Someone Who Understands
September 30, 2018 | Lisa Degrenia
Passage: Mark 6:30-34
This service took place in our fellowship hall due to an air conditioning problem in the sanctuary. For a recording of the entire service, including the sermon, go to our Facebook page.
Someone Who Understands
A farmer had some puppies he needed to sell. He painted a sign advertising the 4 pups and set about nailing it to a post on the edge of his yard. As he was driving the last nail into the post, he felt a tug on his overalls. He looked down into the eyes of a little boy.
"Mister," he said, "I want to buy one of your puppies." "Well," said the farmer, as he rubbed the sweat off the back of his neck, "These puppies come from fine parents and cost a good deal of money." The boy dropped his head for a moment. Then reaching deep into his pocket, he pulled out a handful of change and held it up to the farmer. "I've got thirty-nine cents. Is that enough to take a look?" "Sure," said the farmer. And with that, he let out a whistle. "Here, Dolly!" he called.
Out from the doghouse and down the ramp ran Dolly followed by four little balls of fur. The little boy pressed his face against the chain link fence. His eyes danced with delight. As the dogs made their way to the fence, the little boy noticed something else stirring inside the doghouse. Slowly another little ball appeared, this one noticeably smaller. Down the ramp, it slid. Then in a somewhat awkward manner, the little pup began hobbling toward the others, doing its best to catch up...
"I want that one," the little boy said, pointing to the runt. The farmer knelt down at the boy's side and said, “Son, you don't want that puppy. He will never be able to run and play with you as these other dogs would."
With that, the little boy stepped back from the fence, reached down, and began rolling up one leg of his trousers. In doing so he revealed a steel brace running down both sides of his leg attaching itself to a specially made shoe. Looking back up at the farmer, he said, "You see sir, I don't run too well myself, and he will need someone who understands." With tears in his eyes, the farmer reached down and picked up the little pup for the child.
We long for someone who understands. How many of us here
- Have lost a job/been out of work
- Have started over in a new town
- Experienced the death of a parent
- are cancer survivors or are going through treatment
- have experienced a miscarriage
- have been so excited about something you wanted to shout
It's easier for us to understand when we've been through a similar experience. The beautiful thing is, even if we haven’t been in someone's situation, we can try to understand. We can look below the surface of words and actions to what’s really driving those words and actions. We can empathize. Empathy - the ability to understand and share the feelings of another
Moving from a heart of war to a heart of peace first requires humility- admitting our brokenness, our wounds, the shards of sin in our heart. In humility, we admit our need for God’s help, healing, and forgiveness.
The next step is empathy. God's healing and forgiveness give us eyes to see and hearts to understand.
- Eyes to see ourselves and others as bearers of common wounds that need healing, rather than as adversaries to be defeated or competitors to be outdone
- Eyes to see the hurt beneath others’ anger, rather than as aggressors meriting our retaliation
- The ability to approach those with whom we disagree as mutual explorers of the mystery of GOD
- The ability to consider every person as a beloved child of God with infinite worth and dignity, rather than as an object of our desire or correction or charity or a means to our ends
- Eyes to see “the other” through the eyes of Christ, rather than through the lenses of partisan politics, racial prejudices, socioeconomic class, gender, and national borders (Excerpted and adapted from How We See Others Matters by Bishop Kenneth L. Carder, retired.)
Mark 6:30-34 (NRSV)
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had ... how would you respond?
How Jesus responds - As he went ashore, he 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.
Jesus could have been upset. These people were obstacles to their much-deserved rest. Instead, he looked below the surface to see their deep need. The why behind their actions. Jesus had compassion, empathy. He saw them and engaged them from a heart of peace.
After all, isn't Jesus the ultimate expression of God’s empathy? God, the Creator of the Universe, Almighty, high and exalted. How can we related to this? So God comes in Jesus- the One who shows us God understands our pain, temptation, and needs. The One who shows us God understands loneliness, poverty, hunger, friends, betrayal, injustice, even death itself. This is why we place our trust in Jesus.
As followers of Jesus, as Christians, literally "little Christ's" we can empathize because God empathizes.
John 8:2-11 (NRSV)
2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5 Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now, what do you say?” 6 They said this to test him so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”
The leaders approach Jesus and the woman with a heart of war. They want to trap Jesus and she is a means to an end. Some think Jesus knelt to the ground to write the sins of the crowd so they too would see themselves as sinners and empathize with the woman. What if Jesus was writing things they had in common as a means of helping the crowd empathize?
However they arrived at empathy, look at the results. No condemnation. Peace. The chance of a new life.
My friend Pru reminded me last week that being made in the image of God is what gives us our value, but it's also what gives us our power. The power to empathize. The power to choose the ways of Jesus- Life, Hope, Peace
Romans 12:14-16a (NRSV)
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.16 Live in harmony with one another; …
As followers of Jesus Christ, we’re called to foster peace in the midst of evil, controversy, and conflict.
- We are honest about our feelings and our failings
- We break the cycle of conflict, often with an act of generosity or kindness
- the war stops with me
- We have the power to choose how we respond and we call on the Holy Spirit to help us choose well
- We look below the surface behaviors to imagine what might really be going on
- What is driving and informing these words or actions?
- We empathize
- “Those people who are hardest to love, need love the most”
- We see people as people
- not obstacles, objects, not a means to an end, or projects
- I see you, I value you because you are made in the image of God
- We believe changing our words and actions can change the world
- By the grace of God, we can have a heart of peace and live out of a heart of peace
Psalm 34:14, Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we’re called to foster peace in the midst of evil, controversy, and conflict. How? Join us as we learn together.