I remember being on a plane with a mother and her toddler. We had almost made it to our destination, but about 20 minutes before landing the boy went off! He would not be consoled no matter what mom tried. It got to the point that one of the passengers offered assistance. For the next 20 mins or so the whole plane was serenaded by the lil fella!
This was the same sweet, chubby faced little boy who smiled at me in the airport, who offered his bagel to a complete stranger, and captivated the hearts of everyone at the gate. But now, it was a different story. Some passengers were awakened from their nap, some were clearly agitated, and some gave looks that could kill.
I even thought about getting up in hopes that he would remember my face and perhaps give me another smile. But what I did do was to sit there and pray. I prayed for the boy, that he wasn’t in any physical pain that was causing him to cry; I prayed for mom, that she would remain calm; and I prayed for the passengers, that they would be understanding and have compassion for them. That they would have mercy on them.
When you think about it, we’ve all been in situations of some kind in which we hoped that people would be understanding of us. I can remember a time that I swerved in front of a car. I simply didn’t see them; they were in a blind spot. And the person I cut off laid on that horn so loud! I waved my hand in apology, but I don’t think it phased them. So, now I have a little more compassion when people do that to me. I give them the benefit of the doubt because you really don’t know if they saw you or not. That’s mercy.
Webster defines mercy as compassion, lenient treatment, forbearance, refraining from the enforcement of something that is due (such as a debt or a right). In other words, mercy is not getting what you deserve. But sometimes we feel as though we have the right to be mad don’t we? We have the right to hold onto a grudge, to not forgive. After all, they hurt me! Then you remember Jesus’ words to Peter (and to us) on how often we should forgive:
Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times.
Now, before you start counting, Jesus didn’t intend for us to stop forgiving someone after a certain number of times, but to constantly be ready to forgive. Especially in light of everything God has forgiven us of…
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Since we have received such great mercy, we should be offering great mercy to others. That’s the story behind the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18. The king forgave the debt of one of his servants, but that same servant punished someone who owed him money.
32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt.
Jesus told this parable as an example of the kingdom of heaven and what God would do to those who refused to forgive. When Jesus taught us to pray, “forgive us our debts as we forgive others,” it was a call to action. Don’t just ask for forgiveness but extend forgiveness. Extend mercy.
But there’s another side of mercy – the side of justice. Matthew 25 tells of the judgment that will come on all nations for not showing mercy to the hungry, the sick, the stranger, and the prisoner. When we don’t show mercy to the least of these, when we don’t give them justice, it is as if we’re doing that to Jesus.
45 Then He [Jesus] will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment
but the righteous into eternal life.”
On this weekend when we remember the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the drum major for justice, may we have the courage of our convictions to do what the Word says, to care for the orphans, the widows, the strangers, the least of these among us. May we be the merciful ones Jesus preached about in the Beatitudes:
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Whether it’s forgiveness or justice, may we be the ones championing mercy in the world and showing it to everyone we encounter. Because one day, you just might find that you’re blowing the horn at your pastor, who’s simply trying to find her way home!
Even greater than that, one day we will have to give an account to God on what we did with the mercy that He so richly lavished on us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Join us on Sunday as we continue our All Things New sermon series with Mercy, Mercy, Me.
Dr. Martin Luther King Sunday will be celebrated this Sunday. Our service goal this year, as in past years, is to partner with Union Memorial UMC to collect as many books as we can and donate them to Pierre Laclede School! The books we collect should either be written by African Americans or written for African American students. The students are elementary and middle schoolers, and they especially need books for the older boys. The collection will start with MLK Sunday and continue to the end of February.
The Soltau Concert Series featuring the music of Johann Sebastian Bach will be on Sunday, January 14, 3pm. This concert always draws huge crowds, so get there early! There is no admission cost. A free will offering will be received. Come hear the wonderful musical artistry of musicians from all over St. Louis!
Leadership Training for the Leadership Board and Nominations Team will be on Saturday, January 27, from 10am-2pm, in the MPR. We will once again do it jointly with Union Memorial UMC. Lunch will be provided.
State of the Church will be on Saturday, February 3, 10am. This will give the year-end updates on ministry and finance and look ahead to goals for 2024.
Vision for 2024:
A House United:
Strong Faith, Strong Families, Strong Future!