Toorak Uniting Church

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Rev. Dr Christopher Page
Pentecost 5
28 June 2015

Introduction the Theme of Compassion
The theme this morning is compassion. And the bold statement that it is compassion that will ultimately bring about the solutions we are seeking in our relationships and in our world. That sounds counter-intuitive when the prevailing message is that peace and harmony will be achieved through the power of the righteous and opposition to villains.

In a moment Craig and Jaki, who are regular attenders at our 9am service, will read several quotes by prominent religious and spiritual figures, which are printed in the order of service.

But first I wanted to say a few words about compassion. In its derivation the word means to suffer with. Passion=suffer, not quite the way we use it today. And con=with or together. Interestingly, if you need a visual image, it was used as an example for the undercarriage of a vehicle: "to hold up or to support". We even hear it in the older translations of the Bible when Jesus says, "Suffer the little children to come to me." Encourage, or be empathetic and support the little children to come to me.

Words on Compassion – Craig and Jaki

Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.
~Albert Einstein

If you want others to be happy, practise compassion. If you want to be happy, practise compassion.
~Dalai Lama

Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronisingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.
~Nelson Mandela

God's dream is that you and I and all of us will realise that we are family; that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion.
~Archbishop Desmond Tutu

If you have those who exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and mercy, you will have people who will deal likewise with their neighbour.
~Francis of Assisi

True compassion means not only feeling another's pain but also being moved to help relieve it.
~Daniel Goleman

You may call God love, you may call God goodness. But the best name for God is compassion.
~Meister Eckhart

The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.
~Thomas Merton

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for in this is all the Law and the Prophets.
~Jesus of Nazareth

Compassion is a practically acquired knowledge, like dancing. You must do it and practise diligently day by day.
~Karen Armstrong

Introduction to Compassion
Karen Armstrong is a British author and commentator known for her books on comparative religion. She is a former Roman Catholic nun who went from a conservative to a more liberal and now mystical understanding of the Christian faith. She became disillusioned with her calling and left the convent in 1969. She first rose to prominence in 1993 with her book A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Her work focuses on commonalities of the major religions, giving particular importance to the role of compassion and the Golden Rule. 1

Video TED.COM Karen Armstrong

I think compassion begins with you and me. Strangely it is difficult to have compassion for others if we don’t have compassion for ourselves. By that I mean that we embrace our own suffering and see that it is so often a bridge to others.

"If we can have compassion for ourselves, then we are inviting ourselves to have compassion for others, which makes relationships fairer and more equal," says Judith Ohikuare.

I cannot see how self-loathing, guilt and blame can lead us to richer, healthier relationships with those around us and even between nations.

You know where we see compassion that crosses cultural and even moral boundaries? It is in times of disaster. We reach out to "suffer with" others to support and carry the load that may be too heavy for them.

As I mentioned in the Update, compassion, like forgiveness or tolerance or mercy or friendship, may be more a journey rather than an event. It takes time, and as Karen Armstrong suggests, practice to be compassionate. Maybe it doesn’t come so naturally, we are still in our evolutionary history hardwired to fear the other, those who are different, and it takes little to strike fear into our hearts that they will harm us if we don’t overpower them. That may be true. But as an old philosopher said, when you live in a world where an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth reign, you will have a world of blind and toothless people.

Compassion may not yet grab the imagination of the world, but it is very difficult to see any other way we can reach the kind of liberation and wholeness that Jesus talked about. In fact what many of the great world leaders who were quoted at the beginning of this service worked toward.

Video Compassion

1 (adapted)

© Rev. Dr Christopher Page, 2015

Comments or suggestions on this page appreciated by email, Thanks.