to Mt. Horeb and hides in a cave, complaining that he is the only one in all Israel who still is faithful to God.  “Poppycock,” says God, “I’ve still got 7,000 people who haven’t bowed to Baal.  Get out of the cave I’ve got stuff for you to do.”

Consider Moses, God “volunteered” him lead to his people out of Egyptian slavery.  In Numbers 11, Moses gets fed up. “God, you gave birth to these people, but you’ve made me their nursemaid to carry them like babies to their new home.  If this is the way you’re going to treat me, just kill me.”  Yahweh directed him to bring seventy of the leaders and God gave them some of Moses spirit to help oversee the people.  Not that things were all hunky dory after that.  The next thing we know, his brother and sister, Miriam and Aaron, started undercutting him.

The prophet Isaiah answered God’s call, “Here am I send me. Send me.” God told him that his ministry would involve preaching to people who would not listen to him. (Isaiah 6).  At some point Isaiah became discouraged and confessed his failure as a prophet to Israel.  God answered, “You know what? You need a bigger job.  I’m making you a prophet to the nations, (Is. 49).”

It was the same with Jeremiah, who accused God of deceiving him.  He determined not to speak the word of the Lord any longer.  The Lord told him that he should stop complaining and say something worthwhile and just do the job he was called to do.

I don’t mean by this that congregations should make their pastor’s life miserable and not care for their pastor, but pastors also must realize that success, as the world, and even the church measures success is not the way God measures things.  God measures by faithfulness, both on the part of his people and on the part of their God – called leaders.

Reflecting on the Prayer of the Day

The Prayer of the Day on Sunday was not printed in the bulletin.  Though the pastor said, “Let us pray,” my mind apparently was somewhere else.  I’m sure I added my “Amen,” my “Let it be so among us,” yet, I had no idea to what I was “Amening.”  I looked up the prayer and this is what we prayed; in case your mind went wandering.

We acknowledged, “O God, You have prepared for those who love You such good things as surpass our understanding.”  It might have been good if the pastor asked us, “Well,  what good things have you received this week that you never expected and were a surprise and beyond your understanding?”   What you answer?  Give it some thought.

Then we made a request, even if we don’t recall it, “Cast out all sins and evil desires from us”  Now that is going to take some heavy lifting on God’s part to get inside me and throw out all the junk the accumulates throughout the day, week, year, lifetime.

But having excavated our lives, we asked that God would “pour into our hearts Your Holy Spirit.” We need something to replace the junk.  So God would you dump a whole bucket full of the Holy Spirit us for a purpose.  “To guide us unto all blessedness.”  Part of our blessedness is to recognize that we receive so many good things in our life that it’s beyond our understanding as to why God is so good to us.

We know that it can only happen, “Through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.”

Now we can add our “Amen.” And know what we were praying about.