Compassion & Mercy
Written by Pastor Bob Speirs
One of the favorite words that I learned while taking Greek in Seminary is the word, “splagchnizomai,” which is translated as compassion, to feel sympathy for, to pity. What’s interesting about this word, is that the first part of the word, which is “splagchna,” has to do with one’s internal organ, the stomach, so that the word, when fully formed, was understood in the ancient world as feeling something so deeply it hit you in the pit of your stomach. I think that for many of us who have ever experienced or witnessed a tragedy, such
as a serious loss, injury, or illness, to a loved one, neighbor, or even someone we might not know, we all know what that sensation in the pit of our stomachs feels like.
In both the Old Testament and New Testaments the word compassion, or a closely associated word, is used over 40 times. As we know, one of the main human traits and values that Jesus demonstrated in his ministry was compassion. Whether he was feeding the large crowds, healing the sick, the blind and lame, caring for the poor, or raising the dead, Jesus not only felt compassion for all those he ministered to but acted on his deeply rooted understanding and feel for what the people needed. So, more than just having pity or sympathy for someone in distress, this emotion we know as compassion, not only affects us physically so that we actually feel it, but it compels us to respond to the needs of those who suffer.
One of my favorite authors over the years has been the late Henri Nouwen. In his book titled, “Compassion,” he states that the word compassion is made up of the Latin words pati and cum, which together mean, “to suffer with.” As Nouwen further states, “compassion challenges us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion asks us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears.” To be sure, compassion is to be fully immersed in the condition of being human. To be compassionate is also to be fully immersed in the body, ministry, and work of Christ Jesus in this world. To have compassion for the poor, the lonely, the homeless, the sick, and the outcasts of this world and to act upon and use our resources, our talents, time, and yes, our money, for the well-being of our neighbors, is what Christ Jesus calls us to as a people and community of faith.
It has been a pleasure and blessing for me thus far as your Associate Pastor to have served Luther Memorial Church, primarily as your visitation pastor, helping to care for and bring Communion to all who are unable to attend worship for one reason or another. I’m also pleased to announce that we have 5 of our members who have stepped forward to take on the responsibilities as caregivers to several of our folks I already visit. This does not relieve me of any of my efforts towards this ministry but will enhance and keep close to those who cannot be with us on a regular basis. I want to say thank you also to Barbara Boosinger, who has agreed to lead the training sessions for our caring ministry folks. Once again, Barbara is a trained Stephen Minister and leader and we will learn much from her experience and know-how.
Our LMC staff is also working at creating as part of our caring ministry, a place where we can be more visible and available to our local community, to be a place where people who have basic needs, such as food, financial assistance, transportation, (e.g. gas cards, bus tokens) referral, and prayer, can come and are welcomed and cared for, as Jesus himself would do. So I hope and know that you will join us in whatever way you can, in all these efforts, as we seek to be faithful to God’s call to love and serve our neighbors, in word, indeed, and in prayer. As always, if you have any questions and would like to talk about how you can be involved, I can always be reached at church, by phone, or e-mail…[email protected].