Sermon for May 29, 2022 Seventh of Easter “Images of Compassion”
“As you, God, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” This prayer of Jesus is offered to give encouragement to generations that will follow the teachings of Jesus even though they did not know him. In this post Easter prayer, Jesus deep desire is for those who follow to know the closeness of a shared faith and relationship with each other as Jesus has with God and Spirit.
The companion teaching in Acts offers a glimpse into what Jesus is praying for. Paul and Silas come across a slave girl who is possessed by an unclean spirit. That spirit is making money for the owner of the slave. Paul and Silas command the spirit in the name of Jesus Christ to leave her and the unclean spirit does. You would think this would be cause for celebration that a life has been restored but the owners think otherwise.
It is worthy to note that this act of compassion was offered to a slave girl. One who had no status, no standing and was considered in her day, as being less than a neighbourhood dog. Compassion in this case and in every case is not given or withheld by status or personhood. Compassion is how we treat all people and perhaps especially those most different from ourselves. It is also of note that the text does not indicate what happened to the girl but only the reaction of her owners.
Following Jesus is believing that we are named, redeemed and chosen to be agents of compassion and love in our world. Following denotes motion and action in every moment. The actions of compassion in our sphere.
Like Paul and Silas, it may take some time to act but act we must. And in that acting there may be unintended consequences. Paul and Silas had no idea the owners of the girl would react the way they did not did they expect to end up in jail. Living into compassion will have consequences, intended and unintended, it does not mean we stop. For Paul and Silas it opened an unusual door for more compassion and a larger door for welcoming new believers.
In my opinion there are few truly inspiring speakers in the world. But there are more than 7 billion people who have the capacity to act with compassion and change lives for good. Actions speak in the absence of words. That was true for Paul and Silas and it is true for each one of us.
As the jailer was about to kill himself for not fulfilling his duties, Paul stopped him and showed him that they had not escaped as the others had. So moved by this compassion that the jailer and his entire family were baptized that very night.
As has always been the case, not everyone will respond to compassion with gratitude. We cannot predict the outcome for others. Our choice in being a follower of Jesus is to decide to act with compassion and love. In an age of growing individualism, of I have the right to…and no one is going to tell me what to do, it just may be more important to spend time with the prayer of Jesus in the text today that asks us to be deeply aware of our connection to God and Jesus, to let the love of God seep into our very core and be the ones to demonstrate compassion and love in all we do.
The prelude to ‘be in the world making disciples and baptizing in the name of Jesus’ is acting from a place of compassion and love.