July 22, 2012
The heat doesn’t stop…. Neither does God.
The heat just won’t stop. Each day the grass is getting more yellow and brittle. And this week, a play-filled summer is shattered by yet another mass shooting in a movie theater. The theater is a place Terry and I often go to escape, to be cool, and to get away from pressure of it all. It is to be a safe place. And now, this too has been tainted with a sense of despair and desolation.
It seems experiences and places of desolation are creeping into the very landscape of peace and play. It is like the intensity of a heat that doesn’t quit. And, as pastor, I wonder how to respond. Where is God in this? What does it mean? What do we do in the midst of a heat that doesn’t stop – this symbolic heat of pain, despair, violence and desolation. How do we respond as followers of Jesus? I personally want to just run away. Maybe say a quick prayer and then go on about my own business.
But, we who have grace by the very love of God, revealed in Jesus, are invited to come and follow this Spirit of Jesus into the world, into the heat. We are invited by God to dwell in that love to be with Jesus and to do the things of Jesus.
So, what did Jesus do when the heat didn’t quit? Take a look at Mark 6. Jesus is talking with his followers and they are celebrating the many healings and good works they had just accomplished. As they are talking, Jesus invites them to a desolate place to rest for awhile. They take a boat across the water to a desolate place, and when they arrive it is crowded with many people, in fact thousands of people looking for mercy. Perhaps Jesus and the disciples thought to themselves, “The heat doesn’t quit.” But, look at verse 34. “But when Jesus CAME ashore he SAW the large mass of people and had COMPASSION on them.” (BOLD mine.) In the midst of the desolate masses, in the “heat”, Jesus came. Jesus sees. Jesus has compassion.
This compassion is an active noun for the inner part of the body. Jesus “guts” for them. He acts from the center of his being. The word in Hebrew is rechiem meaning womb or the place of life-giving, life-growing, life-nurturing love. Jesus shows compassion. He extends a Divine love that is beyond empathy. It is a love that joins the pain and remains with it, steadfastly. Jesus goes, sees and acts with compassion. He is present. And out of this compassion, the never-ending heat can be quenched. Thus, hope can grow from the constancy of God’s compassion.
I don’t know when rains will come. I don’t know when the killings by desperate people will end. I don’t know what places will be safe. I don’t know how the desolation will end.
But I do know that God’s compassion comes to this heat, this desolation. God sees it and steadfastly dwells among it longing to bring life, hope and love. God’s compassion, revealed in Jesus, is steadfast and faithful. This is God’s work.
And God needs us, our hands for compassion to be lived in the world. So we follow Jesus into the heat. So we dare go, and see and share compassion. And trust for hope to come and quench the fire. The heat doesn’t stop, but neither does God.