December 31, 2003
Covenant Renewal

Matthew 25:31-46

"When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.'

"Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me - you did it to me.'

"Then he will turn to the 'goats,' the ones on his left, and say, 'Get out, worthless goats! You're good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because-

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.'

"Then those 'goats' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn't help?'

"He will answer them, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me - you failed to do it to me.'

"Then those 'goats' will be herded to their eternal doom, but the 'sheep' to their eternal reward."

[The Message]


This is the same scripture we started the year with. The comments that follow were posted here for January 1, 2003. As you reflect back on the year - How did you do in your practice of mercy and compassion? What needs to change for next year to be any different than this year? Don't be discouraged. If next year is too big a chunk to bite off, make today better.


1. Here at the turn of the year comes a reminder of another turn of time from simple time time to meaning time.

What will guide you this next time span that at the end of such you will be able to look back and be surprised how wonderful life is? Will it not have some connection to Brother Lawrence's practice of the Presence of GOD ?

Practice well.

2. Joseph Nassal's book, Premeditated Mercy: A Spirituality of Reconciliation , moves us in a helpful direction. He writes:

"God was hungry to abide with us, so God sent Jesus to become the living bread to nourish the deepest hungers of the human heart. God was hungry for community, for connection, for stories told around a table as wine is poured and bread is broken. God was hungry for us to connect with one another - to extend the tables of our common lives, to open doors into our private pain and to welcome God as a guest at the banquet of our belonging.

"What are we hungry for? Are we hungry to make connections with those who have been pushed away from society's table? Are we hungry to make community with those who have been left outside the doors of our awareness?

"Are we hungry to make the ministry of premeditated mercy a daily practice, an ordinary occurrence? Do we satisfy this hunger by breaking the bread of friendship with someone who has fallen out of favor, by sharing the wine of our compassion with someone who longs to make connections, by washing the feet of someone who stands in the dust under the shadow of the cross?

"The ministry of premeditated mercy that proclaims a new creation is about making such sacred connection."

What would it be like for you to use a phrase like "premeditated mercy" to move through this year?

3. Matthew Fox writes in A Spirituality Named Compassion :

"In acquiescing in compassion's exile, we are surrendering the fullness of nature and of human nature, for we, like all creatures in the cosmos, are compassionate creatures. All persons are compassionate at least potentially. What we all share today is that we are victims of compassion's exile. The difference between persons and groups of person is not that some are victims and some are not: we are all victims and all dying from lack of compassion; we are all surrendering our humanity together. The difference is in how persons react to this fact of compassion's exile and our victimization. Some persons react by joining the forces that continue the exile of compassion and joining them with a single mindedness and tenacity that guarantees still more violence, still more of compassion's exile; others react by despair and cynicism - drink, eat and be happy for tomorrow we exterminate ourselves; still others react with what Ned O'Gorman calls the 'abstract calm' of intellectuals and other too-busy people who want it both ways and advocate political change while living high on the hog. Others are reacting by fleeing to fundamentalist spiritualities that forsake the tradition of imago dei and humanity's deification in favor of the preaching of sin and redemption will have virtually nothing to say about compassion, for compassion is a divine attribute and a creative energy force and will not be learned by a cheap religious masochism."

So what is your response to "compassion's exile"? Will you, none-the-less, be compassionate? It would be a worthy endeavor to dedicate your year to welcoming the return of compassion from its exile.