“Compassion & Prayer”
Matthew 9:35 – 10:8
Jane Shelton, CRE
First Presbyterian Church Valdosta
June 14, 2020
When I began writing this message, I thought what better time to receive this message than in the middle of a pandemic. And now in addition to a pandemic, we have unthinkable horrors in our country of murder, violence and destruction.
As I think back to Jesus’ walk in and around the regions of the Sea of Galilee, I imagine the peace and calm that he brought to the turmoil around him. The hope that must have been imagined as he showed compassion in the turmoil of the time.
Only a few times in our scripture do we see the anger of Jesus with events that were going on around him; however, as we live in the injustices of our world and communities, it is so easy to be angered and saddened at events going on around us today. Things seem out of control and beyond our control. Yet like Jesus, and his disciples after him, we have been commissioned to focus on those who are harassed and helpless.
In Jesus’ time and today, humanity is being launched on a new trajectory, and we have an opportunity through our compassion to teach the ways of a new kingdom. A kingdom of love and hope. A kingdom of prayer and compassion. As Jesus commanded the disciples, it is now left to us to lead people forward from ordeals of the past and present to a future full of brightness and hope.
Jesus wants us engaging with vigilant eyes and ears to the cry of suffering, bringing balm to wounded places in peoples’ lives. People of all race, age and demographics.
We see bad actors in our world, whether it is evil dictators, corrupt leaders, racist or misguided people making bad decisions. And while we feel helpless to stop these events from continuing to happen, we have the ability to help those around us who are harassed and helpless.
In verse 38 of our scripture reading from our NRSV Bible, scripture tells us to “ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” And I like the way the King James Bible states it, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest,that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”
Pray, then go.
While we may not be able to stop the evil around us as it is happening, we can pray for laborers to provide compassion for those in need around us. We can pray to God for intervention from barbaric behaviors and decisions of those made with selfish motives that lead to destruction.
This is no different than what Jesus was dealing with in his time, and this is indeed why God sent his Son, Jesus to save his people.
If you remember last year, Dr. Rev. Glenda requested we pray for the harvest to bring laborers into the church to continue the work of Jesus.
Is it too much to ask ourselves to continue our prayers for more laborers? Is it too much that we find time to make this a daily prayer, or at least a weekly prayer?
It seems easy enough to find a group willing to follow a mob. So are we as earnest to find a group of laborers to show compassion to those who are harassed and helpless?
The news brings us so much evil around us that if we are not careful, we can become overwhelmed and lose our focus to remain vigilant in our labor for the harvest of the Lord.
I recently picked up a book entitled, “Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book” by Diane Muldrow. These books were written during the dark days of World War II. And as I flip through the pages, I read sentences like, “so go on a picnic, and make music a part of your life,” “the simplest things are often the most fun!” and “Be open to making new friends….even if you’re very, very shy.”
In the introduction of the book, Diane Muldrow writes,
“Our country has faced some hard times of late, and we’ve been forced to look at ourselves and how we’re living our lives. Ironically, in this health-conscious, ecologically (echo logically) aware age of information, many of us have overborrowed, overspent, overeaten, and generally overdosed on habits or ways of life that aren’t good for us—or for our world. The chickens have come home to roost, and their names are Debt, Depression and Diabetes.
How did we get here? How, like Tootle the Train, did we get so off track? Perhaps it’s time to revisit these beloved stories and start all over again. Trying to figure out where you belong, like Scuffy the Tugboat? Maybe, as time marches on, you’re beginning to feel that you resemble the Saggy Baggy Elephant.
Or perhaps your problems are more sweeping. Like the Poky Little Puppy, do you seem to be getting into trouble rather often and missing out on the strawberry shortcake in life?”
I’m sure you remember the Little Golden Book series when you were growing up. For Christmas one year, my grandmother gave me “Prayers for Children” which I simply poured over day after day to learn prayers before meals, bedtime prayers, and more.
My personal favorite Little Golden Book was “The Little Red Hen.” In this story, The Little Red Hen finds a grain of wheat and proceeds to plant it asking for help from her friends, the Duck, the Goose, the Cat, and the Pig; yet they all respond “Not I,” to which the Little Red Hen responds, “then I will plant it myself.” On the continued journey of the harvesting of the wheat, taking it to the mill to be ground into flour, bringing the flour home, and baking the bread, the Little Red Hen continues to ask her friends each step of the way if they will help, to which they all continue to respond, “Not I,” and to which Little Red Hen responds, “Then I will do it myself.”
So when the bread comes out of the oven, and the Little Red Hen places the hot bread in the window to cool and the wonderful aroma sails out the window, she asks, “Who will help me eat the bread,” to which she receives a resounding, “I will help you eat the bread!” from her friends.
But the Little Red Hen Responds, “No, I will eat it all by myself. And she did.”
When Jesus asks us to pray and have compassion on the harassed and helpless, are we responding “not I,” or are we willing to help plant and harvest the grain so that it can be milled into something to which a beautiful aroma will be revealed that provides sustenance and continued growth of compassion and love from one person to the next? Would we find ourselves less angered and depressed about violence and injustices if we were actively focused on praying for the harvest and seeing the compassion and love spread from one person to the next.
We are called to pray; to ask the Lord of the harvest for laborers to go to the lost sheep, and have compassion for the harassed and helpless. Instead of “Not I,” may our response be, “yes, Lord, send me.”
*Cover Art “Christ Healing the Sick” Wiki Commons, public domain