Tuesday Scripture - Isaiah 61:2-3
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion--
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
Tuesday Quote - Henri Nouwen
“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”
The result of the Spirits anointing is a flurry of activity. The prophet launches into a barrage of actions words; proclaim, bind, comfort, provide & bestow. It is to whom this action is directed that grabs my attention; the poor, the broken-hearted, the captive, those who mourn and grieve. We are reminded that Jesus's own Sermon on the Mount includes many of the same people, the poor, the meek, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (also translated justice). According to Isaiah, when God decisively acts to bring a new heart and a new spirit, the first action will be to bring relief to those who suffer most. And this is very good news.
It is also a challenge. When Jesus preaches this portion of Isaiah in Luke 4, he specifically directs its message of mercy, peace, and healing to... outsiders. He not only references Isaiah but the stories of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian. Two stories from Israel's history in which God acts decisively to bring healing and relief to people who represent the enemies of Israel. And the people listening do not appreciate it. The poor and vulnerable are easily missed and easily dismissed as lazy, unmotivated and unworthy of a chance at opportunities to achieve a meaningful life. And even our own generosity at Christmas time can reflect that. After all, the struggle of the poor doesn't just occur at Christmas time. Their battle to feed children and pay bills and find work and childcare is a year long one. Generosity at Christmas can make us feel better, but it doesn't necessarily reflect a true engagement in the lives of those broken-hearted by the fact that they must rely on charity.
So the good news of Isaiah (read through Jesus's interpretation) remind us that God's action on behalf of the poor requires more than occasional focus challenges us to be faithful in the long-term. And it reminds us of the emotional toll poverty takes. Broadening to considerations beyond poverty, the one anointed by the Spirit in Isaiah 61, is anointed with a Spirit of compassion for the broken-hearted. Which means this challenges us when we are tempted to doubt, deny, be critical of or judge, the meek, the struggling, the outsider.
Tuesday Explore - Galatians 5:22-23; Matthew 5:3-13
Tuesday Prayer - Continue to rend my heart, God of mercy and compassion, so as to make space for those who struggle. Create space for those unlike me, space for those whose experience is unlike my own, space even for those I disagree with. Let the compassion of Christ become my own and that which directs my every thought and action.