Sunday, August 14, 2005

Sermon from the 13th Sunday after Pentecost, August 14, 2005

In the name of the God the Creator, Jesus the Liberator, and the Holy Spirit the Sustainer. AMEN.

There are so many bad messages that you could take out of the lessons today. Jesus thinks we are dogs, Jesus treats us like dogs, we should be happy with the crumbs and pride is a good thing, just to name a few.

But the message I want us to think about today is summed up in a word that appears in Romans and Matthew. That word is mercy. The Canaanite woman called out to Jesus for mercy. Paul tells the readers in Romans we have received mercy from God. Mercy is a wonderful word. It can mean so much to all of us. It reminds us of all that God has done for us. When I look back on my life I see the mercy of God working so often. The challenge I face is to not let my sins and mistakes obscure the sight of God’s mercy in my life. In a life filled with failures and mis-steps I can often allow the mercy which God has show me be drowned out.

Once we have managed to focus on God’s mercy it should challenge us to demonstrate that same mercy to others. You see, mercy is not a one way street running from God directly to you and me. Mercy needs to flow in many directions. As a result of the mercy we receive from God we should be showing mercy to others.

How do we do that? What are the ways in which we are merciful to others? One way to do this is to show others the same mercy that God has shown us. This concept is in keeping with Jesus own command that we love our neighbors as ourselves. And it is also in keeping with our Baptismal and Confirmation promises when we agreed to “seek and serve Christ in all persons” as well as striving “for justice and peace among all people.”[1] These promises, which we all have made, are not just glib platitudes we spout off so we can feel particularly holy. They are promises seriously made to live out our faith in a way that demonstrates to others what God really means in our life. There are so many ways we can live out this call to show the mercy of God.

How often have you been having a terrible day. A day when nothing ever seems to go right for you no matter what you do and no matter how hard you try. And suddenly out of the blue a kind work spoken by a friend or a stranger touches your heart and reminds you of all the good there is in life. That is an experience of mercy.

When you are heading out the door for church on Sunday and you grab a can of corn or a box of cereal to put in the food basket, you are demonstrating the mercy of God. You are demonstrating God’s mercy to someone you may never see in your life, and yet God reaches out through you in mercy to feed a hungry family.

I can think of so many ways within the walls of St. Peter’s that I have seen people share the mercy of God with one another that I cannot even begin to list them. But in everything we do: cleaning, shelving, setting up, cooking, giving, making, supervising, and teaching. In all those things we share the mercy of God with one another.

God’s mercy is not something we are to hoard for ourselves. There is not a limited supply of it. We do not have to worry that if we share some mercy with others that there will be less for ourselves. The woman coming to Jesus and crying for mercy got exactly what she wanted. The disciples wanted to sent her away because she was a bother, a nuisance. Best to get rid of her so they can continue in a world of their own making. But that was not the answer from Jesus to the cry for mercy.

We find this example many places in the Gospel. In Luke (18:39) the blind man pleads for mercy and receives his sight. And there can be no doubt that God wants us to be merciful as well. In Hosea 6:6 the prophet tells the people that God does not want their sacrifices. What does God want from them? He wanted them to be merciful. And that is God wants from us as well. That is what our Church calls us to in our promises.

The words from Isaiah ring out loud and clear to us today. “Maintain justice and do what is right.” This sums up neatly what sharing mercy is all about in the world. Maintain justice and do what is right. I know that in my own life I have failed in this call many times. And when I do I must try to make amends to those whom I have failed and then trust that God will give me the strength to try once again to maintain justice and do what is right. I’m frustrated when I fail. But they key is to not give up hope that I can eventually do it. And as Christians that is what we need to do. Each one of us is called to follow the words of Isaiah and maintain justice and do what is right.

[1] BCP, 305 and 417.

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