Miracles of Compassion
5 June 2016
There is the familiar story of a man and his wife who spent a few days of relaxation at an ocean-front hotel. One night a violent storm lashed the beach and sent massive waves thundering against the shore. Early the next day, the man took a walk and noticed that the beach was covered with star fish that had been washed ashore. He also realized that once the morning sun burned through the clouds, the star fish would begin to dry out and die.
As he walked he saw a young boy who also noticed the plight of the star fish and began to pick them up, one by one, throwing them back into the ocean. The man then approached him and said “Why are you doing that? Can’t you see that you, one person, could never make a difference and will never be able to get all those star fish back into the water? There are just too many.” The boy answered, “Yes it is true” as he picked up another star fish and threw it back into the water and said, “But it sure made a difference to that one.”
What this young boy had done was show pity for all the helpless starfishes, but he went a step further. With compassion he did something about it and threw as many starfish as he could back into the ocean. It was the same type of compassion that Jesus showed when he interrupted a funeral procession and came upon a grieving widow and her dead son. My text is Luke 7:11-17.
11 Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. 12 As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. 13 When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” 17 This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.
This is the Word of God. Thanks be to God.
In today’s gospel, we are introduced to a very sad situation. A widow was on her way to the cemetery to bury her only son. Luke does not give us his name or how old he was. All we know is that he was the only son of a widowed mother.
Losing a child is perhaps one of life’s more difficult trials and if most parents had a choice, I believe they would give up their lives for their children’s.
I suppose we could speculate on the cause of the death for this one young man, but it doesn’t really matter. All we know is that a woman who had lost her parents, her husband and her only child, was now alone without any financial support, and it was very, very sad.
For Jesus, this was the time to show not just pity, but compassion. Sometimes I get the impression that people think of God as someone who hides out in heaven, while the rest of us try to sort out our lives on earth. But here is a beautiful picture of Jesus going out of his way to comfort a woman in her time of need. It wasn’t a chance meeting; it happened according to God’s plan. Not only did Jesus perform a miracle, he left with us an example of compassion.
This type of compassion was discovered by a woman named Pat Miller, a hospital staff employee. She wrote that “I learned to stop crying at the pain around me. Each day it seemed I was becoming more insensitive to people and their real needs. Five years of emergency room exposure had taken its toll, and then God intervened”.
Pat said she was taking information about a young woman who had overdosed on drugs and had attempted suicide. The girl’s mother sat before Pat as she typed the information into the computer. The woman was unkempt and bleary eyed. Pat was aggravated because the woman spoke very slowly and in a whisper.
Pat thought to herself, “Lady would you please hurry up.” As she left to make a copy of the report, God spoke to her heart and his message to Pat was “You didn’t even look at her.” It was then, that Pat felt his grief for this woman and her daughter and bowed her head in shame.
Pat then sat down in front of the distraught woman and held her hands. She looked into her eyes with all the love that God could flood through her and said, “I care. Don’t give up.” The woman wept and wept. She then poured out her heart. Finally she looked up and thanked her and Pat was a changed woman.
In our gospel story, in that little walled city of Nain, the blast of the ram’s horn and the wailing told all that the Angel of Death had come. In the next few hours, this young man’s body was washed, anointed with embalming spices and wrapped in a white linen. Once this was done, he was placed on a stretcher. The funeral procession which had begun late in the afternoon was to take him to his final resting place outside the city. The mother took her place in front of the funeral bier. She was followed by paid musicians, professional mourners, neighbors and friends.
Sad to say, this poor widow had a hard cross to bear. She had long since buried her parents, then her husband. Now here again, she was on her way to the graveyard, to lay at rest all that she had left in the world. For her, hope had lost its meaning. But the good news is our Lord showed up, for he knew this woman was alone and hurt.
Sometimes, I wonder why God doesn’t bring people back to life as he did in those days. We don’t have the answer to that, but we do know that he is there for the grieving. My uncle lost an 18 year old son who was changing a flat tire on the highway. He was killed by a drunk driver. The family was devastated by this accident. Some family members turned to God for compassion and healing, others did not. I can say that any trial in life will either turn us to God or turn us away. There is no in between.
Sometimes showing compassion is hard for us, because it requires us to get out of our comfort zone and go to where the broken or lonely are, just as Jesus did.
I remember when I was 9 years old, I had a 1 ½” pet turtle that my parents bought at an old Woolworth’s store. It was my first pet, and I named him Molasses because he moved so slowly. I had Molasses for about a year when his shell had begun to get soft and white. And deep down, I knew Molasses would not get better. My father suggested that we bring the turtle down to a nearby stream and let him go. My grandfather also came along. When I released Molasses in the water, I cried and cried and cried. Up to then, it was the saddest day of my life. But my dad and grandfather showed me compassion and brought me back to Woolworth’s for another turtle. After that my memory is kind of fuzzy.
Compassion goes where it is needed and touches the lives of the hurting.
- Dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline, even tempered. Colossians 3:12 (MSG)
- Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion Philippians 2:1
- Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3
- Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 1 Peter 3:8
- Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation.
- That’s the difference between pity and compassion. Pity just feels sorry, compassion does something about it.
- Kindness is the most valuable gift you will ever give someone.
- The purpose of human life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help others. A. Schweitzer.
- To be rich, is not what you have in your bank account, but what you have in your heart.
Let me close. When we show Christ’s love to all, with all the compassion we can muster, often times we will be touched. May we be instruments of God’s love as we show compassion to a hurting world. People will remember it, and it is that element that will turn others to Christ.