If Jesus was born today, what sort of world would he find?
Advent began early this year in The Chase Benefice with me leading the first of our four Advent Suppers on Wednesday night (25 November). Twenty-three of us gathered in Chadlington Hall for an excellent meal – it may be a penitential season, but hospitality and fellowship are never out of place! – and around it some stimulating talk on the topic of compassion.
Things got off to a good start with the viewing of an engaging online TED talk by Rabbi Jackie Tabick – ‘The Balancing Act of Compassion’ – this, together with some related suggestions for discussion, got us all talking over our meal. [You can watch this TED talk and look at the questions we discussed at the end of this post]. Having cleared the dishes, we looked at the story of ‘The Good Samaritan’ and what it has to say about compassion. On our table (there were four) we thought about what is meant by ‘our neighbours’, the difficulties of acting compassionately now compared to the difficulties in Jesus’ time, and what limits and checks there can be on our responses. I’d have liked to eavesdrop on the conversations at other tables as well… but at least a short time of feedback at the end meant we had a flavour of what everyone else had been talking about, and out of it came the general agreement that compassion by itself is not enough. Responding to someone else’s suffering or difficulty has to result in some kind of action on our part.
The next three Wednesday evenings will follow the same pattern of TED talk, meal and discussion, around the topics of empathy, community and welcome. Next Wednesday Mark will lead with ‘A radical experiment in empathy’. It will pick up from his sermon following the attacks in Paris. It promises to be a really challenging and stimulating evening. There is still time to sign up – don’t miss out! – you can book your place by clicking here.
ADVENT SUPPER – WEEK 1
25 November 2015
TED Talk – The Balancing Act of Compassion
Some questions for discussion during our meal:-
- What does having compassion mean for you?
- Are you able to describe and share a situation when someone showed compassion to you?
- What boundaries might having compassion lead us to cross?
- What things stop us from acting on our compassion?
Luke 10. 25-37 – The ‘Good Samaritan’
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’
Questions to consider
- What was Jesus trying to tell us by having a Samaritan as the hero of the story?
- What was Jesus saying by having the priest and the Levi as the ones who failed to show compassion?
- Who are our neighbours today?
- What things can make it difficult for us to love our neighbours?
- If Jesus were to be born today, would he find our compassion and love for others any different from 2,000 years ago?
- Jesus said: ‘Go and do likewise’. In this story, Jesus challenges our prejudices and encourages us to enlarge our idea of who our neighbour is, and to love in the generous, unconditional way that we have been loved by God regardless of the personal cost or inconvenience. How possible is that today? How can we be the ‘hands of God’ today?