Thoughts on the Mercy of God

A Liturgical Christian’s Understanding of Mercy

Bryan’s note: As I travel the internet I occasionally find something out of the ordinary.  Something that stands out and blesses me.  The following text is a wonderfully precise definition and application of God’s mercy.  I hope it blesses you the way it blessed me.

…………………………………………………………………….

Many people remember the Russian couple, the Rosenbergs, who were tried in court for treason against the United States. The trial was a long and bitter one. As the final sentence was pronounced, the lawyer for the Rosenbergs cried out, “Your Honor, what my clients ask for is justice!”

Judge Kaufman replied, “What the court has given them is what they ask,  justice! What they really want is mercy. But mercy is something this court has no right to give them.”

The One who has the right to give mercy is God.

The Theme of God’s Mercy

This is brought out in the Gospel reading of the Pharisee and the Publican. “God, be merciful to me the sinner,” prayed the Publican. His only plea was for mercy, Kyrie Eleison!  Without this prayer Christianity would be a philosophy, a history, a code but not a religion that saves.

The same theme of God’s mercy is expressed again in the Gospel lesson of the Prodigal Son. Listen to the words of the following hymn from the vesper service of the Prodigal Son:

“As the Prodigal Son I come to you, merciful God. I have wasted my whole life in a foreign land; I have scattered the wealth which You gave me, O Father.

“Receive me in repentance, O God, and have mercy upon me.”

One of the most beautiful examples of God’s mercy is the prodigal son, who leaves home, wastes all his father’s resources in sin, ends up living with pigs, remembers his father, repents, and returns home where he is embraced by the waiting father, who declares a feast to celebrate his return. That is God’s mercy.

The same theme of mercy is emphasized again in the Gospel reading which deals with the second coming of Christ. Listen to the words of the following hymn from the Orthros:

“Have mercy, O Lord, have mercy upon me. I cry to you, when you come with your angels to give to every person due return for his/her deeds.”

From the Matins’ Services of Lent
 After the Gospel reading at matins on each Sunday during Lent, we hear the following beautiful hymns of repentance:

“Open to me the doors of repentance, O Life-Giver …But in your compassion purify me by the loving kindness of your mercy.

“When I think of the many evil things I have done, wretch that I am, I tremble at the fearful day of judgment, but trusting in Your loving-kindness, like David I cry out to You. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your great mercy.”

These hymns are preceded by the reading of Psalm 51, one of the most used psalms in Orthodox worship services. In this Psalm, David asks God’s mercy for his sins and proclaims that God’s steadfast love and mercy are greater than the sins of His creatures:

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love. According to Thy abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Ps. 51.1-2) .

From the Penitential Canon of St. Andrew of Crete
 Another place where the call to God for mercy is heard during the first week of Lent is in the penitential canon of St. Andrew of Crete sung each evening during compline. Listen to some of the hymns:

“I have sinned, Lord, I have sinned against you.
Be merciful to me though there is no one whose sins I have not surpassed.
I cry to You, O Lord: Have mercy, have mercy on me!
When You come with Your angels to give due reward to each person for his deeds.

“I have sinned as no other person before,
I have transgressed more than any other, O Lord.
Before the Day of Judgment comes be merciful to me, O Lover of Man.

“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!”

David once showed us the image of true repentance in a psalm he wrote exposing all that he had done:

“Be merciful to me and cleanse me!” he wrote,

“For against You only have I sinned, the God of our fathers.
Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!
I have distorted Your image, O Savior, and broken Your commandments.
The beauty of my soul has been spoiled, and its light extinguished by my sins.”
in David’s words, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.”

“But have pity on me and,”

“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!
Return! Return! Uncover what is hidden!”

“Say to God who knows all things:
‘You are my only Savior and know my terrible secrets.’
Yet in David’s words I cry to You:
‘Be merciful to me, O God, according to Your steadfast love.'”

“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!”

http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7124

C.S. Lewis takes on the Incarnation

 
The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation.  They say that God became Man.  Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. . . .
 
“In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity . . . down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature He has created.
 
But He goes down to come up again and bring the ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders.
 
Or one may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to colour and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both coloured now that they have come up into the light: down below, where it lay colourless in the dark, he lost his colour, too.
 
In this descent and re-ascent everyone will recognise a familiar pattern: a thing written all over the world. It is the pattern of all vegetable life. It must belittle itself into something hard, small and deathlike, it must fall into the ground: thence the new life re-ascends.
 
