Passion & Compassion

Gen. 18:1-5, 21:1-7; Psalm 100; Matthew 9:35, 10:24; Romans 6:1-8 – June 14, 2020

When you think of Abraham you think of him as being the father of many nations, right?  Well in Genesis 15, God first makes a covenant with Abram that this will be so. In Genesis 16, Abram there is no child in sight so Abram’s wife Sarai gives her Egyptian maidservant named Hagar to Abram so they can “help God out” with God’s promise.  Hagar bears a son and names him Ishmael.  At this point Abram is 86 years old.  Thirteen years later, when Abram is 99 and Ishmael is 13, God speaks to Abram again. In Genesis 17, God changes Abram’s name to Abraham and his wife Sarai’s name to Sarah.  God reiterates the promise that Abraham and Sarah will be parents to a son and tells Abraham to seal that promise with the sign of circumcision.  So, at 99, Abraham and at 13, Ishmael and all of the males in Abraham’s household were circumcised.  This brings us to chapter 18: 1-5..READ   Now let’s skip over to chapter 21:1-7. for the rest of the story.


This morning’s gospel lesson focuses our attention on the first missionary journey of the twelve disciples of Jesus.  I know we heard Jesus’ Great Commission last week about Jesus sending his disciples out to share the good news of his resurrection, but this week’s gospel text focuses here he is sending them out to share the good news of God’s love. …for the house of Israel.

I find it interesting that in this first missionary journey Jesus specifically charges his disciples to only go to the house of Israel.  Even though Abraham became the father of many nations Jesus’ initial focus is to be specifically on just one of the nations who count Abraham their father, the nation of Israel. 

Israel, had a specific calling to be a LIGHT to the other nations-to lead the way, to set the example, to be witnesses to the other nations about the light they had received from their Lord and God.  Let’s read about Jesus charge to his disciples as he sends them forth on their first missionary journey.

***********   (Put up Passion Slide)

Carl A. Boyle was a sales representative who was driving home one hot afternoon when he saw a group of young children selling Kool-Aid on a corner in his neighborhood. They had posted the typical hand scrawled sign over their stand: “Kool-Aid, 10 cents.” Carl was intrigued. He pulled over to the curb. A young man approached and asked if he would like strawberry or grape Kool-Aid. Carl placed his order and handed the boy a quarter. After much deliberation, the children determined he had some change coming and rifled through the cigar box until they finally came up with the correct amount. The boy returned with the change, then stood by the side of the car. After a few moments the young boy asked if Carl was finished drinking. “Just about,” said Carl. “Why?” “That’s the only cup we have, “answered the boy, “and we need it to stay in business.”
It’s difficult to operate a Kool-Aid business if you only have one cup.

For many persons the word “evangelism” brings to mind one cup: it’s either the televangelist or the tent revivalist, or the street corner preacher handing out tracts or maybe even going door to door as Jesus’ disciples were charged to do until they came upon a “man of peace.”  In some churches, it means a once a year special event like a Revival.  For some churches it may be a particular strategy for incorporating newcomers into the life of the church.

But limiting our vision of evangelism to only one of these cups will cheat us out of one of the most rewarding endeavors Christ offers us: the joys of sharing God’s love with others.  When it comes to that mission, Jesus wants us to be more than a one trick pony or a one cup church.  

Why should we share God’s love? What is our motivation?  What is it that moves us to want to do that?  What would ever possess us to move out of our “comfort zone” to doing something like that?  Because we’re commanded to do so?   Because someone shared God’s love with us?  Because God’s going to get us if we don’t?  (Have congregation supply reasons)….

I believe our primary motivation for sharing God’s love is because we have a passion for our Lord.  

What first comes to mind when you hear the word passion?  About what are we passionate?   Family?   Our country?   Our sports teams?  Our cars?  Our money? Our Politics?

A seminary professor friend of mine, who taught evangelism courses once told me that evangelism is like sex—“if you have the passion you’ll find the method.” To be passionate is to be excited, to be delighted, to be consumed to be not able to sleep for thinking about your passion.  Let me tell you about my grandbaby!  Wait till you see my new car!   Let me show you some pictures here on my cell phone. Pumpkin Spice blizzards are back!  (I was at DQ yesterday and had to settle for a Reeses blizzard)

Mel Gibson, the actor who has made a career portraying men of passion leading other men into battle like Braveheart and Lethal Weapon 1-12 had a passion for the Lord that moved him to make a controversial film, a tremendously moving film called “The Passion of the Christ.”  The film depicted in graphic detail the last week of Jesus life on earth. 

Traditionally, the words used to describe the last week of our Lord’s life have been “Passion Week.”  We know that Christ endured great suffering on our behalf. So should we have a passion for our Lord.

I believe a second equally important motivation for sharing the love of God is because we have COMPASSION for the World.  (change to Compassion slide)

This compassion is the reason Jesus tells his disciples to go forth.  Verse 36 says, “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Can you think of a better description of the mass of people today than “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd?”Can you not see a flock of sheep milling around in a pen –frightened and confused, stumbling blindly, bumping helplessly into one another, because they don’t know which way to turn? How like so many of us.

Jesus had compassion on the crowds because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. They had no idea where they were headed or how they would get there.  Jesus understood the real tragedy of a life of empty values, a life with no direction, a life linked to false gods. He “had compassion for them,” THEN he said to his disciples, `The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

The men to whom he spoke had virtually no wealth, no social position, no prestige, no extraordinary talent; nevertheless they took our Lord at his word. 

