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“But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him”. Luke chapter 10 verse 33

In these difficult times, I like to listen to the radio. Last week I heard a programme that really excited me*. I’d like to share something from it with you … so apologies to anyone who heard the same programme!

The contributor, Richard Holloway, a broadcaster and once the Bishop of Edinburgh, was talking about the subtlety of language. He explained that the Greek word for compassion used by Luke in the retelling of the parable of the Good Samaritan was splagchnizomai. Usually, we’d think of the word compassion to mean a feeling of pity or sympathy. A feeling that is relatively gentle, untroubling and unchallenging to the person feeling that compassion. Perhaps even one that makes you feel good? But the meaning of the word used by Luke is "to be moved to one's innards." You may well yourself be familiar with the sensation, when you feel something intensely enough, that your stomach actually ‘churns’. This is what Jesus was telling us that the Samaritan felt. He didn’t just have vague feeling of compassion towards the victim. He had an overwhelming ‘gut reaction’ that told him that he must go and care for him. A compulsion strong enough to override the fear and the concern for his own safety that he might otherwise have felt.  

As we think and pray about our vision as a church this year, what gives us that ‘gut wrenching’ feeling of compassion? And what, like the Samaritan, are we going to do about it?

* The radio programme was 'The Death of Nuance' Oliver Burkeman and the episode broadcast on New Year's Day entitled 'Regaining Nuance'. You can listen to the episode here:

Penny Cox, 11/01/2021