In preparation for today’s Town Hall, the Visioning Committee met with Pastor Marj, a member of Bishop Erwin’s staff. She shared that the ELCA is working to shift the church’s approach to charity from doing things for people to doing things with people. While supporting causes financially is still crucial, the national church asks us to engage personally with those who need our help. As we search for ways to love giving, aren’t we being called to give compassion?

Compassion is easy to feel, and we are surrounded by those who need it. Tragic stories are never further away than social or print media. Suffering exists all around us, in people who are broken by sin or sadness, people who feel cut off from or cast out of community. People are starving for food, for opportunity, for meaningful connection. People are struggling to rebuild lives that have been devastated by war and famine, abuse and addiction. We can weep for them, pray for them, write checks to the people who are actively engaged in helping them.

But if we remain at arm’s length, are we truly giving to them – or are we giving to an idea? Are we giving to make them feel better – or to make ourselves feel better? Jesus dined with the outcasts and embraced the lepers. If we wall ourselves off from those who need us, aren’t we rejecting His example?

True compassion is love in action. That action might be as simple and immediate as taking the hand of someone who needs your forgiveness. It could be as complex and long-term as building a social justice campaign here in our congregation that genuinely involves our members with a community that needs us. Whatever the scope, the result is the same: By giving compassion, we grow closer to the people Jesus asks us to love, and we become more like the people Jesus asks us to be.

This Lent, give compassion.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4