The Compassionate Heart of Christ

Lent 2 (C)  February 24, 2013

Gospel:  Luke 13:31-35

Today our readings say something to us about the heart of Christ.  A good day to commission Dianne as a Stephen Minister, meet together as a faith community and reflect on Christ’s mission and ministry in this place.   In today’s hymn of the day, “O Christ, Your Heart Compassionate”[1] by Herman Stuempfle, we pray that we will be grounded in the heart of Christ.  Let’s sing through this prayer verse by verse.  #722 in the red worship book.

Beginning with Verse 1:

In our prayer, we address Christ.  O Christ, your heart compassionate.

First things first:  the heart of Christ is compassionate.  The heart of Christ is concerned about us and kind . . .  Like a mother hen, gathering her chicks together, keeping them well-fed and safe.

O Christ, your heart compassionate bore every human pain.

 

That’s what empathy means.  Christ walks in our shoes.  Christ knows what it’s like to be human.  Christ bears all of our human pain.

 Its beating was the pulse of God,

It’s breadth, God’s vast domain.

So we’re beginning to get this picture of a huge open heart.  Big enough for all creation.  And it’s beating is the very pulse of God.

 

The heart of God, the heart of Christ

that beat in perfect rhyme,

to write God’s love in human deeds (that’s the acts of mercy),

eternity in time.

These words define our mission:  to write God’s love in human deeds.  To feed.  To clothe.  To comfort.  To listen.  To be trustworthy.  And a bunch more things we could name.  Let’s sing that first verse.

 

Verse 2

As once you welcomed those cast down

And healed the sick, the blind,

so may all bruised and broken lives

through us your help still find.

 Lord, join our hearts with those who weep,

that none may weep alone.

We don’t pray that we’ll be able to wipe all tears away.  That’s God’s job, and God promises to do it.  Our mission is to leave nobody alone with their tears.  That’s why we do things like Stephen Ministry and visit in homes and hospitals.  That’s why we knit prayer shawls and host support groups for caregivers and those who are grieving.  That’s why we host 12 Step meetings.  That’s part of why we serve breakfast to KCI students and supper to friends from the community.  That’s why we support Canadian Lutheran World Relief and have local benevolence projects.  In the last line of Verse 2 we pray:

Help us bear another’s pain as though it were our own.

And this is exactly what Christ does for all of us.  Christ understands the human heart from the inside.  When he comes to earth to live with us and for us and to die with us and for us, he bears our pain with us and for us.  Our pain becomes his pain.  Let’s sing verse 2.

Verse 3:

We continue praying to Christ:

O Christ create new hearts in us.

that beat in time with yours,

In our prayer, we are asking Christ to make our hearts and his heart one whole heart . .

That joined together with your great heart, we become love’s open doors.

 

So that’s it!  Open doors don’t start with us!  Long before we do anything, God’s great heart is already open to our needs and the needs of the world.  Whenever our hearts are open to others, it’s God in Christ who is opening our hearts.  Can you see it?  “Jesus is deeply in touch with the heart of [God], and at the same time deeply in touch with our human hearts.”[2]   He’s the bridge.

And this realization awakens in us a bold burst of faith:

We are your body, risen Christ,

our heart, our hands, we yield (or surrender)

that through our life and ministry

your love may be revealed.

 

Imagine a world where everybody experiences the love of Christ!  Let’s sing Verse #3.

 

Verse 4

In Verse 4 we call Christ simply “Love.”  Love incarnate.  Love in flesh and blood.

O Love that made the distant stars

yet marks the sparrows fall,

whose arms stretched wide upon the cross

embrace and bear us all.

I know someone who comes in to this church on weekdays, looks up at Christ on the cross in the stained glass window above the altar and sighs:  “Somebody finally understands what it’s like to be me.”[3]  Christ on the cross is the most powerful picture we have of God’s heart:  arms stretched wide in the most radical act of kindness.

In the last words of our prayer, we ask this Christ for the help we need to be his church.

Come make your church a servant church

that walks your servant ways,

whose deeds of love rise up to you

a sacrifice of praise!

 

Let’s spend a few moments in silence and then rise to pray this last verse.

 

[1] “O Christ, Your Heart Compassionate,” hymn text by Herman Stuempfle, #722 Evangelical Lutheran Worship.  Stuempfle’s words are in italics.

[2] John Powell, S.H.  Through Seasons of the Heart, 26.

[3] Ibid, 247.

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