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Pentecost 8 July 19, 2015 - The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
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PENTECOST 8  Proper 11  Year B
Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 23; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell, Priest in Charge


Who is the God we call upon here,
          each time we gather . . .
 
Who is the God
we encounter and proclaim
in Scripture,
in our [song and] prayer,
our exchanging of the peace,
our sharing of bread and wine . . .
 
That question is succinctly answered
in one verse of today’s Gospel.
 
“. . . [Jesus] saw a great crowd,
and he had compassion for them,
because they were like sheep
          without a shepherd . . .”
 

Jesus,
who looks upon human beings,
responds to human need,
          with compassion
                   and healing.
 
Jesus,
whom Christians understand to be
the revelation
          of the nature,
                    the essence,
                             the character of God,
 
Jesus,
the Son of God,
the incarnation,
the en-fleshment,
of the compassionate God.
 
         
          Compassion:
          the word comes
          from the Latin “com” (together)
          and “passio” (suffering) . . .
 
          a deep awareness of the suffering
                    of the other,
          and the willingness, the desire,
                   to enter into it oneself.
 
          Together suffering.
Encountering the pain
of human existence,
Jesus himself entered into that pain,
          being fully open and present to it.
 
And being fully open and present to it
he brought healing
of body, mind, spirit.
 
In Jesus
we see that God is with us and for us,
never apart from us and over against us.
 
 
Jesus,
who gives the lie 
to depictions of God
as wrathful, vindictive, punishing . . .
 
Such a god
is the god of anxious people
and anxious religion . . .
 
a projection upon God
of human fear, despair, uncertainty, anger . . .
 

Anxious religion,
afraid of life,
          controlling,
          manipulative,
          judgmental,
          guilt-making,
          divisive . . .
         
anxious religion . . .
          itself in need of healing.
 
Anxious religion,
          not confined
                   to any one faith tradition,
but manifesting itself
          in the dark corners
                   of any faith tradition.
         
 
The God of compassion
          whom we have come to know in Jesus
looks upon our anxious world
          of much coming and going,
          much pressure and stress,
          much fear and unfairness,
          much jealousy and violence,
looks upon the human community,
          milling about in chaos and confusion
                    like sheep without a shepherd,
and
loves us,
suffers with us,
responds to our cries for healing.
 
Jesus also gives the lie
to depictions of God
as dispenser of happiness . . .
 
The bland, non-demanding god
          of self-satisfied religion:
 
who apparently
doesn’t care enough for us
to require much of us,
 
to want real life for us,
          real life
          with all its struggles and growing pains,
          rising and falling,
          smallness and grandeur,
          its days of brightness
                   and nights of darkness . . .
 
the life Jesus offers,
Jesus,
who came, as he said in John’s Gospel,
that we “may have life, and have it abundantly.”           John 10.10
 
The abundant life Jesus offers,
into which we enter at our baptism,
is a life lived in and with compassion . . .
 

the recognition that there is suffering,
the willingness to see suffering,
to be open and present to it . . .
 
so that we hurt
not just for our own suffering,
but for others’ as well.
 
A life that asks us
to be responsible and accountable,
not just for our own well-being,
but the well-being
of each other,
our neighbors,
the world community,
 
for the well-being of all animals,
and the earth,
 
compassionate stewards
of all Creation.
 
Such a life will not be a “happiness” life,
but it will be a life
wherein great joy is to be found.
 
I have said this to you,
said Jesus to his disciples,
“so that my joy may be in you
and that your joy may be complete.”                               John 15.11
 

He was speaking of
the duty
of disciples to follow him,
to love one another
          as he had loved them,
                   with compassion,
          and so to bear much fruit.
 
 
Compassion
crosses the boundaries of division,
so important in today’s fractured world,
 
for who can separate oneself
          from another
once one has tried
to stand
          in the other’s place,
to look at the world
          through the other’s eyes?
 
In Christ,
says Paul to the Ephesians,
God has already broken down the dividing wall
between God’s people . . .
the uncircumcised and circumcised,
          that is, Gentile and Jew.
 

Paul, devout Jew,
Christian convert,
who experienced this in his own life,
in his own self.
 
“There is no longer Jew or Greek,”
he wrote in his Letter to the Galatians,
“there is no longer slave or free,
there is no longer male and female;
for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”                                                                                                                                                       Galatians 3.28
 
All of us are one in Christ Jesus,
in the God revealed in and by Jesus,
one
across all cultures,
all races,
all faith traditions.
 
We are not the same
          in our particularities,
but we are one
          in our essence.
 

Compassion
leads us to see ourselves
          not over against the other,
                   by how we differ from the other,
          but in relationship with the other,
                   by what we are together,
                   and what we share:
 
          the life experiences,
          the hopes and fears,
          joys and sorrows
                    common to all human beings . . .
 
 
Compassion breaks down the dividing walls
we build . . .
 
so that we might
be reconciled
through God who unites us.
 
 
The psalmist also supplies
an answer to the question
with which we began –
 
Who is this God
we gather to worship?
 

An image of God
Jesus later used of himself –
 
The Good Shepherd . . .
 
who gathers and leads God’s people
to green pastures . . .
and supplies all their needs.
 
That Good Shepherd
has gathered and led us
to this green pasture,
 
this place of
the life-giving waters of baptism,
the fragrant oil, the chrism,
          the seal of God’s spirit given,
the table of joyful feasting . . .
 
signs of the abundance of God’s
goodness and mercy
overflowing our lives . . .
 
We are not meant to be simply
recipients of the goodness and mercy,
of God the compassionate shepherd.
 
We are not meant to
stay in this place of refreshment
and nourishment  . . .
but to go out from here,
to seek out the lost and lonely,
those “having no hope
and without God in the world,”
to lead them to the green pasture
of God’s goodness.
 
We ourselves are meant to be
good and compassionate shepherds
          in the image of Christ,
tending to the needs and hurts
of God’s people
and all God’s creation.