Sunday, November 20, 2016

Merciful reign of Christ

Maybe you saw this story on CBS news this week. Dan’s wife died and he became seriously depressed. For six months he stayed at home, wishing he could die. It was as if he was already dead. The worst part of his life was having to get groceries. It meant that he had to leave the house and face other people in the store.
He shopped on Seniors Day, so the store was full of older people, as well as younger families. He was in the canned food aisle when a little voice said, “Hello, old person. Today is my birthday.” And then she asked for a hug.
Something about Nora’s invitation penetrated through the fog of Dan’s depression. And he began to talk with her. In the selfie photo they took, Dan’s grin was as big as Nora’s. The relationship that developed since has been filled with a love Dan says he has never before known.
Why did Nora approach Dan, and not the other “old persons” in the store? Why was she able to break into his depression and make a difference?  I think it was a God thing, a God-incidence. At this particular moment, God sent Nora to shine mercy into Dan’s heart.
… It was mercy that Jesus sent from the cross into the hearts of the two criminals on the crosses beside him. Only one of them accepted it and saw the possibilities of the future even though he was dying. He wanted the forgiveness and grace Jesus was offering. He reached out and received mercy.
Last week I talked about Jesus as Lord of all. Today I want us to see him as merciful Lord of all. The Bible is filled with stories of kings who did not obey God. Only a few were known to be mostly obedient to YHWH. That’s what makes King David and King Solomon so unique … they are not known to worship other gods … even though they are otherwise pretty sinful as human standards go.
Today is Christ the King Sunday. Our world and our history are also filled with stories of good and really awful kings and rulers. Jesus is nothing like any of them. So I usually think of Jesus as a sovereign, who reigns, and today is Reign of Christ Sunday. As Lord of All, Jesus reigns over everything there is and over all that happens. Unlike other rulers who may or may not be merciful rulers, Jesus rules, reigns, with mercy, and wants us to also be merciful.
… So, what does mercy look like in the “real world”? Every year, Hallmark Channel shows movies about the Christmas spirit. Often, there is a lead character who has experienced something that made her or him hate Christmas. The story tells of the mercy shown to the character by the community that surrounds them, and shows them the Christmas spirit, and eventually converts them into believers.
The movie Christmas Cookies told the story of Hannah, who was instructed by her boss to make a deal with Jake to purchase Jake’s company, Aunt Sally’s Christmas Cookies. Aunt Sally’s was experiencing financial difficulties and needed an influx of cash to continue to exist.
When Jake realized he was out of options, he agreed to a deal, with one important clause. Because the new owners planned to move the company out of town, the citizens would be out of work. So, Jake insisted that the purchase agreement gave any money he might to receive to the employees, the people of the town who worked at Aunt Sally’s.
Jake was more concerned about the others than about his own welfare, showing them mercy despite financial consequences for himself.
… Often, we are more interested in retribution, in revenge, than in mercy when someone harms us. We want them to hurt as much or more than we have hurt. It is hard for us to be merciful when we are in pain. Yet, this is what Jesus shows us, even while hanging on the cross.
This week we have seen riots in response to Mr Trump’s election. “Not my president,” the signs say. Blocks around his apartment building are guarded by soldiers and police officers and blockades. In part, this is normal protection, but in part this is because of fear of retribution against him. Where is the mercy that should be shown? When will they give him a chance to lead?
Yet, we will be watching to see if he shows mercy to those who are hurting. Will President Trump be a merciful ruler? That remains to be seen. On the other hand, we know we will always see mercy with Jesus, our merciful sovereign.  With Jesus, we see divine mercy.
… We see divine mercy when the hungry are fed, when there are jobs for the unemployed and under-employed, when there are homes for the homeless who want homes. We see divine mercy when a dying loved one is finally out of pain. We see divine mercy when refugees find a place to live, or are at last able to return home. We see divine mercy when someone listens to our stories and understands our heartache.
This week, look around for mercy being shown to you or to others. Give thanks for the mercy. Show some mercy to someone who is hurting. Tell someone Jesus loves and forgives them, so they receive some much-needed divine mercy. Give someone a hug, as Nora did with Dan, and share mercy with each other.
At the Thanksgiving meal this week, go around the table and tell a story of mercy, yours, or someone else’s. You can even tell a story you saw on TV, as I did today.

Please pray with me: Jesus, our Sovereign Lord, Ruler of All that is, be with us this week. Shine your mercy on us, and help us share mercy with others. In your holy name. Amen