Tag Archives: mercy

Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C

The Wideness in God’s Mercy

The Apostle Peter had preached to the Cornelius the Centurion, who became the first Gentile Christian believer. His association with Gentiles lead to complications, however. The circumcised believers in Jerusalem wanted to know why Peter ate with uncircumcised men. Peter explained:

“I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, `Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I replied, `By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But a second time the voice answered from heaven, `What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, `Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, `John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”   (Acts 11:5-18)

This question was not new to Peter. Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors who were considered uncircumcised. The Pharisees questioned his disciples why he ate with them. When Jesus heard their question he explained:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”   (Matthew 9:12-13)

Jesus quoted from the Prophet Hosea:

For I desire mercy and not sacrifice,
And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.   (Hosea 6:6)

It is time for all of us to learn the knowledge of God. We need to understand who God is. God is mercy. The psalmist wrote:

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.   (Psalm 103:11-14)

Without God’s mercy none of us would have any hope.

When Jesus was being betrayed and facing the cross, he gave his disciples a new commandment:

At the last supper, when Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”   (John 13:31-35)

We have been given mercy by God. Jesus is calling us to show mercy to others. The Prophet Micah wrote:

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?   (Micah 6:8)

If, even as believers we have fallen into sin, let us not give up on God. Our sin does not remove God’s mercy. His mercy is everlasting. We should not take it for granted, however. Our nation is in need of revival. Our churches are in need of reformation.

Let us pray like the Prophet Habakkuk:

O Lord, I have heard of your renown, and I stand in awe, O Lord, of your work. In our own time revive it; in our own time make it known; in wrath may you remember mercy.   (Habakkuk 3:2)

From today’s reading from Revelation we have a picture of the new heaven and the new earth:

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them as their God;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”   (Revelation 21:3-4)

Only by God’s mercy can we participate in his eternal gift. Let us cling to it. Let us demonstrate it to others. Amen.

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Filed under Eucharist, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year C

Tuesday in the Third Week of Lent

Mercy and Forgiveness

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were three pious Jewish youths who were thrown into a fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. We remember that they had refused to bow down to the king’s image as told in the Book of Daniel. God preserved them from harm. The king looked into the furnace and saw four men walking in the flames, the fourth like “a son of god”.

The following is part of the prayer of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from within the flames of the furnace:

In our day we have no ruler, or prophet, or leader,
no burnt-offering, or sacrifice, or oblation, or incense,
no place to make an offering before you and to find mercy.

Yet with a contrite heart and a humble spirit may we be accepted,
as though it were with burnt-offerings of rams and bulls,
or with tens of thousands of fat lambs;
such may our sacrifice be in your sight today,
and may we unreservedly follow you,
for no shame will come to those who trust in you.   (Song of the Three Young Men 15-17)

Israel was in exile. It was no longer possible to offer burnt offerings to God. Offerings were a way for the Israelites to acknowledge their sin-fullness before God – a way of approaching him great humility and thankfulness for his mercy. King David’s psalm speaks about the best way we can all approach God.

For you have no delight in sacrifice;
    if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.   (Psalm 51:16-17)

God performed a great miracle that day. The young men were spared. What is significant is that these they could approach God without any offering and God still accepted their prayer. God is full of mercy and abounding in steadfast love. Nevertheless, how we approach God is all important.

It is a matter of our faith, but also a matter of our heart. God takes sin very seriously. Israel was asked by God to make sacrifices to him, but nothing that we do can compare to the sacrifice that God made to us. He has given us his only begotten Son to die on a cross for our sins.

We remember the parable that Jesus told about the wicked slave who, once forgiven a debt my his master, turned around and was unforgiving to his fellow slaves. It concludes this way:

Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”   (Matthew 18:32-35)

We will certainly never be able to pay our debt to God. Jesus has paid our debt for us. What is our attitude towards God for so great a sacrifice? Do we have a grateful heart? If so, then how do we demonstrate that heart in our love for God and our neighbors?

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Filed under Jesus, lectionary, Lent, Lenten daily readings, Lenten study, Revised Common Lectionary, Year A

Friday in the First Week of Lent

Fairness

Jesus told the parable of the workers in the field. The ones who worked only the last h0ur got the same wages that the ones who worked all day long. The early workers thought that their pay was unfair. They were not prepared for the master’s response:

Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”   (Matthew 20:14-16)

Some of us are late bloomers. Thanks be to God for his mercy! God does not judge the way we judge. He does not keep score by the amount of work we do for him. Rather, he judges the heart. Love does not keep a record of wrongs, but rejoices in the right (1 Corinthians 13:5-6). If we need a theological explanation then here it is:

Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die.   (Ezekiel 18:25-28)

It is time for us to give up score-keeping on others, and even on ourselves. The Psalmist wrote:

If you, LORD, were to note what is done amiss,
O Lord, who could stand?   (Psalm 130:2)

Jesus said:

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.   (Matthew 5:23-24)

The Gospel should free us from all score-keeping because we have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus. We should then forgive others and seek their forgiveness as well.

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Filed under Jesus, lectionary, Lent, Lenten daily readings, Lenten study, Revised Common Lectionary, Year C