Crowds, Compassion, Curing.
Crowds: at present we avoid them ‘like the plague’. Crowds can threaten, can get out of control, but there are times when it is great to be part of a crowd. Moving slowly, queuing to get in, finding your seat, joining in the applause, in the Mexican wave, in the elation of victory, in the slow departure at the end. Losing yourself in the crowd.
Recently crowds have been out on the streets, demonstrating, marching, protesting. Some efforts have been made to retain social distancing, but sometimes the crowds have been too great for that to have been maintained. One motive for those crowds coming together has been compassion. Initially because of the death of one man, George Floyd. That footage seemed unbelievable -such lack of compassion.
Read Matthew 9:35-38, ‘Jesus saw the crowds and had compassion on them.’ An apt phrase for us to consider. Crowds and compassion, literally ‘suffering with’. As I write (Tuesday) the story that has gone global comes from just down the road in Bristol. A statue was pulled down by the crowd rolled over to the harbour and pushed ‘overboard’. A symbolic gesture, and, if we disapprove, do we not recall the symbolism of the statue of Saddam Hussein being toppled and how that was greeted in the newspapers?
The compassion involved was twofold, for those millions transported as slaves centuries ago, many of whom were tipped overboard for their burial. Secondly recognition of racism and discrimination in our own society. We may not have experienced that ourselves but surely, we know it exists. One name from where we used to live: Stephen Lawrence.
Back to our reading, Jesus continued by saying of the crowd, ‘They were like sheep without a shepherd’. Leaders are important, as citizens we have a duty to hold our leaders to account, not to follow blindly like sheep. We also recall the warning ‘not to blindly follow the crowd’. The key word is ‘blindly’. There are times when the crowd might have a just cause, when to do nothing is to appear to lack compassion.
Crowds, compassion. There is also ‘curing’. ‘Then Jesus went about…teaching…and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness’. Christians are called to continue the work of Jesus. Racism is often called a ‘sickness.’ Recent events have underlined the ‘dis-ease’ of a racially divided society. Many of us do not live ‘on the front line’ yet we have opportunities to challenge and disown casual petty racism and racist attitudes when we encounter them. When we can do this, we join in that ‘curing’.
We are not alone, we live in God’s world.
We believe in God: who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus, the word made flesh, to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and others by the Spirit. We trust in God.
We are called to be the church:
to celebrate God’s presence, to love and serve others, to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us.
We are not alone. Thanks be to God. Amen