What words come to mind when you think of Jesus? I’d like to take a little poll. How many of you think of Jesus as Gracious? Loving? Patient? Compassionate? What about: Impatient? Irritated? Mad?
Those last three words aren’t ones that come to my mind when I think of Jesus – but clearly, Jesus is ticked off, irritated by and down right mad at the people who were too caught up in their own stuff to hear and believe the Good News. Another translation reads: “John came fasting and they called him crazy. I came feasting and they called me a lush.” You can just hear the frustration – Jesus all but says: People – how can I get through to you?! Whadda ya want?
Ticked off. Irritated. Frustrated. Mad. We’ve all been there. Maybe it’s the guy who cut you off in traffic. Or who left garbage in your street. Or who didn’t pick up after their dog. Or who posted fake news on facebook. Or who budged in line. Or who yelled obscenities at you. Whatever it was… you’ve been there. Ticked off. Irritated. Frustrated.
There’s a couple - I’ll call them Jill and Jay - who have lived next to us since we have moved in. They never had children but they loved ours – regardless of how much noise they made. They have a beautiful backyard filled with flowers – but never complained about the creeping Charlie in mine. They have always been lovely to us – but they complain to us about everyone else.
I used to try to listen to them … and simply try to be positive. But recently, they have had some health issues and their anger and irritation with everything in the world has increased dramatically. And so the other day, Jill was standing in the yard complaining to me, and I decided to see if I could raise her spirits – and maybe get her to say one positive thing. But I couldn’t do it. If I complimented her on the flowers, she complained about the weeds. If I said something positive about the weather – she complained about the forecast. I know she’s in pain – and probably frustrated with herself because she has fallen a few times – but she is stuck in a rut of negativity – and she wasn’t about to let me help her out of it that easily. So what can I do? How can I “be a good neighbor?”
It would be tempting to say, “Well… I tried” – and just give up. But that’s not what Jesus did when he was frustrated with his neighbors. Instead, he prayed. He took it to God.
Through prayer, Jesus recognizes that not everyone – especially those who were “wise” in the eyes of the world -- was going to understand his mission. And yet… this did not change his mission. And so… instead of condemning those who did not understand, Jesus shows compassion.
The word “compassion” means to have sympathy and kindness. But it has its roots in the Latin word “com” which means “with” and “passion” – which means “suffering.” Jesus shows compassion – that is love, sympathy, and kindness – because he also is “com” – that is “with” us in our “passion” – in our suffering. And it’s a gift. And Jesus gives it to you too.
Hear Jesus’ invitation: "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens. ” That includes all people. If you are not weary today or have a burden today – the day will come. But listen to Jesus’ promise: “I will give you rest.”
Rest. When you are weary… when life is hard. When anxiety, fear, and life’s challenges big and small threaten to overtake you, then Jesus says, “
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
This is the kind of compassion that Jesus has. Remember in the children’s sermon when we talked about what it means to share a yoke with Jesus? It’s not more work for you. Jesus has compassion - joins with us in our suffering and carries the load for us. Jesus walks with us. But Jesus is not just for us… notice that Jesus calls to ALL who are weary.
As many of you know, my mother Marilyn has cancer. She began at Mayo and always received wonderful treatment. When her doctor moved to Minneapolis, we were thrilled. But it also meant that he got a new staff. And there was one nurse, I’ll call her Alice, who was very “gruff” – she complained a lot – and she was pretty rough in her touch as well as her words. Having gotten used to excellent gracious care, Marilyn and her friend Carole, who often drives my other to her appointments, were a bit taken aback. But, instead of complain about Alice, they decided to pray for her – and, when they saw her, to shower her with compassion. And, since my mother goes in for treatment every other week, they had lots of opportunities. It took a while, but eventually Alice opened up a bit. Finally, Alice shared the pain that was in her life – the pain that had been coming out sideways as “gruffness” – and roughness. Under Carole and Marilyn’s and Jesus’ continued love, Alice changed.
You see it wasn’t just Carole and Marilyn that had compassion. They brought Jesus too. They couldn’t change Alice. But they could show her God’s love – and remember that Jesus was with them. I think that helped them bite their tongues more than once. And it turned out that the love, care persistence and prayers made a difference. It didn’t happen right away. But gradually, Alice started to change – and to become the person that God made her to be. This is what I’m going to try to remember the next time I hear my neighbor complain. I’m going to work on remembering that it’s not just about me listening to my neighbor. Jesus is there too. And so now I’m on a mission – to see how I can help my neighbor experience God’s love and presence. And with Jesus’ love… transformation is possible – for her and for me and you and your neighbors too. Thanks be to God! Amen.
Pastor Pamela Stalheim Lane,
Faith-Lilac Way Lutheran Church
July 9, 2017