Posts Tagged ‘compassion’

Happy Easter!  What an incredible rush to celebrate the risen Lord.  This Holy Week was as busy as other years, but I think having two parishioners die within hours of each other on the Saturday before Palm Sunday added a bit to the tension of the week.  Having remembered to breathe deeply, put one foot in front of the other, and remember just who is in charge (not me) made things seem a little bit easier…having perspective really makes things manageable.

Palm Sunday was the usual outdoor start, in the cold temperatures of late March.  But we braved the chill and the wind and waved our palms and chanted “Hosanna!  Hosanna in the highest!” waking the neighbours and startling the drivers that passed the Church.  Some waved back, which was a lovely added bonus.

Holy Monday we gathered to walk the fourteen Stations of the Cross, as we travelled the journey which Jesus took, pausing to give thanks for the choices he made.  Discussion afterwards with the small, yet dedicated crowd made me feel how incredibly powerful this service is for many.

Holy Tuesday we gathered for a special service originally written for the Youth Group.  It was tweaked somewhat but included the main question, “What if Jesus had said no?”  It focussed on the readings from the gospel which tell the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He asks God to take away this cup.  The response is silence.  Why doesn’t God speak?  What if Jesus had refused to go any further?  These questions elicited some incredible discussion.  We joined together in prayer, sang a couple of songs and departed.  Tuesday afternoon was spent at a visitation for one parishioner and a prayer service/private family viewing for another.

Holy Wednesday’s service was cancelled in order to accommodate the Celebration of Life for one of the parishioners, and it was an opportunity to see how a small town supports those who are struggling.  The congregation was not huge, but the man we gathered to celebrate would have been very proud at who came out.  The weather was perfect for the day, sunny and warm, a perfect spring day.

Holy Thursday saw us at the Cathedral Church to celebrate the Blessing of the Oils and then back home to celebrate Maundy Thursday, the first of the Three Sacred Days or Paschal Triduum.  We sang, we washed feet, we cried, we hugged.  We celebrated communion for the last time before the crucifixion and then stripped the altar and left the worship space in silence and darkness.  The tomb was readied.

Friday morning we gathered for the middle service of the Triduum, Good Friday.  We sang, was prayed, we cried.  The cross was decorated with towel, sign, stalk, nails, crown and royal purple.  I preached on what is “good” about Good Friday; that a symbol of hatred and control was changed to a symbol of love and new life.  A reminder that we worship the empty cross, and the empty tomb.  Again we left in stunned silence…and in hopeful anticipation.

Saturday morning a small but dedicated crew gathered at the Church to clean up the palms from Palm Sunday, to polish the brass and silver, and ready the worship space for Easter Day.  I dragged the font into the Gathering Space and set up chairs in the Parish Hall for the last of the Triduum, The Easter Vigil.  That night we lit the new fire, illumined the darkness, sang the Exultet, shared the stories, psalms and prayers, sang, laughed, cried, shared the peace and renewed our baptism vows.  We got to the entrance of the tomb, but were not allowed in…it was not yet time.

This morning the font was returned to it’s rightful place.  The papier mache stone was rolled away and adorned with lilies to show new life.  The tomb has burst open and we see signs of new life.  A larger than usual crowd came to the early service and we celebrated the resurrection and our first Alleluia’s of the season.  At 10:30 we were comfortably full, welcoming 6 strangers to our midst as well as a half dozen baby bunnies…two weeks old.  We sang, we laughed, we learned of the vessels we are and how we receive strength through the fires of trial and temptation.  We shared communion for the first time since Christ was risen and sang Hallelujah until our voices were hoarse.

Tomorrow will be tidying up a few things at the office, putting robes away, sorting service books…working on bulletins.  Then my own three sacred days…of rest.

Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!  The Lord is risen indeed.  ALLELUIA!

I’ll be over here napping, if you need me…

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Karen Armstrong, a former Roman Catholic nun and well-known theologian has written extensively on the three Abrahamic faiths; Judaism, Christianity and Islam. She feels that what is causing a great deal of strife in the world is a lack of compassion.

As such, in 2006 she expressed a desire for a world-wide Charter of Compassion, whereby individuals, communities and groups could agree to live life with compassion for others. In 2008 the Charter for Compassion became a reality.

It’s mandate is simple: “We believe that a compassionate world is a peaceful world. We believe that a compassionate world is possible when every man, woman and child treats others as they wish to be treated: with dignity, equity and respect. We believe that all human beings are born with a capacity for compassion, and that it must be cultivated for human beings to survive and thrive”.

To read more about the Charter for Compassion, please check out their website, www.charterforcompassion.org.

Jesus talks about compassion in one of the most well-known pieces of scripture. John 3:16 says “for God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that those who believe may have eternal life”. Jesus is continually putting others before himself. His entire ministry is of teaching, preaching, proclaiming and healing.

He welcomes sinners and outcasts. He eats with them and shares stories with them. He treats everyone as equal; something that was unheard of in those days and, at times, still feels as though it is the way of the world.

Imagine if you were Mary. She was told, as a teenager, that she would have a very special child. She agreed to undertake this ministry. Little could she imagine that her child would die before her…a parent’s worst nightmare. Would she have agreed if the angel had told her that her son would die before her? Or the horrific way in which he would die? Would her reaction have been the same?

Imagine if you were Jesus. He is born fully human and fully divine. He was able to experience hunger and thirst as well as pain. He knew that he had an earthly calling but also a heavenly calling. And he was, as we all are, gifted with free will. To say that Jesus had no choice, is to weaken and diminish the gift he lovingly and willingly gave us, the gift of his own life.

Imagine if Jesus had been told the horrific way in which he would die? Imagine if God has responded when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane? Jesus called out, in emotional agony for God to take away this what had been commanded. And God was silent. I have wondered for years why God was silent and I can only deduce that God kept silent because if God had spoken, s/he may have changed her/his mind.

God kept silent because s/he felt there was no other way for Jesus to fulfil his ministry.

Remember the story of Abraham and Isaac. Jesus would have known this story well. Maybe he was hoping that God would tell him that because he was willing to die, he would be spared; as God spared Isaac. That didn’t happen. And Jesus died.

Willingly and lovingly.

And Jesus would do so again.

When we live our lives only for ourselves, we fail to see the gift we’ve been given. When we fail to see the suffering of humanity, we struggle to recognise the inherent human dignity of the stranger; of the other. We fail God. And each other.

As we continue through the 40 days, plus Sundays that comprise Lent, let us take the time to be kind to each other. To treat each other as we wish to be treated. Every religion on the planet has adopted this basic premise as it’s main tenet. In Christianity we say “love your neighbour as yourself”.

Spiritually speaking, it is easy to get wrapped up on our own lives and forget the lives of the less fortunate, of the broken, the hungry and the naked. We are called, as Christians, and as human beings to share in the experience of compassion.

Imagine if we all lives our lives believing we were making a difference? Imagine if we lives our lives putting others before ourselves? Of loving with abandon and of ensuring we recognised the inherit human dignity of every person?

We can do it. Each and every one of us. It starts with me. And with you.

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