Psalm 136:3 – “Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for His steadfast love endures forever.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ of Zion,
The 136th Psalm has a constant refrain sung throughout: “…for His steadfast love endures forever.” All 26 verses of this psalm have the same repetitive refrain, and for good reason: so you don’t forget it! About this refrain Martin Luther once remarked: “Christ also stands hidden in the phrase.” Two of the words above, “steadfast love,” are actually one word in Hebrew, hesed. It is variously translated also as kindness, loving-kindness, or goodness. Another way to translate hesed is “mercy.” This translation is most appropriate when used in relation to God because it gets at the following reality: The Lord of lords stoops down from heaven above, like a parent kneeling down to help their little child, tending to the needs of His creatures and creation.
An important question to ask ourselves is how does God’s mercy inspire and influence our own mercy? Jesus did say, “Blessed are the merciful…” (Matthew 5:7). He also taught a weighty parable warning on what happens to those who show no mercy when they themselves have received mercy (Matthew 18:21-35). If the great big God of the universe was and is so concerned about us, and is indeed merciful to us day in and day out, how might we be concerned about others for whom mercy is a foreign reality? How does the mercy of God lead us to care about children – those in the community, those who don’t know God, those who are in utero and in harm’s way? How does the mercy of God lead us care about the poor and poverty stricken? True, “…the poor you always have with you…” (John 12:8) but that doesn’t mean we look the other way. Or, how does the mercy of God lead us to care more deeply for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ here at Zion? Saint Paul had to address this issue a couple of times in his letters (Romans 12-14; 1 Corinthians 12-13).
When we think about and act in mercy, inspired and led by the Father’s mercy that endures forever, perhaps there is no better place to begin with mercy than at home. With Mother’s and Father’s Day on the horizon, extending mercy to our parents in their older age shows how much we value them. Through them, after all, God gave us life! Or for those homes with children, cultivating a culture of mercy at home leads children to have empathy and show sympathy for other students at school (lunch time still is the loneliest hour for some), for the homeless as they walk around downtown Wausau. By the way, our youth are invited to participate in a mercy ministry this month at St. Paul’s UCC; we’ll be helping to feed the homeless and whoever else may need food!
Mercy is from God and flows from God to you through Word and Sacrament. This mercy of Father, +Son, and Holy Spirit endures forever. Where will the Lord’s mercy lead you this week, this month, or this summer?
Pastor Chris Johnson