This week we’ll continue our This Is Us Lenten Worship Series with a focus on our common value of compassion. The scripture reading for this week, particularly the last verse, embodies this call to care for others, to share what we have, and to frame our works and our story in compassion for others.
Whenever I have visited or toured historic ruins, ancient castles, or dilapidated-but-once-magnificent mansions, I always think about another scripture, Matthew 6: 19-21, that is somewhat related:
“Stop collecting treasures for your own benefit on earth, where moth and rust eat them and where thieves break in and steal them. Instead, collect treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust don’t eat them and where thieves don’t break in and steal them. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Standing before these haunting structures, I always think, At some point someone put a lot into that. It was very, very important to them. And it didn’t last.
And on the heels of that observation always comes the question, What did these people do in terms of teaching their next generation, telling their stories, reaching out to one another, impacting the lives they touched? What happened inside those structures that did endure? Whether or not the inhabitants or owners even got to know it, just as we may never know the long-lasting effect of even the smallest acts of compassion we offer to others, this is what endures. This is our story. This is who we are.
I think one of the things that most defines who we are as a faith community is our strong common value of compassion. It’s our legacy already — and it has been since Sandy Smith began what is today our First Street Methodist Mission from the trunk of her car. The Mission continues that ministry today, feeding the hungry babies, clothing and feeding the schoolchildren, offering meals, coats, clothing, and shelter to the homeless, helping those who are homeless transition into housing, and much more.
In our long legacy of compassion, we’ve reached out to those struggling with addiction, with dementia, and with the devastation of natural disasters. We’ve partnered with many local organizations to provide needed services and care throughout the community. In addition to the mission we’ve established two other nonprofit organizations: The Methodist Justice Ministry that works to protect women and children from abuse, and more recently, the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support Ministry to educate, empower, and support those who face dementia and their caregivers.
The reality is we are all just stewards of this moment, this opportunity, this time in the life of our church. What we do with this opportunity will make a big impact on not only the people around us now, but also on the generations to come. What will endure will be the community built because of it and the stories created by the ministries it enables.
During this time of Lenten reflection about who we are and what we value as a church, it’s important to think about that which lasts — our compassion — the kindness and mercy and love that infuses what we do for others. Everything else comes down in the end, as Patti Casey sings “like a handful of sand.” But in the meantime, our lifetime on this earth, the compassion ministries we enable with the works of our hand live on in ways we can never know or imagine as we “do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with our God.”
What have you built by the works of your hand that enabled something enduring beyond it? How does compassion play into your decisions about what you will invest yourself in for the sake of others? How would you hope or expect this investment to endure?
I look forward to exploring these questions and more with you this Sunday in the Sanctuary.
Grace and Peace,
Micah 6:6-8 Common English Bible (CEB)
What does the Lord require?
With what should I approach the Lord
and bow down before God on high?
Should I come before him with entirely burned offerings,
with year-old calves?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with many torrents of oil?
Should I give my oldest child for my crime;
the fruit of my body for the sin of my spirit?
He has told you, human one, what is good and
what the Lord requires from you:
to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.