SHW and I have become runners. Or perhaps, “runners”. It is about the only exercise we have time for with two small children in the house, so we do our best to run three times a week. Of course, we can’t run together because Child Protective Services wouldn’t like it much if we lift the children alone, so she runs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while I get Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. It all sounds very good on paper, but when my alarm goes off at 5 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays, running seems like the worst idea ever conceived. This week, I’ve laid in bed and shouted in my head, “Get up! Get out of bed! You can do this!” for 5 minutes until my body was convinced to roll over and start the process of falling out the door to run. Some days, it is even harder to get motivated, but in the end I run because I want to be healthy, I want to be able to play with my girls, and I want to feel good, which I always do when I run with regularity.
Finding motivation to do most of the things in life is fairly easy. I’m motivated to work because I have bills to pay. I’m motivated to work as a priest because I feel called to serve God and the Church in that capacity. I’m motivated to study for a DMin because I enjoy the challenge and three weeks with friends in Sewanee, TN isn’t too shabby either. There are other things, like running, that take some extra effort to get up and moving for. I’m an introvert, so motivating myself to attend a cocktail party can be difficult. I’m terrible at small talk, so getting up the gumption to make pastoral visits is really hard for me. I’m afraid of heights, so cleaning the pecan limbs off my roof isn’t a top priority. Still, most of my day-to-day activities in this vocation find a motivation in compassion – “the sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”
In the Gospel lesson for Sunday, we find Jesus moved by compassion for the Widow at Nain. I had a hunch that this wasn’t the only story that included compassion, so I did a quick BibleWorks search of the crazy long Greek word that is translated as “compassion” and found two other instances in Luke’s Gospel. In chapter 10, the Good Samaritan is motivated by compassion to help the wounded traveler, and in chapter 15, the Prodigal Father is motivated by compassion to take off running and embrace his long-lost son. All three instances of compassion in Luke include violating long held traditional values: touching the dead, the Hebrew/Samaritan divide, and basically everything about the Prodigal Father’s reaction to his son’s return. As I reflect back on almost six years of ordained ministry here at Saint Paul’s, I can see times where compassion has pulled us out of our comfort zone in love and service, and I am grateful. I’m proud to be part of a community that seeks to emulate Christ and is motivated by compassion to serve its community.