The title of Anne Lamott’s new book caught my attention: “Hallelujah Anyway – Rediscovering Mercy.” I’ll put my negative critique of the book out on the table first. I found this book to be something like looking for an intact seashell in a pound of sand. It’s exciting when you find the beauty of the shell, but you have to sift through quite a bit of sand to get there. Now, having shared my critique, let me tell you that I still recommend Lamott’s book. The nuggets contained in it are quite helpful and thought-provoking. Because I was reading this particular book, I heard the reading of 1 Peter 2 differently when we read it in worship a few weekends ago. Listen again to verses 9 & 10 (in reverse order): 10Once you were not a people, But now you are God’s people; Once you had not received mercy, But now you have received mercy. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Now you are God’s people because you have received mercy. Now you are God’s own people (race and nation here does not refer to a particular blood line, geographical location, or timeframe of human life). Because of the mercy you have received from God you are now in a position to live in the light and to have a new purpose in life. That purpose is to be a reflection of God’s mercy in the world. Anne Lamott suggests that mercy means that “we no longer constantly judge everybody’s large and tiny failures, foolish hearts, dubious convictions, and inevitable bad behavior.” When you look up “mercy” in Frederick Buechner’s book, “Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC” you are referred to the definition of the word “judgment.” What both of these authors are suggesting is that mercy begins with the fact that God has chosen to love us in spite of the fact that we don’t deserve it. Likewise, mercy becomes an expected characteristic of how the people of God will treat other people in the world. It seems to me that mercy becomes the act of living out the grace of God that has been shown to us. The temptation is to say, “Thank you God for treating me with mercy.” Yet, we are being asked by God to take it a step further by demonstrating mercy to others. Acting in mercy and considering someone I have problems with, I will think, “Even though I don’t think you deserve it, I will still give you the benefit of the doubt and will treat you with respect and kindness.” June-July, 2017 June-July, 2017 Grace Notes is also available online at www.gracelc.org/news/grace-notes Page 2 Anne Lamott does a beautiful job of examining the Old Testament story of Joseph. You remember Joseph whose brothers left him in the ditch to die; yet, he ended up distributing the food for Pharaoh during a great famine. Suddenly Joseph’s brothers were standing before him asking for life-saving grain. Lamott proposes that in Joseph’s life situation mercy began as forgiveness. Then forgiveness grew to “here’s the food you need.” (That was an action of compassion.) And finally, Joseph opened up the relationship and in essence said, “Let’s be brothers again.” (That is the attitude of mercy.) Our world seems to be a bit short of mercy at the moment (perhaps it always has been!). As disciples of Jesus we need to rediscover our call to show mercy. We do give thanks that in Christ, God’s judgment on humanity is merciful. I pray that we will not only be thankful for the mercy we receive but that we will learn to show mercy to the rest of God’s beloved creation.
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