(Posted February 5, 2016)
As we begin our journey through Lent this coming week, there’s something I want to ask you, and to give you.
If you were embarking on a long journey, wouldn’t you prepare for the trip by seeing what you need for any “emergency” that might arise on the trip? You probably would. Chances are that, somewhere in your car you have a “toolbox” outfitted with things that would be handy when the going gets rough. A flashlight. Some Band-aids. A road flare and maybe a tire gauge. Probably even a candy bar, some money or a water bottle. All very handy things to have, and maybe, in the long run, some tools could even save you some dark night.
So, as we embark on the trip through Lent, I’m outfitting you with a Christian Toolbox. We’ll load it with things you can use when the unforeseen presents itself. And the first tools that will go into that box are the tools of Mercy. I am unashamedly borrowing this theme from our colleague in Christ, Pope Francis. He has proclaimed this year to be The Year of Mercy. Francis has stated that this year will be a time to reconnect with goals we don’t often specifically catalog in our Protestant churches: What is called the Spiritual and Corporeal works of mercy. In case you’ve not heard of them before, they are as Pope Francis states, a powerful way to open ourselves to being transformed, and transforming in our Christianity. He states,
“It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty. And let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy… Let us rediscover these corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. And let us not forget the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead.”
These will be the kinds of tools we will tuck into our Christian toolbox, knowing full well that Jesus virtually handed each of these tools to us when he painted the picture of the accounting at the Last Judgment. Jesus proclaims that whenever we have provided mercy to any of these, “the least of your brethren,” we have done so for Christ himself.
The trick of course, is, every Mercy begins with “Me.” We need to activate the many facets of Mercy not because we are told to, but because we choose to. To help us stock that toolbox, we have planned three services followed by a special speaker during Coffee Hour. Here’s what’s planned:
Mercy as a quality of the giving person
Sunday February 7, we will look at Mercy as a quality of the giving person, who thinks of ways that we can help those who help others now and in the future. Ann Fowler-Cruz will join us after the service to speak on and answer questions about planning for our own financial futures.
Mercy as comforting the afflicted
Sunday March 6, we will explore Mercy as comforting the afflicted, specifically those who suffer from depression and bipolar disorder. When psychotherapist Ann Lord Wennerstrand joins us for Coffee Hour, she will explore the ways we can help those with emotional and mental disorders, especially those who are at risk of suicide.
Mercy as counseling those who doubt
Sunday, April 10, we will pursue Mercy as counseling those who doubt the impact we humans have upon the earth and its plant, animal and human inhabitants. I hope to have some furry or feathered visitors with us for the Coffee Hour period.
This series on Mercy is a great time to invite your friends to come to First Church to hear our speakers on any topic of interest. Of course the most important tool in the toolbox is “ME.” Please bring your open heart to these discussions and feel free to ask our participants the questions you may have about how to make our world a more merciful place. -- Pastor Pat Kriss