Summary: Proper 13, Year A. The multiplying of the fish and the bread. Jesus calls for compassionate eyes to SEE needs, and active hands to meet the needs.
Compassionate Eyes and Compassionate Hands:
Proper 13 Year A
Imagine the amount of compassion you can have if you walk a day, just a day, in someone else’s shoes. Imagine the ways you could pray for someone if you experienced their continual struggle for 24 hours…
There is a university in England that does exactly that! They have a class in compassion. Over the course of a term every student has one blind day, one lame day, one day when they can’t speak, and one day when they are deaf.
The night before a student’s “blind day” others bandage their eyes and they wake without site and utterly helpless. They become dependent on others to guide them.
The students do not have to wonder what it feels like to be blind or deaf. They know. Then they can have compassion in a new way.
That sounds exactly like the incarnation to me. Jesus was a human, and Jesus understood pain, hunger, and exhaustion. Jesus was familiar with alienation, cruelty, and betrayal. We can take comfort in knowing that he understands pain.
Transition: So when we see people—especially people who are hurting—we should be prepared to see them through the eyes of compassion.
Today’s sermon is titled: Compassionate Eyes and Compassionate Hands:
The passage teaches us two things about compassion.
The first lesson in the passage is:
1. Compassion is the default position
Let’s dive into the Gospel reading. It begins with Jesus leaving crowds of people behind in order to rest and recharge.
The lectionary reading leaves us hanging; “When Jesus heard what happened he withdrew by boat privately to a place to be alone.”
What happened? The verses before tell us why Jesus needed to be alone. He needed to grieve because Herod murdered John the Baptist.
Remember, this was the same John who was Jesus’s cousin. This was John who baptized Jesus in the Jordan river. It was John who cried, "behold the One who saves the world." IT was John who had such humility that he could say of Jesus, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” Now John is dead, beheaded.
It hurt Jesus – let that sink in… it hurt him. That’s such a powerful statement of his humanity! He was tired because he was actively ministering to people. He gives of himself—his soul— to share God’s Good News, to heal the sick, and to preach a message of mercy and liberation!
Then to compound his weariness he hears news of his friend’s death.
He's been putting everyone's needs above his own, and now he's gone as far as he can go, and he needs a break. He gets in a boat and heads to a place where he can find solitude to grieve, pray, rest, and recharge.
Then, out of nowhere, this passage comes along. It throws a wrench in the cogs of his plans for a siesta. He couldn’t escape the cloud of human need; he couldn’t escape his vocation. He’s confronted with a question… What are you going to do?
I’m going to take us back in time. Imagine the scene with me, a long and loud transportation vehicle filled with delinquent teens. It thunders forward at its top speed which was set directly by the government. It reeks of old plastic, fresh dirt, and the subtle smell of cheap cologne called diesel fuel.
It’s 1997, and you’re on a public school bus heading to school! Everyone wears a bracelet… WWJD
Jesus… what are you going to do? Then the bible says, "When he saw them and their needs, he had compassion on them and healed the sick. Compassion is the default lens that Jesus used to see the world.
Christ has Eyes of compassion… Change occurs because of compassionate eyes that gave upon the world in hope.
So, Compassion is the lens that Jesus used to see the world. Secondly,
2. Compassion is transformative
Think about this: Most, maybe all, ministries that seek to meet human need is rooted in compassion. St. Jude’s children’s hospital, mother Teresa, episcopal relief and development, etc.
Note what Matthew says, "Jesus instructed the crowd to sit down." That hit me! I realized that I feel like someone who's doing my best to follow Jesus. I'm in a pandemic, things are different and difficult. Church has drastically changed and I'm hungry.
The message to that crowd is “sit down.” Jesus invites us to sit and rest and trust that he will take care of us and our hunger.
This passage illustrates what it looks like to rest and wait.
Jesus tells the disciples to feed the crowd. They don’t know how. He tells them to bring him what they have. He holds it up to heaven, blesses it, and gives it to his disciples. They give what they have received to others.