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The Call to Worship
God’s healing love is extended to us today!
All: God’s mercy is graciously given to us.
Let us rejoice in all that God is doing for us.
All: Let us open our hearts and spirits to God’s will.
Source of all health: So fill our hearts with faith in
your love, that with calm expectancy we make room for
your power to possess us, and gracefully accept your healing. Amen
The Wisdom of Confucius
“Those who multiply good deeds will have joys to overflowing…Words and actions are the hinge and spring of the excellent person…One’s words and actions move heaven and earth.”
The Wisdom of the Dalai Lama
“We cannot escape the necessity of love and compassion. This, then, is my true religion, my simple faith…the doctrine is compassion.”
The Gospel According to Mark (6.34, 56)
Jesus saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
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This week our readings focus directly on the essence of what it means to be human – love and compassion. When I think of these two words I often conflate them into one idea. Love is compassion and compassion is love… the same thing. But our readings this week have allowed me to tease these two philosophical concepts apart and really appreciate both their similarities and their differences.
Our reading from the Dalai Lama accentuates “…the necessity of love and compassion.” This is what got me thinking about why both of these words are used. In my mind they mean similar things, these words conjure up similar emotions. Love and compassion allow us to open ourselves emotionally to others. These two concepts draw us into relationship with other human beings and with the world around us. Love and compassion release us from the isolation of self-centered self-interest and launch us into participating in the realm of God on earth.
The Dalai Lama declares, “This … is my true religion, my simple faith…the doctrine is compassion.” A doctrine in the church is a belief that is taught by our faith tradition. In Christianity, much to some vocal Christian’s surprise, no doubt, the central doctrine is very simple. When Jesus is asked by a lawyer in Matthew 22 beginning at verse 36 “Teacher which is the great commandment in the law?” … What doctrine is the most important? Jesus answers, “You shall love the lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Jesus gives us a “new” commandment to accompany the first and greatest commandment, the command that every Jewish person has absorbed from before the giving of the law on Mount Sinai in the wilderness… “You shall have no other Gods before me.” Jesus adds another “law”… a concept that appears in every major religion on earth… “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Most scholars believe that the concept of law in human society appears in the Code of Hammurabi in the mid 17th century BCE. This code consisted of 282 laws that cite specific instances in human relationships and how they ought to be handled. The Ten Commandments appear on the scene in human history about four hundred years later and 282 specific laws become 10 broad principles intended to guide human relationship with both God and creation.
Appears in the mid 6th century BCE espousing a central tenet of respect for family based on a well-known principle, “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.” This is expression of the concept is known as the Silver Rule. It is phrased differently than what we know as the Golden Rule but expresses the same principle.
In our reading from Confucius today we are reminded that we are known by both our words and actions. We can feel love within us for another but if we fail to enact compassion we are not treating others as we wish to be treated. We can feel compassion for another’s situation but if we allow specific “laws” in our generation to trump love then we fail in our journey to holiness.
The task of every generation is to read and learn our history so that we need not repeat the mistakes of the past. We read and learn our history so that we can move forward on our journey to bringing the realm of God into focus in the world. That means that every generation must interpret the doctrines of our religion and the laws of our society for our own generation, for our own time in history.
Our gospel lesson today gives us a wonderful synopsis of what Jesus stood for and what his ministry was all about. The “fringes” referred to are the fringes of the talit he wore, the traditional garment that would cover his head in prayer. That prayer shawl to this day has fringes attached at the corners of the hem and since the middle ages has 613 knots tied in the fringes for each of the laws that were ultimately articulated. In our story the fringes of the traditional garment are transformed from an outward symbol to a vehicle for relationship that leads to healing and wholeness.
These readings together remind us that words and actions together are the means to communicate love and compassion. We can speak as eloquently as any scholar on earth but if our words are not accompanied by actions that show our willingness to risk relationship we fail in our call to bring the realm of God’s love into focus in the world.
The good news is that our actions quite literally transform not only the world but ourselves as well. We’ve all heard “actions speak louder than words.” I submit to you today that without our words our actions are not always easy to interpret. And without our actions our words often have no power. As Confucius says in our first reading today, “One’s words and actions move heaven and earth.”
People on the margins, the fringes of society, are the touch points for bringing the realm of God’s love into the world. We who are considered “other” by the world are the fringes of God’s diversity. We connect the traditions of Christianity to the love and compassion, the Good News articulated and lived out by Jesus. The images of people touching Jesus and Jesus touching them is our guide to putting our words and actions together living in right relation to our fellow human beings and the world!
May we be fringes easily accessible bringing love and compassion for healing of the world. May our words match our actions and our actions match our words as we live out the command to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” Amen