Here’s a teaser for you.  (slide of 3 frogs)

 There are 3 frogs sitting on a log and two of them decide to jump off. How many frogs are sitting on the log?   There are 3.   Deciding to jump and jumping are two different things.

Why do you think that Jesus told them to travel light–to depend on the kindness of strangers?  So they couldn’t load up on impersonal tracts?  So it would be easier to go from place to place?  So if they came somewhere and they were not received they could easily move on…or maybe even run on to the next place?  I think it serves as a model for us in our everyday lives.  Our mission is to share God’s love with folks in our everyday lives.  You don’t have to go on a trip to be in mission. 

A Mission trip can be a trip to the grocery store.  You don’t have to pack a bag to go to the Grocery store–although you may come home with some.  Mission can take place through a chance meeting, a business meeting, or an over the fence greeting. 

Part of my mission is to greet folks every day with a smile and a wave as I take my daily 4 mile trike ride around my neighborhood.  On Thursday I was on my “mission trip” and I approached two mothers walking with their little girls. One of the little girls had a mission of her own. As I got closer one of the little girls yelled out, “What’s Your Name?”  I told them my name was Jim.  Then I asked them what their names were.  They were “Chloe” and “Nora.”  I ride with a teddy bear in the basket on the back of my trike. (Which I borrowed from the church nursery).  . (Show Slide of Trike and Bear)

I promise to bring it back when our nursery is open again.

So I asked the girls if they could guess the name of my teddy bear.  When they couldn’t guess I told them his name was “Yogi.”  Chloe squealed with delight. “That’s a FUNNY name!”  I asked them if they would like to give Yogi a “high five.”  They did.  Then I asked them if I could take their picture.  They said yes.

Here’s Chloe and Nora. (Show Slide of Chloe and Nora)

They beat me to my mission that day.  They reached out to me.  In their childlike faith they hadn’t yet learned to be cautious of strange old men in their second childhood on the second tricycle of their lives with a teddy bear in the back.  

We have a mission.  We are not a business enterprise. Our motive is not a more impressive bottom line. Our goal is not to enhance institutional pride. Our aim is not to be the biggest and the best.  We are a family whose mission is to share God’s love because we have a PASSION for the Lord and a COMPASSION for the world that moves us to jump off the log.

(Show slide of Passion/Compassion)

Jesus warned his disciples that it would not be easy.  They would go as sheep among wolves.  They needed to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves and still they would be arrested and whipped in church, in the synagogues, and put on trial in the courts. They would be hated for what they were being called to do. They would be called worse names than their master and yet….The disciples did more than decide to jump.  They jumped!

In our gospel lesson we heard their names read. Tradition tells us that Peter died in Rome, John in Ephesus, Andrew in Greece, and Thomas in India. Virtually all of the disciples gave their lives carrying Christ’s mission to the ends of the earth.

From the twelve, the group grew to120 by the time Jesus ascended into heaven.  Ten days later, on festival day of Pentecost, it increased to over 3,000. By the time the last of the disciples died, there were an estimated half-million followers of Jesus.  Before the first century had lapsed, there were Christians in the Middle East, Asia Minor, Macedonia, Greece, Italy, Spain, Egypt and Africa. They were equipped to share God’s love and they used their equipment. That was the end of the first century.

By the end of the second century, this number had increased to almost ten million. By the end of the third century, heathen temples were destroyed or converted into church sanctuaries. By the close of the ninth century, there were 100 million Christians. Today, the number has grown to over one billion believers around the world. None of this growth would have been possible had Christians not had a PASSION for the Lord and COMPASSION for the world.

There are people outside the walls of this church who are confused, angry, hurting, dying helpless and harassed like sheep without a shepherd.  And we have a shepherd, a good shepherd, Jesus. There are families that are disintegrating, young minds being destroyed by drugs, old folks feeling forgotten.

Jesus had compassion on the crowds.  To remedy their harassed and helpless condition he sent his disciples to heal them and announce the gospel and share God’s love with them.  And Jesus calls us to do the same.  Jesus is looking at us  and is filled with compassion on the crowds and is calling us to care enough to become involved in the lives of others.  Jesus calls us to be willing to take our time to show love to young people and old folks, to the substance abuser and the victims of broken families, to the down and out as well as the up and out. 

Jesus calls us to invite folks to come and see what the Lord has done in our lives.  Jesus calls us to reach out to waitresses and seniors and share with them the love of God and the peace of Christ and the fellowship and communion of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus calls us to follow the example of Chloe who joyfully shouts, “What’s YOUR Name?” and starts a conversation. I think that for Chloe, a stranger is a friend she hasn’t met yet. There are conversations waiting to be had.  What is your mission?  Jesus calls us to be laborers who are willing to do more than make a decision to jump, but to actually … jump—to be followers whose lives will be characterized by … Passion and Compassion. Let’s pray.  Dear Lord, give us the passion and compassion to be used by you to reach others in your name.  Give us the courage to step outside our comfort zone, as we know you did when you left your home in heaven to come walk among us, live like us, and die for us.  Thank you for this wonderful fellowship of followers to encourage us, to lift us up to stir us up to good works.  This we pray in Jesus’ name.

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