When we begin the work of reconciliation and healing in compassion, literally meaning “with passion”, with the energy of love, we are drawn into relationship with those around us. We begin to embrace our connections to each other, to the world around us. We begin to see others, see Creation as good, as ones which reflect the light and love of God.
August 20, 2023
“Sacred Earth, Sacred Worth”
Part 2: Spirit of Compassion
Mark 14: 28-34
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
Mark 12: 28-34
One of the legal experts heard their dispute and saw how well Jesus answered them. He came over and asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus replied, “The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.” The legal expert said to him, “Well said, Teacher. You have truthfully said that God is one and there is no other besides him. And to love God with all of the heart, a full understanding, and all of one’s strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is much more important than all kinds of entirely burned offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered with wisdom, he said to him, “You aren’t far from God’s kingdom.” After that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Spirit of Compassion Mark 12:28-34
This should be one of those sermons we don’t really need to hear in church because we know it, because we live it out, because it is a part of who we are as people of faith. Yet, it keeps popping up in various lectionary readings, in sermon series, in Bible readings because we just can’t seem to get it. Please hear I’m not thinking I have got it all figured out and I am simply passing my wisdom onto you brood of vipers. Not pulling out the John the Baptist card today. Nor am I saying that the reason we continually hear sermons based on the greatest commandment again and again in our communities of faith is because we continually miss the mark of moral perfectionism, and that if we just try to be better, to be more well…good, then all the world’s problems will be fixed and solved.
What I am saying is that as people of faith, as I have spent time with this text this past week, I have come to the conclusion that the reason why we keep hearing sermons based on the greatest commandment in our communities of faith over and over again is because we have taken what is relatively simple and complicated it with rules and regulations. We have taken our call to love and added requirements and membership tests. We have taken the very heart of our faith, this energy of loving all, something which has been the very heart of our faith since God first handed down the law from on high, and we have distorted it to fit our own wants, to fit our own preconceived notions, to fit our own limited understanding of what it means to experience, to do, to share love in action and practice. The reason why we keep hearing sermons, lectures, readings on this greatest commandment, on our call to love God and to love all and we have turned it into a litmus text to see who is worthy. And if we don’t deem that person worthy, then we decide that person is not worth our time and efforts.
Or let me say it this way…one morning this week, I walked into the office and noticed that the light on the answering machine was blinking. I set my stuff down and listened to the messages. There were two…both requests for assistance. The first one said something like, “I’m working a job but I have had some unexpected expenses come up and I just need some help.” The second one said something like, “You all helped me last year and I was wondering if you can help me again.”
So here it is confession time…I called one back and didn’t the other. Sure I could blame it on being busy. I could blame my actions on needing to get stuff done, and I simply just ran out of time as the reason why I didn’t call both people back. Yes I could let us all think that but that would be unfair. That would not be the truth. That would not be me being authentic to my faith and calling.
So here it is confession time…based on the messages, I made a quick judgment. I made assumptions. I heard certain phrases shared in the two messages and deemed one worthy of my assistance and the other not so much.
And because of that, my sermon prep was more reflective than studious this week. I kept going back over and over again in my head of what I could have, what I should have done differently. Not sure if the outcome would have changed but at the very minimum, I could have called that person back. I could have listened to their story. I could have been intentional in creating space for compassion to come through.
Yes I do not miss the irony that on the week we are talking about the Spirit of Compassion, I failed to show it to a person in our community.
Maybe I needed this real life example to wake me up, to shake me up to how easy it is to make excuses, to find reasons which logically explain why we did not show compassion to another. Maybe I needed the hard lesson again to practice what I preach…I’ve been told by those closest to me that I am somewhat stubborn.
Or maybe I have simply heard so many sermons, so many readings, so many lectures on loving God and loving my neighbor that this greatest commandment has become words and I needed the Spirit of Compassion to break in, and show me some compassion to reframe my preconceived notions, to reframe my assumptions, to make me remember my call, our call to share this loving energy with all, not just those I deem worthy of my time and efforts.
Because you see, what the Spirit of Compassion helped me remember is that what it means to love God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our strength, with all our soul, what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves is being intentional in all things and through all things, to move beyond our fears, to move beyond our assumptions, to move beyond what we think we know of a situation, of a person, and simply make a connection with one another, to draw closer to our Creator, to become the person God created and calls us to be. As ones who are called to reflect the light and love of God, our very faith draws us into relationship, draws us into community with others.
The Gospel message, which God shared with Moses when God handed the stone tablets to Moses, the Gospel message which the prophets shared with the people of Israel, the Gospel message which Jesus preached in the Sermon on the Mount, the Gospel message which Paul wrote about when he told the Corinithains that the greatest of these is love…all comes down to this…an invitation to put aside our preconceived notions and see, truly see each other as created in the image of God, to experience each moment of our daily lives as a moment of connection, of relationship, of dialogue, of understanding.
Everything about our sacred story reminds us time and time again, that as ones who are called to be the heart and hands of the Divine here on Earth, we cannot love God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our being, with all our strength while not loving our neighbor, while not loving the stranger, while not loving those who others ignore and push to the margins as ourselves.
Because it all comes down to this…as people of faith, we believe, we practice, we understand, we live out in all things and through all things, that when we start anything and everything from a place of love, from compassion, there is no room for anything else. May it be so.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, August 20, 2023 – Spirit of Compassion Mark 12:28-34.