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God's name is Mercy!

02 Jul 2016

Matt 25:3146: God’s name is Mercy

The other day, I met a fellow minister who lives not far from here and comes from a social background totally different from mine. He showed me his calling card, which said: ‘The Pie and Liquor’,  Cockney rhyming slang for ‘vicar’. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was annoyed because I didn’t come up with it first! 

God has many names: in fact Jesus has 366, one for every day of the year, including a leap year! One particular name is Mercy. If you were to meet him and he gave you his card, it would probably say Mr Mercy!  This is because he cannot be anything else but himself, as the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: ‘If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.

Because Father God’s mercy is infinitely greater than our sin, his mercy medicine is infinitely stronger than our sin illness. For the repentant sinner who happens to continue sinning again and again because of weakness, he will find forgiveness if he acknowledges his need and asks for God’s mercy, as King David did in Ps 51:1: ‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to your lovingkindness . . .’  But the corrupt person is the one who sins and does not repent; he pretends to be righteous but lives unrighteously. It is this double life that is scandalous to God. God forgives everyone, he offers new possibilities to everyone, he showers his mercy to everyone but only if they ask for it.

Nowhere do we see mercy exercised better by Jesus than with the healing of the leper. At great risk, Jesus stood beside the leper. Why ‘at great risk’? Remember, Jesus was a rabbi; for a rabbi to touch a leper was to be unclean; to be unclean meant social rejection, ceremonial washing and seven days’ living outside the city. What really mattered – matters to Jesus isn’t the legalism of ‘abstaining’ but his mercy in partnering. What really matters to Jesus is that he reaches stranded people, people on society’s edges, the marginalised, the outsiders, the forgotten, the rejected and the refused. This poem shows how God sees us:

The Master was searching for a vessel to use. On the shelf there were many – which one would He choose? ‘Take me, cried the gold one, ‘I’m shiny and bright, I’m of great value and I do things just right. My beauty and lustre will outshine the rest and for someone like You, Master, gold would be best!’

The Master passed on with no word at all; He looked at a silver urn, narrow and tall. ‘I’ll serve You, dear Master, I’ll pour out Your wine and I’ll be at Your table whenever You dine, my lines are so graceful, my carvings so true, and my silver will always compliment You.’

Unheeding the Master passed on to the brass, it was widemouthed and shallow, and polished like glass. ‘Here! Here!’ cried the vessel, ‘I know I will do, place me on Your table for all men to view.’

‘Look at me,’ called the goblet of crystal so clear, ‘my transparency shows my contents so dear, though fragile am I, I will serve You with pride, and I’m sure I’ll be happy in Your house to abide.’

The Master came next to a vessel of wood, polished and carved, it solidly stood. ‘You may use me, dear Master,’ the wooden bowl said, ‘but I’d rather You used me for fruit, not for bread!’

Then the Master looked down and saw a vessel of clay. Empty and broken it helplessly lay. No hope had the vessel that the Master might choose, to cleanse and make whole, to fill and to use.

‘Ah! This is the vessel I’ve been hoping to find, I will mend and use it and make it all Mine. I need not the vessel with pride of its self; nor the one who is narrow to sit on the shelf; nor the one who is bigmouthed and shallow and loud; nor one who displays his contents so proud; not the one who thinks he can do all things just right; but this plain earthy vessel filled with My power and might.’

Then gently He lifted the vessel of clay. Mended and cleansed it and filled it that day. Spoke to it kindly: ‘Theres work you must do, Just pour out to others as I pour into you.’

Mercy is best served to those to whom others refuse to give it: the marginalised, the rejected, the refused, the rebuked, the shunned and the poor.

As we have received so shall we give. As Father God waits for us with open arms, we too should extend our arms to those who need embracing.  May This Be Said For Us. Amen.

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