Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Compassion & Chesed

I got this image off of a UMC website because it reminds us that when we work with, do ministry or help out the poor, those in need, both near and far, we are doing ministry with, not ministry for!
It is an important distinction because if we are doing something FOR another person, we can, and often do it without connecting WITH them as persons. From Holy Scripture, we are called to be compassionate, because God is compassionate.


When Jesus meets the widow at Nain (Gospel of Luke 7), Jesus is moved with compassion - he opens his heart to feel her sorrow and connect with it.  The word compassion literally means "to suffer with."  Compassion not only changes the person we feel for but changes us as well.  We are called by Jesus to recognize and reach out to those whom the world consciously and unconsciously dismiss as unimportant and marginal, the others, and welcome them into our midst as God's own. 
As Meister Eckhart famously preached that "whatever God does, the first outburst is always compassion." In the Hebrew Scriptures, such compassion is linked to a Hebrew word, translated as chesed. 

Chesed rsj

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word chesed (or hesed) means loving-kindness or love.  “A statement by Rabbi Simlai in the Talmud claims that ‘The Torah begins with chesed and ends with chesed.’ This may be understood to mean that ‘the entire Torah is characterized by chesed,’ i.e. it sets forth a vision of the ideal life whose goals are behavior characterized by mercy and compassion.”

It is God who from the beginning gave us love, gave us chesed, who asks of us in our actions to give such chesed, to live such compassion & loving kindness with others, especially with those in need.

As we approach Thanksgiving, let us give thanks to God for all that God has given to us, and play our part in this world.  Offering compassion, offering chesed, to a hurting world.

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