Love mercy

June 22, 2009

“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

The only sermon I remember from my 5 years in Melbourne was one where Tim Costello preached on Micah 6. He spoke about mercy in a way that I’d never thought about before. He said that mercy was knowing full well that you can get screwed over and still doing it anyway. That stuck with me because it wasn’t about being naive and being too stupid to realise what you were getting yourself into. It was about still making the seemingly stupid choice because that was what the Lord required of you and you trusted that He knew better. I wasn’t sure I could accept that. It goes against all of my economist/darwinist instincts. It still does.

The only sermon (or snatches of a sermon) I heard in my 4 weeks in the US was on the same passage. J and I had wandered into a Catholic church and they had just started mass so we sat down. The priest read out Micah 6:8 and I remembered Tim Costello’s sermon. Love mercy. If I had trouble accepting “love mercy” as an idealistic 20 yo in Melbourne, I definitely am 10 steps further away from accepting “love mercy” now. Now knowing the what mercy can cost me. Giving up my rights to self-defence. Still doing it anyway. This is what the Lord requires of me? Wow. And yet, I think I’ve seen enough to now also know that mercy is one of the only ways to break a really destructive cycle of tit for tat. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

One thing nice about the Catholic church is that they kneel to pray. There is something serious about that prayer. It seems more serious than praying sitting down in the pews somehow. In my highly logical, transactional way of thinking, I thought aloud to God (prayed, if you will) that mercy was an illogical concept. Which person (not me) in the right state of mind would do something knowing full well that they could get screwed over? And yet my heart knows that the whole point of being Christian is to live in a way that is counter-intuitive because it breaks the cycle. Is that not what I call “grace”? But still I cannot bring myself to get over the mental hurdle to love mercy – notjust  as a happy-touchy-feely idea but as a serious way of life. So I prayed for the uncomfortable disconnect between my transactional brain and my heart that loves God and takes what He requires of me quite seriously.  (Thorn in my flesh indeed.)

Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. Urg.



Thank you, Lord

May 8, 2009

Thank you, Lord,
for the trials that come my way.
In that way I can grow each day
as I let you lead,
And thank you, Lord,
for the patience those trials bring.
In that process of growing,
I can learn to care.

But it goes against the way
I am to put my human nature down
and let the Spirit take control of all I do.

‘Cause when those trials come,
my human nature shouts the thing to do;
and God’s soft prompting
can be easily ignored.

I thank you, Lord,
with each trial I feel inside,
that you’re there to help,
lead and guide me away from wrong.
‘Cause you promised, Lord,
that with every testing,
that your way of escaping is easier to bear.

I thank you, Lord,
for the victory that growing brings.
In surrender of everything
life is so worth while.
And I thank you, Lord,
that when everything’s put in place,
out in front I can see your face,
and it’s there you belong.

Didn’t know you liked the song.  It’s one of my favourites too.


Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. Grade I piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child’s name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, the radio’s prayer –
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.

Carol Ann Duffy

Dr C. Everett Koop

May 5, 2009

I don’t have very many intelligent things to say about the whole Aware saga but I will share what I read for my QT on Saturday.  It’s from a book that I read on and off.  “Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church” by Philip Yancey.  You can see why a book like that has a particular resonance with me.  Anyway, there is a chapter on Dr C. Everett Koop, the Amercian Surgeon General in the 1980s.  It is one of the more profitable passages I’ve read on the intersection of religion and politics.

An excerpt:

“What went wrong, and what went right, in this zigzag saga of a believer who sought to serve God equally well in two conflicting arenas at once?  I have discussed these matters at length with Dr Koop and have learned much from his experience.  I have seen few effective models of Christians penetrating the wider society, especially in the field of politics.  Partisan politics run on power and antagonism, forces that directly counter the gospel principles of love and reconciliation.  Is it even possible, I wondered, to wield power in a loving way, or to oppose behaviour without opposing the one who behaves?  And what good is a faith that has little relevance to the broader culture?  “Be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves,” Jesus cautioned his disciples as he sent them out into the world.  All too often, Christians in politics demonstrate instead the wisdom of doves and the harmlessness of serpents.

