Matthew 9:35 to 10:8
A few years ago I met with a group of teens after school. I had been in the school to do some educational sessions on relationships, peer group pressure, self-esteem and similar issues . These particular young people had asked to see me afterwards. They just seem to want to talk about their lives. None of them got along well at home. They were very much into the party scene often with people who were older than themselves. They had experimented with alcohol and some of the other drugs. They were sexually active. As they talked I sensed underneath it all, a kind of emptiness, a sense of desperation. . They were not finding what they had been seeking in all of these activities. Basically, they wanted the knowledge that someone truly cared about them.
I have met lot of people similar to those teens. I have met people who tried all kinds of things to fill a desperate need to be loved; people who got into relationships that they thought were loving relationships only to find that they were victims of people who were concerned more about control and power over them than love. But they felt the need for someone who cared so much that they could not leave even an abusive relationship. I have met others whose need for another and the fear of rejection was so acute they felt they had to control others to keep them from leaving. I have met people who loved things rather than people and who had thought that the gathering of material things around them would give them comfort they needed only to reach a point where none of those things could satisfy them any more and they were at the point of despair. All these people pass before my eyes and I understand the feeling of compassion that Jesus had when he looked over the crowd who were exhausted tired and he saw them sheep without a shepherd.
Don’t we all have the same desires? Don’t we all look for someone who really cares about us without a whole lot of strings attached? Isn’t one of the questions we have on our lips and in our hearts, “Who cares?” or “Am I loved?”
Just think of this story of Jesus in today’s Gospel. “. The words that are used to describe the crowds in the NRSV are “harassed and helpless”. “sick and tired and worn out” come to my mind. I wonder if it is mere speculation on my part that these people were so desperate to find the caring Jesus that they had journeyed a long time and with great difficulty to find him, so that when they finally did get to where he was they were “worn out” . The KJV has the words that “he had compassion on them because they fainted.” So maybe it is not so far out to think that they had worn themselves out seeking someone who cared. Jesus had such compass for the people that instead of having all these people seeking him and fainting along the way, he would
select his first 12 disciples and sent them off to the people and to heal them and to preach that they kingdom of God is near. I like one of the interpretations of that message as “showing the people that the union with God is near.
First of all I think that we have to know that God cares, that god loves us and that God accepts us as we are “the union with God is near” . That is why a sermon by Paul Tillich “You are accepted” became such a classic because in his sermon he showed how near that acceptance is. A few years ago I remember a noted theologian giving a lecture at VST and he was quite critical of Tillich and he was tired of hearing “you are accepted”. A whole lot of people applauded when he said that . Why was that? Could we say that being accepted by God was not importatn to them? I think not. I think it is important and the words that were spoken that day were not nearly as powerful as Tillich’s words. Listen:
Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness.
It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of meaninglessness and empty life.
It strikes when we feel that our separation is deeper than usual, because we have violated another life, a life which we have loved, or from which we were estranged.
It strikes when our own disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, our lack of direction and composure has become intolerable to us.
It strikes us when, year after year , the longed for perfection of life does not appear, when old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage
Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness , as though it was a voice saying , “You are accepted by that which is greater than you…do not ask the name now, perhaps you will find it later. Do not do anything now, perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted.”If that has happened to you have experienced grace…everything is transformed. In that moment grace conquers sin, reconciliation bridges the gulf of estrangement, and we are reunited to the one to whom we belong.
(You are Accepted from the Shaking of the Foundations, Charles Scribers’s and Sons, NY.)
God cares! Union with God is near. We can experience that union through God’s grace at any time, more often at times when we least expect.
Also, like the disciples who were sent out we are challenged to treat all of those whom we meet on a daily basis with compassion and understanding. Sil Gavin, who has an internet site called Deacon Sil talks of this compassion in his sermon for today, and refers to a story that he found in Chicken Soup for the Soul:
It is a story originally from Dee M. Taylor. He writes:
When I was a teenager, probably about 13, my mother taught me a very valuable lesson I’ve never forgotten. We were grocery shopping in a small store one day when I noticed a family come into the store. It looked like a mother, her daughter, and a granddaughter. They were clean but dressed in worn clothes, and it was obvious they were less fortunate. They pushed a cart through the store, carefully selecting items, mostly generic, and all necessary foods. My mother and I finished our shopping and headed toward the clerk to pay. As we got there, the family was in front of us, with one person in between. As I watched the family place groceries on the conveyor belt, I heard the mother ask the clerk every so often to subtotal, as she only had so much to spend. This took a while, and the person in front of me was getting noticeably impatient and even started mumbling things which I’m sure were overheard. When the store clerk did a final total, the woman did not have enough money, so she began pointing to different food items to put back. My mother reached in her purse, pulled out a twenty dollar bill and handed it to the woman. The woman looked very surprised and said, “I can’t take that!” My mother looked directly at the woman and quietly replied, “Yes, you most certainly can. Consider it a gift. There’s nothing in that cart you don’t really need, so please accept it.” The woman then reached out and took the money, squeezing my mom’s hand for just a moment, and with tears running down her cheeks, said, “Thank you very much. No one’s ever done nothin’ like this for me before.” I know I left the store with tears in my eyes, and it is something I will cherish forever. . (Giving from the Heart, copyright1996 by Dee M. Taylor. From A Cup of Chicken Soup for the Soul, copyright 1996 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen & Barry Spilchuk. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL.)
There are many out there, like the family in this story, who desperately who need to experience the compassion of Christ, and we may be the only ones to give it. They are people who are exhausted and “fainting” for someone who cares. They are people who ask “Am I really loved?”
Who cares? God does! We must!
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