Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Trinity 4 (July 5, 2009)
For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE
TITLE: “The God of mercy”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for this morning is from the Gospel lesson just read.
What does it mean to be merciful? We talk about mercy a lot in the church. But usually when we talk about mercy, we’re talking about an attribute of God. God is merciful. Or maybe we’re talking about the school playground. MERCY! Stop hurting my hands! I give up! You win! You know the game.
Jesus, however, is not really interested in a word like mercy simply being something you hear on Sunday morning. He calls you to live a life of mercy. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. When we talk about mercy as this attribute or perhaps picture of God, it has to be concrete. It has to have flesh and blood. So let’s look at mercy and think through what it might mean in our common life together here at Messiah. Here are a few examples of mercy:
Mercy means helping those who can’t help themselves. It means looking around you, every day, all the time, and asking how you can serve the people God puts into your life every day.
Mercy means not assuming the worst about your neighbor. Jesus also puts it another way and says don’t judge. Don’t assume that you know all the trials and difficulties that those around you are facing. You don’t. Only God does. Don’t judge doesn’t mean that the Law doesn’t matter. Some people and circumstances demand judgment. But what it does mean is that we don’t ever pretend to be greater than those around us.
This has real live, concrete conclusions. Let me give you a few examples from our context here at Messiah:
What this means is that when the child in the pew behind you is being too loud, don’t assume it’s because the child has terrible parents. Don’t judge and be merciful means offering to help instead of fuming on the inside.
Now of course, that goes both ways doesn’t it? Just as the folks in front or behind the noisy kid judge and assume the worst, in the same way the parents can easily become callous and crass toward the people around them. It’s hard to hear with a child hollering in the row behind you, and the point of church is to hear what God has to say. Sometimes being merciful means taking your child out and disciplining them, rather than keeping them in church to teach them a lesson.
Be merciful means showing actual, real kindness toward those around you. If one of our elderly couples needs help in the parking lot, offer to move your car so they can get closer. If you have offended someone, even if it isn’t your fault, apologize and make things right. If your neighbor needs help with their yard because they’re running behind, help them. Can you help with the We C.A.R.E. Program here at church? Do it.
Be merciful also means never assume that you are more pious, a better Christian, or a better person than someone else. Maybe you don’t have any of your family in jail. So what. Maybe your job is more secure than your neighbor’s. So what. Maybe you do help those in need around you, so that in your mind you give more than anyone else. It doesn’t matter. You can never be merciful enough. You can never get everything right, always show kindness to those around you, and be there when the chips are down.
This, of course, is what Jesus is talking about when he speaks of hypocrites, specks and planks. The more time we dwell on the problems, sins, and faults of others around us, the less time we spend in repentance, prayer, and in receiving the gift of forgiveness that only God can give. Repent. You are a hypocrite. So am I. You do judge those around you. So do I. You are unmerciful, self-righteous and full of your own holiness. So am I. Repent.
God, however, is merciful and gracious, long-suffering, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Jesus points these things out to you so that you will despair of your own works and rely solely on Him. And what a beautiful One that is to rely upon! He is always merciful. He always listens to your trials. He understands them because He has taken them into Himself. Where others migh tsk tsk and secretly judge your failings, Jesus went to the cross to die so that you might live and have hope. The judgment that Jesus puts upon you is not guilty, because he has paid the price for all your sins and shortcomings.
That’s the Gospel, friends. It is for you mean spirited and hard hearted. It is for you self-righteous and judgmental. It is for the weak in faith and for those who think they are strong. The Gospel is for everyone. Jesus is for you.
So this day, as we feast again on our Lord’s precious Body and Blood, repent and believe that Jesus died for you and rose again so that you might have new life. Put off that old self, and wear your baptismal robes that cover all your sins. Come and feast and receive the Life that only He can give, the life of service, the life of mercy, the life that is yours in Christ Jesus. Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.