I asked Koop what advice he could give his concerned citizens, like myself, who want to affect the laws of this country.  How could we do so more effectively?  He replied, “What bothered me most, as I reflect, was the lack of scholarship by Christians – as if they felt that by leaning on a theological principle they didn’t have to be very accurate with the facts.  People talk about knee-jerk liberals.  The liberals have no corner on that market;  I’ve learned there are also knee-jerk conservatives.  Christians should be involved in politics, and use their Christian principles, morality and ethics in the process.  But they shouldn’t jump over the process and voice their beliefs as the only possible outcome.”

Situations like what happened at Aware shine a light on the perpetual disconnect in my soul.  I am almost always the most conservative amongst liberals and the most liberal amongst conservatives.   I was asked to support the new exco and then to vote against the new exco.  I was told to mind my own business and then to stand up for my friends.  I listened to many angry people with many valid points of view.  It was all very troubling.  But I think about the gospel.  Full of its high-ideals and all-encompassing grace.  The ultimate in perpetual disconnect and yet, Christ doesn’t tilt from left to right (erratically) like I do but manages to hold both in a perfect, beautiful tension.  It baffles me.

I don’t know how else to respond to the Aware saga other than to say that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and that Christ came to the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.  Christian ideals are for Christians to uphold and we do a pretty pathetic job of it on a good day.  It seems unreasonable to impose Christian absolutes on those who do not even share Christian beliefs.  We talked about holiness at church on Sunday (in a sermon that had nothing to do with the Aware saga) and while it is true that God is holy and our (Christian) call is to be holy, it is also true that God is a merciful, loving and gracious God.  And it is always better to err on the side of mercy, love and grace.

I end this post with another excerpt from the same book:

“The only hope for any of us, regardless of our particular sins lies in a ruthless trust in a God who inexplicably loves sinners, including those who sin differently than we do.”

I would do well to always remember that.

Some weeks ago, we got some pretty bad news which made us all feel so terribly helpless. Someone asked me what we should do. I replied that we should pray like mad and walk alongside. It seemed so lame but that was really the best thing I could think of.

There was an amazing turn of events last week and in the midst of my little happy-dance in the office, my mind remembered this passage:

“24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:24-28

I thought about the prayers that I barely dare to pray and my God who hears them all the same. To pray for acceptance and comfort is one thing but to audaciously pray for a miracle is another.  But I realized that even my lack of faith isn’t a barrier to God answering prayer, which seems to suggest that lack of faith isn’t the reason in instances of lack of healing. (Incorrect teaching on the doctrine of healing is one of my major peeves!)

I’m really not the type to randomly exclaim Christian catchphrases but it seems to me that there are moments in life where “Praise God!” is really the only appropriate response.  Last week was one of those moments and I was pretty much been grinning like an idiot for the rest of the day.

There is something to be said about good, old-fashioned joy.  🙂

The Fragrance of Christ

April 24, 2009

“14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.  15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.  16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?  17 For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.”

2 Corinthians 2:14-17

One of the first things I learnt in Nepal was there is a difference in the way you would greet a Christian and a non-Christian. The standard greeting is Namaste. But the Christian greeting is Jayamercy (or at least, that’s how it sounds like to me). It means that you wishing the person victory in Christ.

V14 was therefore an interesting verse for me to read. “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” I thought about how God was leading us to Nepal “in triumph (or victory) in Christ”. Jayamercy.

I also thought about the sense of smell. It is different from other senses. If you don’t want to see, you can close your eyes. If you don’t want to touch, you can remove your hand. If you don’t want to hear, you can cover your ears. If you don’t want to taste, you can spit it out. But it is difficult not to smell because at some point, you will still need to breathe. So it seems to be me that whether we like it or not, we are the fragrance of Christ and that has some very very interesting implications for Christian living.

(Also had some thoughts on the difference between diffusion and osmosis and how diffusion just goes everywhere but I’m no science student.)

And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “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 9:11-13

Today, I remembered that I am a sinner saved by GRACE. Not works.

I hate it when people cite religious principles as the reason why they take a hard stand. Jesus would have had lunch.