Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Cincinnati Zoo and Jesus!

On my day off I was at the Nissan dealer getting some work done on our car that had a recall.
In the waiting room a couple where on their phone and commenting on things they saw.
They started talking about the incident that happened at the Zoo in Cincinnati.
They were talking about the mother of the child who fell into the gorilla cage.
“She is a horrible mother.”
“I would never let me kids out of my sight.”
They were morally outraged by what had happened.
I heard other people this week on Facebook, and in general conversation say something similar.
So it goes in our day.
Something happens and our reaction right off the bat is to be outraged.
To find fault and to criticize what someone else did.
To say, “I would never to do that!”

What struck me about this particular incident at the zoo is that few people had any sympathy, or compassion for the mother.
What was she feeling?
How was this for her?
I don’t know all the details of this case, but I am sure of one thing.
She didn’t go to the zoo that day thinking, “I hope one of my four kids falls into the one of the exhibits.”

Some of you may remember that about 3 years ago my son Charlie fell out of a second story window.
We were at a wedding rehearsal and we were waiting for dinner.
Charlie and I were playing a game.
He was backing up to get a running start and leaned against a window that had a screen in it and fell through.
I fell to the ground.
Thankfully nothing serious happened to him, besides scaring himself, me and everyone else to death.
But you know nobody, that I know of, was blaming me for being a bad father because Charlie falling out of the window.
I think everyone realized it was an accident.
I know that I felt horrible.
I have replayed that moment many times, wishing that I had told him to stop backing up.
Wishing I had done something different.
But that is the thing about accidents they happen in a blink of an eye.
I thought of that this week as people attacked this mother of four.
I thought of what she must be going through.
And I wondered why our first reactions when these things happen are not more towards compassion than judgment.

We know from our Gospel this morning that Jesus when seeing a mother in pain, from losing her son, was moved to compassion.
Jesus didn’t know everything about this woman.
Maybe she was a bad mother?
Maybe the death of her son was her fault?
Maybe she didn’t deserve having a second chance with her son?
All we know is that she was a widow.
She was someone who would have been in bad shape without a husband or a son.
In Jesus day women were completely reliant on the men for their needs.
Jesus sees her and has compassion.
It is his first instinct.
And it is not the only time in the Gospels that Jesus is moved to compassion for someone.
It happens all the time.
Even when the person is guilty of a sin Jesus is moved to compassion.
Even when they deserve to ridiculed and scorned.
Even when the appropriate action is to have righteous indignation Jesus is moved to compassion.
Jesus is often moved to compassion for people.
It is really unfortunate that we don’t always have that same first reaction.

This was the sermon I was going to give most of the week.
I was going to encourage us all to be more compassionate.
But then God intervened yesterday to give me a second thought.
Because I was in the mall of New Hampshire, in Manchester, yesterday with my kids, I was sitting on a chair in the middle of the mall taking a break and having a cup of coffee while one of my kids went into a store.
This woman came and sat a chair on the other side of me.
And I am not making this up.
She had a tattoo of a naked woman on her calf.
I thought, “What the hell was that woman thinking!”
Why would anyone, but especially a woman get a tattoo of a naked person on their body.
And why would they get it in a place that in the summer is often exposed.
I was outraged and disgusted.
And then I thought about the irony.
I was going to give a sermon about not judging and having compassion, and here I was doing the opposite.
I didn’t know this person.
I didn’t know her story.
I don’t know why she had that tattoo.
My first thought wasn’t about how she was the product of a system that degrades woman and reduces them to sex symbols.
How she was the product of a society that over sexualizes everything.
You can’t watch television with your kids without being embarrassed for what is on.
As a father of a girl who is growing into a woman, I feel it necessary all the time to combat the messages she receives about how her worth is more about what is on the inside than on the outside.
Maybe this woman with the tattoo didn’t have a father who told her that she was wonderful and loved?
Maybe she didn’t have a mother who modeled for her what it was to be a self assured woman?

But my first reaction was not compassion it was judgment.
And maybe for all of us that is simply going to be our reaction.
Maybe as human beings we are simply built to judge others.
Because we want to make ourselves feel better.
We want to feel superior to others.
We want to believe that it will never happen to us, because we are too noble, too good.
We want to believe in our own ability to make everything around us perfect and good.
So we will judge.
And we will fail to be compassionate.
And my message for you this morning is not to be more compassionate, even though I hope to God we all can be.
My message this morning is I don’t know what we will do the next time a kid falls down and his mother wasn’t looking.
Or what we will say when a woman with a tattoo of a naked woman sits next to us in the mall.
What I do know.
What I want to say this morning is that Jesus will be walking towards that person with compassion.
Jesus will be heading over to lay a hand upon them and offering a blessing, a word of encouragement, a healing touch.
Jesus will bring out of death new life to whatever they are facing.
What I want to say to all of us this morning is I hope that is also part of our thought process.
Maybe after our moral outrage we will be able to see Jesus walk towards the person we have scorned.
And in that moment we too might find compassion.
The Good News is that because we believe that Jesus is compassionate we know that Jesus also has compassion for us when we mess up, when our lives are not perfect.
I know that left to our own devises it is hard, maybe even impossible, for us to do.
But what is impossible for us is God’s very business.

I hope for you this week to know of the compassion that Jesus has for you.
That in your sin, in your mistakes, in your shame, in what is broken in your life, Jesus is walking towards you in compassion, to lay his hands upon you and heal you.
And because of that truth I hope you can find that compassion for others.

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