Compassion as Mercy, Justice, and Discipleship

BulletinCover1-20-13In my parents’ class The Gathering, which meets on Sunday mornings at 9:30 a.m., we have been talking about Compassion and how to teach compassion to children (and remind ourselves as well).

This past week’s scripture passage evoked a lot more conversation than I expected. The Message is a paraphrase of the Bible, so it is not word-for-word translation. The paraphrase evokes new ideas out of the text that may or may not be authentic to the text, but it is helpful to read anyway.

Here’s the Message translation of Isaiah 58:9-12 (click here for the standard NRSV)

If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go.

I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places-firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past.

You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.

We discussed whether this was describing mercy or justice. Does it describe an individual making things better for people’s immediate needs, or does it describe a society’s systemic transformation into something more? Our class could see both in the above, pointing to the needs in both our own lives and in society that are unmet and need change.

Regardless of the direction of the text, as the Minister of Discipleship, I want to reaffirm that it comes down to discipleship. Whether you work for mercy or strive towards justice, both start with an awareness of your ability to transform the world around you and a willingness to purge the negative tendencies from our own operations. My hope is that you take advantage of the worship and study opportunities at First Church and contact me if you have an inkling or a desire to learn more.

Blessings and see you Sunday. ~Jeremy

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