Sermon: “The Compassionate Shepherd”

Lectionary Series A; The 2nd Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Gospel Reading: Matthew 9:35-10:8


Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Compassion. It’s that feeling deep down in your gut that says I care. I care more about this person or these people than I even do myself. I see their hurt, I hear their hurt, I feel their hurt. And it hurts me to see them hurt this way. There is this unsettling reality deep within your bowels that says this is not right and something needs to be done about it. I need to do something about it because I care enough to do so.

Please allow me to ask a series of questions: What do we see when we see the protestors…the police officers…the business owners that lost their businesses…the first responders…the politicians…and many others who are on the news these days? Do we see their hurt? Do we see their pain? Do we feel it in our gut? Do we feel compassion for those in the crowds, no matter who they are, no matter what they say or do?

I am guessing that for most of us, adopting that disposition of compassion for all people is difficult at a time like this. We look at the television broadcast, and all we see is a problem that we want to go away. We may be inclined to think that it is much easier for us to dismiss it or try and put our heads in the sand and hope that it goes away rather than take the time to truly try and hear and even feel the hurt that is being expressed right now.

I read an article in which the person being interviewed was Larry Fitzgerald, NFL wide receiver, and former resident of Minneapolis. In that interview, he shared something that was a great step toward being more compassionate toward those who are crying out for compassion these days. Now what he said is not ground-breaking, but then again it doesn’t have to be. He suggested that people start ‘listening to each other’. Like I said, not ground-breaking, but profound nonetheless.

You see, listening leads to learning and understanding. Right now, it seems like there is just a lot of shouting going on, but very little listening. Some of us can unfortunately liken such things to our households or workplaces. How much gets done, when everyone talks or shouts and no one listens? Not much, or nothing at all.

Adopting a disposition of compassion means doing what is necessary to step into the shoes of the person who desires to be heard. And that takes listening. It takes time and intentionality, great care and concern. It means putting aside our own agendas to pay attention to what the other person has to say. No matter if we like what the other person has to say or not. We just give them a chance to be heard. 

How many of us have deeply embedded hurts and wounds in our past that we have buried down deep in our souls? And if we were ever given just a chance to bear our souls, people would begin to understand how we tick and operate, why we do and say what we do and say. We just want someone to take the time to listen and understand us.

But so often, we argue that we just don’t have the time to do that with someone else, even if we do want it for ourselves. But is it really that we don’t have the time? Perhaps. But it probably goes deeper than that. More than likely, if we were truly honest with ourselves, it is because we care more about ourselves than we do others. The whole concept of loving our neighbor as ourselves is very difficult for us. And so is being compassionate.

Our text says that when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

He ‘saw’ them, and he had compassion for them. Here they had been afflicted by the religious leaders, weighed down by unnecessary guilt for not following their laws. And now they had just charged Jesus with being an agent of Satan, even though the crowds had come to Him for help in their time of need. So, when Jesus looked at them, He saw their hurt. He felt their hurt. He could feel it deep down in His gut, and He instantly wanted to do something about it. 

It was the same feeling He got in His stomach when He saw the crowds of five thousand and then four thousand. He saw them, had compassion for them, then He fed them with a few loaves of bread and a few fish.

Time and again, what we get with Jesus is that when He looks at people, He sees people, beautiful people created in His image…people that are ripe for the harvest of receiving the gift of His Gospel. But what breaks His heart is whenever He sees any form of divide that exists between His most prized creation.

Our nation and our world have been riddled with that divide for far too long, ever since the Garden of Eden really. It started with Adam and Eve’s fall and then Cain killed Abel, and on and on it has gone with every generation. And the only way it will ever be any better is with the help of Christ and His Spirit of compassion at work in us.

In our baptism, the Spirit of God was poured into our lives, filling us with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 

This is our God-given identity to live out. It is not limited to our race or our occupation or anything like that. Our identity comes from our Triune God who from the very depths of His bowels pours out His love and compassion for us.

He saw us in the crowd of this world. He hears our pain. He sees our pain. He feels our pain. He suffers with us, and so He doesn’t hesitate to suffer for us. He does not leave us in our agony, but rather enters into the very depths of it with His very body and blood. The Good Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep. 

He has heard our cry for mercy. He has seen just difficult it is for us to navigate this world of sin and death, and He knows that we are truly helpless without Him, like sheep without a shepherd. We need His tending. We need His protection. We need His care. And we need His compassion.

And our Compassionate Shepherd came into this world to deliver just what we needed. He delivered us Himself. We needed a substitute to take our place. Someone who could do all the things we have failed to do. Someone who could be loving and compassionate when all we could do was express anger and hate. And so he took all of our anger, all of our hate, all of our sinful prejudices, and our lack of desire to take time and listen and be compassionate toward others, and He bound all of that up into His body and then He went to the cross, and He finished it all off once and for all.

Because that’s what the Compassionate Shepherd does. He does not leave us to suffer as those harassed and helpless. He does something about it. He did do something about it. On the cross. It is finished.

And now He calls upon His Church to spread this good news to a world that is desperately hurting, desperately desiring compassion. In our text, He tells His disciples that the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

You see, Jesus looked at that crowd, and He didn’t see a problem, He saw opportunity. He saw with eyes of compassion. He saw people as people, created in His image, and they were ripe for the harvest of the Gospel. He knew what they needed. They needed to be saved from their sins, and He was that Compassionate Shepherd who came to deliver just that. Then off He sent His disciples, to be the extension of His compassionate self to a world that needed it. And we continue to pray for pastors in our day and age to do just that through Word and Sacrament ministry.

But it doesn’t stop there. He calls the whole Church, each and every one of us in our vocations, to open our eyes and see people as people. To see their hurt with the compassionate eyes of Christ. To hear their hurt. To listen to the needs of the people that are ripe for harvest with a God-given Spirit of compassion…and then share the hope that we have in Christ.

As we look out into our world today, there is one thing that is clear… Everyone could use a little compassion, because everyone, just like us, needs the Compassion of the Shepherd. Not-a-one of us is without the need of what He gives. We all come to this place today and we have one thing in common. We are sinners in need of a Savior…and our Compassionate Shepherd is that Savior. 

Let us pray. Dear Heavenly Father, give us eyes to see people as people, who just like us, need your compassionate love that comes in the person of Your Son. Help us to look out into the crowds and see that this world is ripe for harvest. Make us bold to share Your compassion so that all will hear of the comfort of Your Gospel Good news that with You there is forgiveness, life and salvation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

          The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.