I grew up in the Lutheran church. Faithfully, because I had a very demanding Godmother who took her title very seriously, I went to Sunday School and most of the time was the only student in my class. The church had it’s problems, but now I know how much it really taught me.
After Sunday School you could find me sitting next to my grandma in church. I would dig through the hymnals and her purse–for gum, of course. I would write and draw on the back of the offering envelopes and stand when I suppose to and sit until I had to go to the bathroom. One of the prayers we would say together went like this:
Most Merciful Heavenly Father
I confess that I’m in bondage to sin and cannot free myself.
I have sinned against you in thought, word and deed
By what I have done and by what I have left undone.
I have not loved you with my whole heart.
I have not loved my neighbor as myself.
For your name’s sake, forgive me, renew me and lead me
So that I may delight in your will and walk in your way.
Or something like that, anyway. For whatever reason that prayer came to mind a few nights ago. I began to think of the difference between Grace and Mercy. Our churches preach Grace. We cry out Grace, we worship grace, we accept Grace. But not so much with Mercy.
Grace is getting something you don’t deserve. (Like a gift)
Mercy is NOT getting something you DO deserve. (Like a punishment for breaking the law).
So yay, who wouldn’t want Grace? Everyone wants a gift, given freely, with no strings attached. ( I DO accept gifts, by the way, monetary or otherwise. If you would like to send me one, I’m a willing receipent.) We are a church that wants everyone to accept God’s love. We are a people who want other’s to feel God’s grace washing over them.
But I can’t remember the last time I heard a sermon on Mercy or a group of people come together to openly confess their sins in recognition that grace is only a part of who God is. Mercy takes a little more work, hard work, painful work. Mercy is still free, it’s still a gift from God, and you have received Mercy in ways you don’t even know. Mercifully you don’t have to die a painful death for the sins you’ve committed.
To truly understand mercy, I think requires humility on our parts. To say, yes I’ve sinned and please don’t give me the consequences I deserve. This is the way I’ve messed up my life. I need you to please change me so I don’t do again. Mercy.
We do deserve so much more destruction. Our daily choices to ignore God and follow our own way lead down a path of death and through God’s mercy we get to live our lives filled with comforts and acceptance. Even when you think your life is miserable you are being washed in Mercy. We should acknowledge that, and confess all our actions that require mercy.
God is faithful.