After a short hiatus, Weekly Lectionary is back. WL takes a look (sometimes brief, sometimes longer, sometimes odd) at one of the lectionary passages for the upcoming Sunday. This week we'll look at the gospel passage: Mark 6:30-34, 53-56.
There is a general narrative within sectors of the American church that centers around the fact that people are leaving in droves. The reality is far more complicated than that. The church is a multi-faceted body that lies scattered across a spectrum. Some are growing, some are shrinking, some are holding steady. Regardless, this image of people fleeing the church came to me as I rad this week's gospel passage in which people are flocking to Jesus.
Flocking. Not running away in droves. But swarming to him wherever his boat lands like some first century Palestinian version of Beatlemania (and the Lord spaketh saying, "God loves you! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!").
Granted some of this had to do with the miracles and healings. If the church today was a place where legitimate physical healings took place then people would probably be packing out the place ("I wanna heal your hand, I wanna heal your hand" - sorry, I'll stop...unless I come up with another one). There is also the notion that this was Jesus, who we believe to be God in human form. So that likely counts for quite a bit.
What is interesting to me and what is critical is how Jesus reacted when the massive crowds came running. At the outset of the passage, we learn that Jesus and his followers were about to go rest. Yet that respite was interrupted. Now Jesus and his followers could have fled A Hard Day's Night-style as the throngs chased them. That would be normal and, many times, it would have been appropriate. It is important to rest. Otherwise we break down.
Yet Jesus looks on the crowd and verse 34 tells us that he had compassion on them. That's where I want to pause. Compassion. How often does the Christian, how often do you or I look out at the world and have compassion? Not pity. Not a desire to fix things. But compassion. And to the world, not just the starving children and vulnerable but those we somehow deem "less worthy," the people we don't necessarily like.
Unfortunately, I don't think that happens too often. It doesn't necessarily for me. Working at the waterpark this summer and a decade with the virtual Fight Club that is the internet has short-circuited my compassion a bit. I'm willing to dole it out to people that I think would deserve it. But to look out at the masses and have compassion? That's pretty freaking difficult.
It has been said a thousand times before, but I think that compassion for all who came was one of the reasons that people came to Jesus. He didn't just have it for those he felt deserved it. He had it for people from all walks of life, people who were considered unimportant in the context of his social system, and even people who were his enemies.
That kind of compassion born out of love intrigues people. It is the kind of compassion for which those who follow Jesus should be known. After all, we're supposed to look like him.
Okay, one more: "God, God love you. You know God loves you. He'll always be true. So please, love God too."