Category Archives: Advent

Advent Supper 2

If Jesus was born today, what sort of world would he find?

There was a very relaxed and sociable atmosphere as 22 people gathered for the second talk in the Advent series – an exploration of Who would be capable of showing empathy.  We listened to a TED talk by the American sociologist, Sam Richards entitled, A Radical Experiment in Empathy – see below. After our meal we read the passage from Luke 16 – The rich man and Lazarus. People were very engaged in the discussion at their tables and the feedback at the end was vigorous and varied about both the talk and the Bible passage.

We all grasped that empathy was the process by which we put ourselves in the shoes of someone else, and saw the world through their eyes. If we were to enter into this process, we would have to ‘suspend judgment’, consciously putting our own views and opinions to one side. Seeing things through the eyes of someone else would enable us to understand in much more depth, why they react and behave in the way they do. It would not necessarily lead us to agree with them, but our new, more profound understanding would make it highly like that our attitude to them would change as would our behaviour. This in turn would lead to greater tolerance and respect for those who appeared to differ from us in many aspects of life.

Next week we will be exploring how changes in the way we communicate challenge how we relate to each other and the opportunities that those challenges bring.   There is still time to sign up – don’t miss out! – you can book your place by clicking here.

Peter Silva


 

ADVENT SUPPER – WEEK  2
2 December 2015

TED Talk – A Radical Experiment in Empathy

Some questions for discussion during our meal:-

  • What struck you about the presentation by Sam Richards?
  • What is the difference between sympathy and empathy?
  • What does having empathy mean for you?
  • Can you think of a time when someone was empathetic towards you? How did it make you feel? Share this with others if you wish.
  • What stops us from ‘stepping into’ someones shoes?
  • What questions does this TED Talk raise for Parliament today as it discusses the use of airstrikes against ISIS in Syria?

Biblical reflection

Luke 16. 19-31  – The Rich Man and Lazarus

‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.”

He said, “Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” He said, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” ’

Questions to consider

  • What do you think that the message of this parable is?
  • Who is isolated? Lazarus or the rich man? Why?
  • What are the consequences of not having empathy?
  • Whom do we ourselves lack empathy for?. The poor? The rich? People of a certain race or faith or lifestyle? Some family members?  Whom do we want to avoid?
  • Is it possible to have empathy for people who hurt us or mistreat us?What practical things can we do to increase empathy in our lives? In the Church?

Advent Supper 1

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.

Marian Needham


 

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?

Biblical reflection

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?