Embracing Jesus’ Compassion
In his story on our Presbyterian Church’s decision not to open ordination to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender faithful, Eric Gorski of the Associated Press summarized the present situation succinctly:
“Efforts to allow gays and lesbians to serve as clergy in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have been defeated again, sealed by votes Saturday. But the margin of defeat — the final tally has yet to be determined — is already guaranteed to be much closer than in previous years.”
Since the decision was made, I have struggled to make sense of this ambiguous outcome to a long season of dialogue and discernment. It has been helpful to ask myself what Jesus would make of this moment in the church. And I ask you, what story or verse about Jesus does your mind wander to? My heart lands on this one; “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36. Perhaps a feeling of being harassed and helpless is something everyone in the PCUSA can share right now as we seem so very far from being of one mind in Christ.
And perhaps we can pause together to feel deeply and fully the compassion Jesus has for us in this moment. If “compassion” means “suffering with,” I can fully embrace Jesus’ own helplessness because, whatever His Word for us right now, He can only whisper it to us through the Holy Spirit and wait to see if we can absorb and act in accord with it. And I can very well acknowledge that Jesus has felt harassed, beaten from pillar to post, by our invoking His name for our purposes during this debate.
But I like to imagine Jesus’ compassion being simply His arms opening wide for me, to envelope me in an embracing hug for as long as I need this comfort. So I will imagine the PCUSA and all the faithful within it embracing Jesus in this way. And we will stay there until we can, together, follow Jesus once again, the great Shepherd of the sheep.
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.