A Prayer For Empathy

Sabbath Sunday. Pentecost (Fourth Sunday). June 28, 2020. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28


Sabbath Sunday is where we take a break from services once a month and worship God through resting. As we wait to resume our regular Sunday services during the COVID-19 pandemic, we will post a devotional instead of Social Distance Worship liturgy on the last Sunday of each month. This devotional includes a prayer, meditation, Bible passage, and a reflection on a specific topic.


Opening Prayer

O God Most High, Creator of the ends of the earth, Governor of the universe, Judge of all people,
Head of the Church, and Saviour of sinners; Your greatness is unsearchable, Your goodness is infinite,
Your compassions unfailing, Your providence boundless, and Your mercies are new everyday. I bless Your name for the words of salvation. How important, suitable, encouraging are the doctrines, promises, and invitations of the Gospel of peace! I am lost, but in the Good News You have presented to me a full, free and eternal salvation. I am weak, but in the Good News I learn that help is found in One that is mighty. I am poor, but in Christ I discover unsearchable riches. And I am blind, but In Christ I find that he has treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Lord, I thank thee for Your unspeakable gift. Your Son is my only refuge, foundation, hope, confidence. I depend upon His death, rest in His righteousness, and desire to bear His image. May His glory fill my mind, may His love reign in my heart, and may His cross inflame me with a humble zeal. Amen.


Scripture Reading (1 Thessalonians 5:12-18)

12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

25 Brothers and Sisters, pray for us.

26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.

27 I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.

28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.


Reflection

A Call to Empathy (by Pastor Seth Nelson of Faith Lutheran Church of Ronan)

Blessings on your April! Though Easter morning fell on April Fools Day this year, the resurrection is no joke! We continue to live into the reality of the resurrection by observing an Easter season that extends until the day of Pentecost on May 20th this year. May hope in the resurrection bring you joy throughout this season!

A hundred years ago Allied forces were bogged down in a brutal, prolonged war with Germany on the western front in France and beyond. The Great War, better known here as World War I, turned out to be far more atrocious than anyone could have imagined at its beginning. The fighting had broken down into an entrenched stalemate with forces on either side shooting at each other from earthen fortifications across “no man’s land” – the area between the forces that endured intense shelling over the years of fighting, a space that few dared to enter because it meant almost certain death. The holes that the soldiers slept in were disease ridden, gas masks were standard issue because of all the chemical weapons that were in regular use, and soldiers’ prospects of survival were bleak.

Now, you might think that living in this sort of military muck and engaging the enemy day after day would make you hate your opponent more and more with each passing day. As you looked over the shelled areas between you, trying to pick off soldiers one by one, knowing that their continued survival would keep you from returning home, it would seem only natural for you to hate those you were trained to kill and treat them as nothing but an object to be overcome. Yet, surprisingly, officers on the front lines of this terrible conflict started staggering the times that their men spent on the line because they discovered that if their troops were facing the same enemy faces for too long they would stop shooting at them or start missing their targets on purpose. Even though these soldiers spent every miserable day at the front looking across the destruction that their enemies had wrought on the land, they began to empathize with their opponents and realize that they too were mere men caught up in a larger fight. Instead of developing hatred for their opponents, they grew to see them with greater humanity the longer they faced them. Officers had to keep their troops from looking at the same enemies regularly or they would begin to empathize with those that they were supposed to neutralize.

The Google dictionary defines empathy as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” One who shows empathy is a person who looks across the trenches, battle lines, and ‘no man’s lands’ that divide us and sees more than an enemy – they see a person who is called up in the same battle that ranges around us all but simply ended up on the other side. In the polarized times in which we live, there are many stark battle lines drawn to keep people behind the thresholds of extremes and these battle lines are keeping us divided. A poll on the news this morning reported that nearly ninety percent of both Republicans and Democrats view those with political differences negatively, effectively proving that right now people are not practicing empathy across political divides. Many in our time are unable to understand or share the feelings and perspectives of others, especially of those with whom they disagree. But, as people of faith, we believe that we are all formed in the image of God and we all share in the love of the One who made us and saves us. If soldiers in one of the most dreadful wars in human history can show empathy towards their enemies, imagine what we can do here on the homefront.


Silent Meditation (Compassion Hymn)

(As you think about today’s passage and reflection on empathy, listen to this song)


Closing Prayer

A Prayer for Empathy

God, our world is bent and broken. But this didn’t stop You from showing Your great love for us by sending Your Son to empathize with us in our weakness. Help me to do likewise. He me to view everyone I interact with the way that You see them. Allow me to be a part of Your solution to the brokenness in this world. Show me how to partner with You in creating sustainable change. I recognize that in order to do that, I need to be willing to share in the pain of others. Give me the courage to do that, and then, help me to take action. Let empathy and restoration start with me. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, Who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
Forever and ever.

Amen.


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The concept of this service is © All Souls.