Virginia-Highland Church designates the Sunday before Thanksgiving as “Compassion Sunday,” because we believe that the greatest way to show our gratitude authentically for our lives’ blessings is to show compassion for others. This year, we are collecting Thanksgiving baskets to provide dinner for 25 families, and dozens of backpacks filled with clothing and supplies for our friends who live outdoors and are served by our homeless ministry called The River.
The Hebrew word for “compassion” comes from the same root (rhm) as the word for a woman’s womb. When the scripture says that God has compassion on suffering people, the underlying metaphor signals that God loves us as a mother loves the child of her womb.
The prophet Isaiah writes, “The Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion (womb love) on the suffering ones.” Then God says, “Can a woman forget her sucking baby, that she should have no compassion on the child of her womb? Yet even should she forget, yet I will not forget you, see I have inscribed you on the palm of my hand.”
Compassion is what we believe about who God is and what God does, and, consequently, it should define who we are and what we do.
A Hindu woman heard a missionary tell stories about the gentle loving savior he served. When the testimony ended, the Hindu woman thanked him and said, “I have always known the One of whom you spoke. Thank you for telling me his name.”
I have been a Christian for more than 40 years. Once upon a time I knew all the answers to life’s toughest questions. Most of those answers I discarded long ago. After years of struggle, though, the one thing of which I am certain is this: Jesus is what God is like, in as much as Jesus spent his life ceaselessly finding ways to show compassion to his fellow travelers. Maybe that is because he knew God well and really did understand how much there was to be grateful for.
Rev. Michael Piazza