PROPER #6…Series A
Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (June 17&18- 2017)
Title: The Son of Compassion!!
Text: Matthew 9:35-10:8
Until his death in 2013, Brennon Manning (a “laicized” Catholic priest) was the most powerful preacher of the Gospel of Grace that I have ever been privileged to hear. In a lecture entitled “The Compassion of the Christ” Manning tells an amazing story about an Episcopal priest named Kevin Martin, who was serving as Rector at St. Matthews Episcopal Church in Westerville, Ohio. One Monday morning, Fr. Martin walked into the church office and handed a letter of resignation to the Parish administrator. He left the church and drove to his home, sat down at the kitchen table and wrote a letter to his wife and two children (under the age of ten at the time) and tried to explain why he needed to leave them. He then drove to northern Vermont where he got a job in a logging camp. One Saturday afternoon in January Fr. Martin was sitting in the tiny aluminum travel trailer he was living in. It was 10 degrees below zero and snowing. Suddenly, without warning, the electric space heater stopped working. It was gis only source of heat and in a matter of minutes the temperature inside the trailer dropped to below freezing. Shivering and in a fit of rage, Fr. Martin picked up the heater, thru it through the window in the trailer and shouted, “Christ, I hate you…damn you God, get out of my life…I am thru with this Christian crap…it’s over”. He dropped to his knees…totally defeated and began weeping like a child. Then, in the bright darkness of faith, Fr. Martin heard the voice of Jesus say to him, “It’s ok Kevin…I know what you are going through…I feel your pain and anger and frustration, and I am with you and I am for you”. Then, Fr. Martin said, he literally felt Jesus weeping within him and he knew that Jesus knew what he was feeling! It was on absolutely overwhelming experience of intimacy. That same afternoon, Fr. Martin packed his bags and returned to Ohio where he was reconciled with his wife and children and with his church. Fr. Kevin Martin went on to be a faithful priest and Pastor, serving St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Seattle, WA. And, for ten years until his retirement, as Dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Matthew in Dallas, Texas.
In our Gospel reading for this 2nd Sunday after the great feast of Pentecost, we hear a portion of the introduction to Jesus’ great Sermon on Mission…one of two great sermons recorded in Matthew (the other being the Sermon on the Mount). And in the introduction to this Sermon on Mission, Matthew tells us that Jesus, as he went about teaching and proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom and curing every disease and sickness, saw the crowds of people following him and his heart went out to them…he was touched deeply…he was “MOVED WITH COMPASSION” because the people were harassed and helpless…they were beaten up and cast down…they were confused and frightened…exactly like sheep…sheep without a shepherd!
My friends, I think it is tremendously significant to realize that Jesus’ Mission of Mercy was motivated by COMPASSION. This is the heart and soul and center of the Christian Gospel of Grace! When Jesus looked at the crowds standing in front of him he was NOT disgusted because of their sin and disobedience…he was NOT offended by their moral and ethical failure…he was NOT scandalized by their meager religious commitment…NO…Matthew tells us that Jesus was “MOVED WITH COMPASSION”. That means that Jesus literally felt, in His bones, exactly what they were feeling at that moment…HE WAS MOVED WITH COMPASSION…this means that Jesus…understands all the pain/suffering…all the grief and sorrow that hangs like a dark cloud over human history…HE WAS MOVED WITH COMPASSION…this means that Jesus feels and experiences every separation and loss…every wound of the Spirit that refuses to heal…every heart broken…Jesus was (and is) MOVED WITH COMPASSION!
Friends, here is the great Good News that we can celebrate tonight/this morning: the Bible teaches that one day we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and we will be asked to give an account of our “stewardship of life”…what we have done with what we have been given. And on that day, as we stand there in His presence, he will look at us and he will see us as we really are (harassed and helpless…bruised and broken…tilting towards despair) and He will not be disgusted…He will not be offended…He will not be scandalized by what we have said (or not said)…by what we have done (or not done)…Friends, the Good News is that on that day Jesus will look at us with the same eyes that he looked at the crowds gathered before Him on the Galilean hillside more than 2000 years ago…He will look at us with the same heart…the same eyes…that he looked at Fr. Kevin Martin on his knees in that travel trailer on that January afternoon in northern Vermont…on that day, Jesus, the Son of Compassion…the incarnation of God’s relentless love, will look at YOU and He will be MOVED WITH COMPASSION…Thanks be to God!