THE “C” word for all of us is that word we dread hearing. There’s a diagnostic blood test or X-ray, followed by a
phone call from a doctor’s office saying there is a need for a CAT scan and then a PET scan.
There’s that anxious time of waiting for the call, that becomes a devastating moment when the report is that “C” word” – CANCER!
There are other much happier “C” words that come into our life, like the “C” word” Commencement” – the word we are rejoicing to live in our church family as some have already gotten their diploma or will get from a high school this week.
Parties have already started and will continue all through summer, promoted by that “C” word:
I cannot help but hear an echo of the gruff voice of a much-respected high school English teacher who as we approached our day to be graduated, informed us that “Commencement” is a COMMENCING, a beginning, a launching, a sending into life-long learning and life-long applying and practicing of what we have learned.
Her word analysis suddenly popped the cork on our graduation celebrations and the fizz of the parties soon fizzled out as we commenced to face up to real life that can turn harsh and disappointing as well as having some wonderful highs…which, surprisingly find a trusted, genuine, long-lasting source in an another word that begins with a “C.”
Because we are here in church, we might think the word is “Christian,” but we know some who call themselves by that name so abuse it, that they discredit it to the point of turning people, especially teens and young adults, away, not just from a church but from any religious practice. Those now given the name "nones."
And so, sad to say, we must search for another “C” word that will redeem the abused word “Christian.”
There’s a game like “Where’s Waldo” that has our eyes searching through intricate artwork to spot the man with the red and white hat, but this is a search for the “C” word waiting to be spotted in today’s Gospel story.
Listen again to these words:
When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. (Of course they stood still for no Jew was to touch the dead!)
And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.
Did you hear it? That “C” word?
When the Lord saw her, he had…(Pause and invite the response): “COMPASSION”
The “C” word I pray at this time of year with all its commencements, each person receiving a diploma, will “commence” to practice; and ALL of US who have been baptized into the faith and family of Jesus Christ, who have all received the Baptismal-Confirmation diploma, that marks us as “Christians,” will redeem from whatever ways it has been corrupted (another “C” word)…
with the Apostle Paul’s experience being an example which he has passed on to be read to this day:
Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea
that are in Christ; they only heard it said, “The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me.
“They glorified God because of” the sight of one who had hunted down Jesus’ followers to bring them to trial and maybe death, was now filled with the COMPASSION of Christ.
THE “C” word of all “C” words, that in the Greek in which the Gospel story was written was used to refer to the bowels, heart, lungs, liver or kidneys, which in Jesus’ day were thought to be the center of human emotions (from "Are You Alive?" Rev. Luke A. Powery, Duke Divinity Chapel, 2013.) …with Jesus being the perfect model, which He passes on to all who receive Him as Lord and Savior.
“Compassion” which comes from deep, down inside us, from the depth of out gut, and forces us to act. To do the gutsy thing whenever we see someone who is being treated unjustly, someone who is grieving, or lonely or hungry, someone who simply needs us to walk by their side and listen, or someone whose addiction means the compassionate thing to do is pray and wait, the agonizing wait until (in the words of the arable of the Prodigal son, "he comes to his senses") the hardest compassionate thing to do!
It’s the only way to relieve the distress we feel inside us.
It’s the only way to redeem the word “Christian” back to being “like Christ” – with the “C” word – “COMPASSION.”
Tony Campolo tells a story from World War II when Nazis Storm troopers lined up Jews in Poland by the ditch they had dug, then shot them to death. Their bodies fell into the muddy grave and the Nazis covered them with dirt. One 10-year old boy wasn’t shot and managed to work his way out. Naked and splattered with the blood of his parents, he made his way to the nearest house and begged for help. The woman recognizing him as one of the Jews marked for death, screamed at him to go away and slammed the door. The same happened door after door; the people feared the SS would target them if they were caught helping him.
Then something inside him caused him to say what was strange for a Jew.
When he knocked at the next door he asked, “Don’t you recognize me? I am the Jesus you say you love.”
The door opened, the women swept him into her arms and kissed him, and from that day on cared for him as though he was their own. (Quoted from :”Compassionate Christians?” by Joseph Stapleton)
The Compassionate Christ, when welcomed into the human heart, prompts individuals to do gutsy acts of compassion.
THE “C” word that makes all the other words, even Cancer, a joy to practice during all our ties of wellness.
And so, each of us, some with diplomas in hand or soon to get one, come to Communion (another “C” word) that brings us to the table set with bread and cup served to us by the Compassionate Christ, and what we receive we become, His compassionate people.