Many of us at Grace Chapel have been connecting with different aspects of our Lenten series “At the Table” which is a look at the Farewell Discourse of Jesus from John 13-17. As part of this year’s Lent, we’ve encouraged everyone to gather and process this together for 5 consecutive weeks. As in give up isolation and schedule and add community and friendship. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s hard to gather for 5 consecutive weeks but it’s often at or during the third one, you start experiencing the fruit of such an effort.
We’ve created some short in-house videos to take a look at aspects of respective chapters and serve as a conversation starter. Last week’s teacher was Dana Baker, who is our East Lexington Campus Pastor. She took us through what Jesus was saying about abiding and how Jesus prepares a place for you. Then towards the conclusion, she encouraged us to discern what one word was coming to mind in all this. Dana mentioned that one of our former pastors, Cynthia Fantasia, would keep a word and mediate on it for the year. And so, Dana’s word this year is “trust.” A very good one. I nodded my head.
The next thought I had after nodding my head was “Only one word for a year??” Are you kidding? I’d be content to keep a word for a week or two but an entire year? Anyway, this thought kept coming up in my mind and in chasing it down I think I have a word.
So at least for the duration of Lent, my word is “mercy.” I should point out that mercy has never been my word. Don’t get me wrong, I think mercy is a good thing of course. But I tend to gravitate towards other ideas, concepts and virtues.
So what exactly is mercy?
In the Old Testament, mercy is described as a form of devotion, which I think is interesting. The Hebrew word is he-sed and can be directly translated as “kindness,” “loving goodness,” “eagerness,” or “keenness”. In the New Testament, it’s often used as a form of “grace’ as it pertains to acting in compassion to someone in need or in distress. It’s bigger than that but I appreciate how all the subtle contrasts offer more to think about.
What I’m appreciating about mercy is the compassion that costs you something so that another can benefit. Embedded in its meaning is some posture of withholding a negative connotation like punishment, discipline, or judgment and all this is overcome by love. In essence, mercy is a form of love.
Which brings me to the mercy Jesus showed his disciples throughout this Farewell Discourse. They were saying some things that were missing the point. And in their defense, it’s hard enough to believe in the idea of Jesus’ resurrection after it happened, maybe even harder to believe it’s going to happen. Still, some of their statements may have made Jesus (and readers of Scripture) to wonder if they were paying attention at all. Jesus had mercy on them.
Further, Jesus has mercy for all as he journeys to the cross. Jesus prays the Father would forgive and be merciful to those who are executing Him. Then of course, in his mercy and grace, Jesus offers us forgiveness and salvation.
I’ve been thinking about how we show mercy to one another and to those we are in conflict with. I’ve been thinking about mercy as it relates to terrorists like Isis, as it relates in the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial and what about to friends (or ex-friends) who have attacked us? Further, what does mercy look like to the people we love and to whom our lives continue to bump into?
My word this is Lent is mercy and I hope to unpack this in the coming weeks.
I’m curious if you have a word you’ve been reflecting on. Feel free to comment or share privately with me. Hope al lis well with you this Lent – grace and peace.