Saturday, November 26, 2016

politics of compassion

Where is Jesus? Where might you meet him in a new way this Advent season?

Jesus, Marcus Borg tells us, practiced a politics of compassion. (Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, 1994) That is, his actions proclaimed a reign of God based on feeling for, and feeling with, others. It was not isolated, private piety - spirituality without religion - it was a belief system centered in the compassion of God.

Be compassionate just as your Father in heaven is compassionate. (Luke 6:36)

Jesus, seeing a man with an affliction, was moved with compassion. In his own guts he felt the other’s need.

This is in contrast to the prevailing establishment and alternative politics of the day. Sadducees and Temple authorities, Pharisees and Essene communities, operated within a purity system. Your goal, in this life and for the next, was to be pure.

Purer than tax collectors, sinners and the like: women, Samaritans, Roman soldiers, … the ill … the blind …

Compare that attitude to:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” (Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:18)

“Where were you when we welcomed you?” (Matthew 25:40)

Jesus breaks the rules - of the purity regime.

He touches, and heals, lepers, the blind, a woman having an issue of blood (Luke 8:43), … even the dead. (Talitha koum.” Mark 5:41)

Jesus in his day practice a politics of compassion over against the purity system. He broke down the walls of us/them. (see Jonathan Sacks, Not in God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence, 2015) He found common ground on the hill - of Golgotha. He welcomed - the stranger (cf. Teresa of Calcutta), he stood up for the oppressed (cf. Janani Luwum), he embraced and succoured the ill (cf. Francis of Assisi), and he led his followers in a great feast, a thanksgiving meal for all comers (that we celebrate weekly as the Eucharist).

When Jesus healed someone, he healed them and he also performed a symbolic, subversive act, overturning the dominant paradigm. So in our day how can we act and move, practically and symbolically, to proclaim the true reign of peace that is already come into being and yet is not forcing its way upon people. How can we establish outposts of compassion in an indifferent world?

Where is Jesus?

Advent is a season of expectation, of joyous anticipation, and of preparation, for the coming of Jesus. Who are we expecting? The divine Son of Man? The human hero the Son of God? Where do we expect to meet him? How will we greet him? Will he come to us as conquering hero, freeing us from oppression and anxiety? Will he come to us as Savior, suffering servant and healer? We have our expectations of who the Christ will be and how we will see him.

Where is Jesus? Do we see him in creation? In the midst of our families and friends?  Do we find him in solitude? Do we see him at work in the world?

How do we imagine him coming to us? As an infant? A judge?

Andrew was by the lakeside, when John the Baptist pointed out a man walking nearby. Behold, the Lamb of God: and Andrew went and found his brother and said, “We have found the Christ.”

In the next four weeks as we prepare our hearts to make him room, let us explore together where we find Jesus - and where Jesus finds us.

The season of Advent, and this course, begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Spiritual Formation 9am Sundays in St Andrew’s parish hall. November 27 and December 4, 11, 18, 2016. Come join us for all or any of the sessions.

(Announcement for an adult spiritual formation course at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Tucson.)