A Lenten Confession

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I have a confession. My hope is that it won’t be too much for you. That you won’t think any differently of me. Okay, here it goes:

I love Jesus.

No, like, I really love Jesus. Not in some sentimental or superficial “Jesus is my homeboy and my personal Lord and savior.” Nothing like that because that makes Jesus mine when Jesus is actually ours.

In fact, despite what some think, Presbyterians confess Christ as sovereign of all! Personally, I confess Jesus as Lord and Savior. But I love Jesus because of his compassion.

The compassion he has for others and his compassion for me is unlike anything I’ve ever heard or even seen. I love Jesus because he Jesus sees me for who I am: Adam.

Did you know compassion comes from the Latin word compassio, meaning “to pity, sympathize with, or suffer with,” and is related to the Greek word sympatheia, denoting “fellow feeling, community of feeling?” Quite literally, ‘compassion’ means to endure with another person, to experience another’s grief or suffering or need.

Which leads me to another confession: I love the church.

I love it because the church is the body of Christ, a place where we share life with one another. In a season of great difficulty for me, you all offered me great compassion, sitting with me as an unexpected ending came and went. You all, not only in this occasion, but on numerous occasions throughout the years, have extended compassion to each other.

This is what Jesus meant when he said to “love your neighbor.” He meant that we have compassion for one another, especially the stranger and our enemy. Remember that Jesus summed up his own teaching on compassion, the practice of ‘withness,’ by proclaiming that whatever was done to the poor, the marginalized, or the outcast was, in reality, done to him.

Lent invites us to look again at the world and to see how with it we are.

For me, Lent is a reminder of how Jesus’ compassion overflowed outside his tribe. He did not let his love, his mercy, or his withness be confined only to James, John, Peter, and the other twelve. Instead, he considered all he encountered to be his neighbor.

Compassion is hard, though. Not only does it require us to see the world through more gentle, loving lenses, but it is about caring for one another.

And this is why I love Jesus. He loved. He didn’t only teach or preach or use words to tell of God’s love. But he actually loved those he shared life with. Especially those he wasn't supposed to be with.

The hard truth Lent often confronts us with as we wander into the wilderness and wade out of the waters of baptism is that sometimes, we as a church, both locally and universally, neglect loving our neighbor as ourselves. We lack compassion for ourselves and for one another.

Yet Lent is also the season we remember that Christ sees us with eyes full of compassion. That what we are examining within ourselves, what we are confronting outside of ourselves, Christ is with us every step of the way.
Compassion then is best understood when we play together, when we eat together, when we share our stories, and when we act on behalf of each other. These are the things we human beings do when we are at our best and our most courageous; especially when we recognize that God is right here with us, our partner in renewing this journey we call faith!

As we sit and watch the snow fall, remember that God’s love, Christ’s compassion, and the Holy Spirit’s company is with us this day and every day.

May God help us let go of that which prevents us from being compassionate to the world and to ourselves.

Jesus loves you. And so do I. Shalom,

[Adam Quinn, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln]


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