Christ is Compassion!

Christ is Compassion!

Genesis 32: 22-31
Psalm 17:1-7, 15
Romans 9: 1-5
Matthew 14: 13-21

When Jesus went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. Matthew 14:14

Tena koutou katoa e te whanau o Te Wairua Tapu.

Well whanau, work at the church is coming along, all the rendering is completed, final touches in our new kitchen are taking place and the huge pile of rubbish is starting to get removed. But there is still more work to do. I’d like to acknowledge at this time all those that have lost loved ones since March. It hasn’t been easy for a lot of whanau grieving for someone and unable to attend tangihanga. May God grant your loved ones eternal peace and give you the strength and courage to meet the days, months and years ahead.

In saying that, I hope you have all had a good week. Not overly demanding and stressful and you were able to find time to chill out and rest. Take some me time space. You see, living life eventually teaches us that there are times when we should maintain personal boundaries and take care of ourselves; and there are other times when we should set our needs and our wants aside and offer kindness and care to those who are in need around us. This is part of the lesson from Matthews gospel reading this morning. Jesus had given so much of himself to those around him that he withdrew to a deserted place to be alone. To make that happen, he took a boat from one side of the Sea of Galilee to the other. Now, I’d have to say that was a good and wise choice. He must have been tired from all the mahi he had been doing, and he was taking care of himself. The crowds walked around the lake to find him. In other words, they literally took the long way around! And when they showed up, the scripture says that he had compassion for them. It seems to me that Jesus’ interaction with the crowds that followed him, provides us with an example of the lesson that there is a time for self-care, but there is also a time for putting our own concerns aside and simply offering ourselves as vessels of compassion for those in need, starting with the ones closest to you.

The story that follows is intriguing, because it’s the only miracle of Jesus found in all four gospels and there is also no mention of what actually happened to make the five loaves and two fish feed such a huge crowd! Some have suggested that the example of generosity inspired those in the crowd to share their food with others. But we don’t know that. Others have depicted it as an instantaneous miracle—Jesus lifts the basket of food to heaven to bless it, and when he brings it down the basket is overflowing with loaves and fishes. But we don’t know that either. We really don’t know and we may never be able to explain how Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish.

What we do know is that initially the disciples wanted to send the crowds away. I would imagine they too were tired and wanted to have some down time. After all, the whole reason why they got in the boat and went to a deserted place was to be alone. Or perhaps, in their characteristic “lack of faith,” they were afraid there wouldn’t be enough food. A pretty reasonable concern you would think! What we do know is that Jesus gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. But this brings us no closer to explaining this story. Maybe it was in the act of the disciples being willing to put their own concerns aside and to simply give the food they had to the crowds that the miracle occurred? We still don’t know that for sure, but it does seem important that the disciples who wanted to send everybody away turned around and served their food to the hungry crowds around them. And somehow the miracle happened in the giving. By setting aside their own concerns, their fears and their doubts, Jesus’ disciples became the vessels for God’s miraculous work. Perhaps one of the lessons is that true miracles happen in ways we can and never will explain.

We’ll probably never know for sure exactly what happened that day by the Sea of Galilee, but it might point us in the right direction. When we remain focused on maintaining our boundaries, when we stay in our fears that there will not be enough or perhaps we aren’t good enough, when we just want to send others away to fend for themselves, we ultimately withhold the loving kindness and compassion that we have been so generously given. On the other hand, when we let go of our fears and concerns about our own well being—at least when the situation calls for it—and open our hearts to the people we encounter with a giving spirit, we become vessels and more Christlike, filled with divine compassion that can have a truly miraculous effect.

Our compassion and our loving kindness may be small and faltering at times, but if we will just give what we have, like Jesus, perhaps in the giving it will be multiplied to meet the needs. When we give compassion freely, it ripples out far beyond our ability to explain or even imagine. When we open ourselves to be people of compassion, those streams of kindness and mercy that flow through us have an effect that only God knows. Amen.

Archdeacon Kaio Karipa

Generous God, your love is overflowing. Enable us to trust in the abundance of your love; help us to multiply the blessings you give, for you are the one that fulfils all our needs. Through Jesus Christ our Liberator, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

The Venerable Kaio Karipa
Sydney Maori Anglican Fellowship Church of Te Wairua Tapu