It is the pattern of all animal generation too. There is descent from the full and perfect organisms into the spermatozoon and ovum, and in the dark womb a life at first inferior in kind to that of the species which is being reproduced: then the slow ascent to the perfect embryo, to the living, conscious baby, and finally to the adult.
 
So it is also in our moral and emotional life. The first innocent and spontaneous desires have to submit to the deathlike process of control or total denial: but from that there is a re-ascent to fully formed character in which the strength of the original material all operates but in a new way. Death and Rebirth–go down to go up–it is a key principle. Through this bottleneck, this belittlement, the highroad nearly always lies.
 
The doctrine of the Incarnation, if accepted, puts this principle even more emphatically at the centre.  The pattern is there in Nature because it was first there in God.  All the instances of it which I have mentioned turn out to be but transpositions of the Divine theme into a minor key.  I am not now referring simply to the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ.  The total pattern, of which they are only the turning point, is the real Death and Re-birth: for certainly no seed ever fell from so fair a tree into so dark and cold a soil as would furnish more than a faint analogy to this huge descent and re-ascension in which God dredged the salt and oozy bottom of Creation.” 
 
C. S. Lewis, Miracles (New York: Macmillan, 1947), 112, 115-17.

One Small Step, For One Large Life

We have a built-in a deep, voracious hunger for God and nothing can change that fact.  You will never find anything that will satisfy this craving.  My lovely wife loves chocolate, and I love my lattes.  But they absolutely pale in the light of Him; there is no comparison.  Fact #1, we were made to walk with God.

“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus”–Blaise Pascal

 

Life unfolds before you, and your life has a definite purpose.  Fact #2, God wants to connect you to himself.  In the Garden-of-Eden days, Adam and Eve had this incredible relationship with him.  The Bible tells us that God desired to “walking in the garden in the the cool of the day.”  He has not changed.  He wants to go hiking with you!

C.S. Lewis once said, “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”

 

 Some of us who are reading this suffer from mental issues.  Others struggle with broken relationships and divorce.  There are those who deperately live out of their physical difficulties, illnesses and addictions.

I invite you to consider a life with God through Jesus.  Fact #3, your load will not be any lighter nor your path less challenging.  But walking with God will fufill your dreams of purpose and meaning.  His love and forgiveness can surround you and give you a new life.  It would be a honor to help you make this step.

Please pursue this further, http://www.4laws.com/laws/englishkgp/

God’s Red Bull

by Bryan Lowe

There is a real tendency for entropy as a follower of Jesus.  Things have a real tendency to wind down, and start moving in the opposite direction.  I think all of us can relate to the “Sunday Syndrome”.  In this truly wonderful world of fellowship, worship and the Word we seem to come together.  Life is good on a Sunday morning.  And it should be.

But we wind down, and by Thursday we have sinned and compromised a hundred times or more.  Life is not good on a Thursday afternoon.  Because of our mental illness this degradation downward is usually worse.  We experience a whole lot of shame and guilt.   And having issues with depression, anxiety, or OCD makes consistency even harder.  It is a challenge to maintain a credible Christian walk. It’s kind of the deflated feeling  four hours after downing three Red Bulls.

Paul, himself an interesting fellow, described his own personal walk with Jesus in Philippians 3:10f. in the Message Bible.

10-11I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.

Focused on the Goal

 12-14I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. 

Can you tap into that energy?  Paul is pretty aggressive here, he models a “muscular Christianity” that pushes through every obstacle, whether within or without.  Most of our translations use the word “work” when translating “effort”.  The Church fathers used the word “energy” instead.  There is a distinction.  Energy, or “energize” denotes an outside source for power.  I energize my electric razor when I plug it in at night.  It takes a charge and runs accordingly on demand.

We are to press in, and to reach.  We are to be energized by contact with God’s Spirit.  He fills us up, enables us to run full tilt, stretching and straining.  The muscles in the neck popping out, and lunging for the tape.  Paul was an athlete in the Spirit.

These days, developing a spiritual athleticism would not be such a bad idea.  We live in a society where 22 men desperately in need of rest, are surrounded by 40,000 people desperately in need of exercise.  We have become a society of observers and that is a shame.  God loves us, sent his only Son to die for us.  God sets us up with a energy-packed, Red Bull. And I respond with an anemic, 2% milk religion.  And that perhaps is the real tragedy.

 
%d bloggers like this: