Monday, July 29, 2013

GOD'S EMPATHY & ATTENTIVENESS


Mark 7:
32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.
33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
  
The first thing Jesus does with the person in need is separate him from the crowd. He is not going to help the man for the benefit of those who brought him. This kind action is not an opportunity to exploit the person in need. Why do we always want a press release for doing something noble?

Jesus is most attentive to the man who cannot hear or speak. He is the one who needs Jesus’ attention at this time. This is not a time for the man to be embarrassed by public attention. He already has lived a life of being excluded and humiliated. Jesus attentiveness and undivided attention bring dignity and respect to the man.

Are you able to empathize with outcasts? Can you give them your undivided attention or are you distracted by a desire to gather a crowd around to notice you?

After healing the man, Jesus tells the people to keep this quiet. Jesus was attentive to what was needed and resisted the idea of getting famous as a miracle worker. If he were to be faithful to the Mission, he would be heading to a cross. This was not a mission to look good or amass an army to protect himself. The miracle was all about God’s love and Jesus’ empathy for a fellow man.


Friday, July 26, 2013

GOD'S EMPATHY & ACCESSIBILITY


Mark 7:

31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.

In foreign places, people knew about Jesus. He was not a well-kept Jewish secret. Outsiders did not have to travel to the Temple at Jerusalem to find the Messiah. He was in their area and could be found easily. 

In the story, people brought the man with a problem to Jesus. The Rabbi had a reputation for being able to get involved and make something happen.

How often are today’s believers hidden in churches and Christian-only environments? If we find someone with exceptional ministry skills, we want to keep them busy in our faith community. Jesus sets an example of getting close to where people in need are.

Will you be accessible today? Can people who need your help find you? How often do you make yourself available and open up your time to others? If you have the good news, you need to available and empathetic to a world that is choking on bad news.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

GOD'S EMPATHY & ADVENTURE


Jesus frequently demonstrated the empathy of God toward people with every kind of suffering. God empathized with humanity and jumped in to the world with us in the coming of Jesus. You cannot read the gospels without seeing Jesus reach beyond social conventions to redeem those whom his world rejected. He jumped into the environments where chaotic people needed help.


What can we learn about genuine empathy from the King of Love? The story of Jesus meeting a man who could not hear or speak illustrates Jesus’ empathy. How we can graduate from being sympathizers and become empathetic healers with those we encounter?

Mark 7:
31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.
33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

There are five ‘A’ words that describe the life of an empathetic healer. If Jesus is your rabbi and you are learning to be like him, here are some defining characteristics. The first one is adventure.

1.     Adventure


Mark 7:
31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.

The geographic and social setting for this miracle is The Decapolis, an ancient group of ten cities known to be centers of Greek and Roman culture. Jesus was Jewish but was often found in places that Jews avoided. He was not fearful or intimidated by people or places that your mother told you to avoid.

Jesus instructs his disciples to go into every part of the world with good news.

If you are rejected, shake the dust off your feet. In other words, your presence and the message you bear is more important than your need to keep things safe and your reputation bland.

In the adventure of following where Jesus leads, we find that empathy for people grows. We become more aware of their limitation and strength. The good news is most visible when you are face-to-face. You participate in the salvation, healing and deliverance of others when you open yourself to discovering the world around you. Where are you going today? If it does not expose you to adventure, you may be out of God’s will.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

STRANGE GIGS


I have played music in some original settings over the years. I remember playing with my band 2fish[i] at Blenheim Cherry Fest on an outdoor stage. What made it unusual was the act before us were professional cloggers. They did something akin to Dutch line-dancing in colourful outfits and wooden clogs. Great to warm up an all ages crowd for a rock band.

Then there was the time that my band was the opening act at Windsor’s waterfront for an Elvis impersonator show. We are not Elvis impersonators, but somehow were asked to be on the bill. We played our set with a handful of Elvis wannabees watching from side stage.

Perhaps the concert that most made me feel like a ‘fish out of water’ was my solo 1983 appearance at Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf in Belleville. I sang and played original music to 200 deaf students. I did not need a sound system. I did try to hop around more than I usually would.

An interpreter listened to me and signed the lyrics. (At least there was an interpreter.) Until that point in my life I had not known any people that are deaf and it made me think about how much I take for granted by being able to hear.

Marsha and I had a conversation about a hypothetical crisis in which we would have to choose whether to lose our eyesight or hearing. She was insistent on keeping her vision. I was insistent on keeping my hearing. Eventually we reached a shared conclusion that the solution was to give up sight in one eye and hearing in one ear.

Those hypothetical situations of choosing the lesser of two evils are the stuff of horror movies and torture chambers. We are not usually put in the position of having to make such choices. Still, it is common to suffer physically, mentally and emotionally. If you have not experienced limitations of this kind, your time is coming. For some an accident or illness will bring limitation. For many more, age will frustrate your mobility, eyesight, hearing, continence and mental faculties.

Sometimes we may have sympathy for people who lack something, but empathy is more helpful.

Dr. Les Parrott[ii] illustrates the difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is when you see someone struggling in the water and you throw a life ring to the one in trouble. You identify that they have a problem but you observe from the shore. Sympathy involves our emotions, but only limited interaction.

Empathy is when you see someone struggling in the water and you jump in to help the person get to shore. To be an empathetic person is to enter emotionally and analytically into the experience of another. Empathy leads you to actively participating.



[ii] Dr. Les Parrott, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, Zondervan Trade Books

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