Dearly Beloved, Grace and Peace to you. Though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." The disciples said to him, "Rabbi, the people there were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?" …. Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." … Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” … Jesus began to weep. … He cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." —from John 11.1-44
Compassion is the courage to enter into another's suffering for the sake of their blessing. It is not always problem solving. It is presence, out of which we may take action to bring about healing or justice. Jesus went to Bethany not merely to fix Lazarus, but to enter into the sisters' grief, the grief of all mortals that even Jesus cannot spare us from. Thomas, Faithful Thomas, recognized his courage, and chose to share it.
It is only from the place of weeping with those who weep that we can enact healing for those who suffer and justice for those who are oppressed. What stands between us and the eradication of poverty and injustice is not power, resources or adequate economic theories, but the insulation we place in fear between us: we are afraid of feeling their loneliness or their hunger, touching their hopelessness, sharing their pain.
Our Lenten fasting is a practice of courage, of entering into another's suffering, even a small bit of it, for the sake of compassion and justice, and learning to care about love more than comfort and security. Our fasting and prayer is no mere gesture. It is practice, by which we enter into the suffering of the world for the sake of its healing. In so doing we enter into the heart of God, whose very nature is self-giving love for the sake of her beloved Creation. The measure of our suffering is of no matter: in prayer and fasting we die to ourselves and become part of the Body of Christ, sharing the love of Jesus and the courage of the saints and martyrs. Forty-three years ago on this day, April 4, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. In prayer and in fasting, his courage and compassion becomes ours.
In love, weep with those who weep and stand with those who are oppressed, in the spirit of the One who weeps with us in love, the One who calls us out of our fear into new life, who raises us up, unbinds us and sets us free.
Deep Blessings, Pastor Steve
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