First Lesson: Exodus 34:1-7:
The Lord said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. 2Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain. 3No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks and herds may graze in front of the mountain.”
4So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the Lord had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. 5Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. 6And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
Psalm for the Day: Psalm 30 on Page 76 in Christian Worship
Sing to the Lord, you saints of his;
praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
To you, O Lord, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy.
Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me;
O Lord, be my help.
You turned my wailing into dancing,
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Second Lesson: James 3:13-18:
13Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
Gospel Lesson/Sermon Text: Matthew 5:7:
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
We have now reached the halfway point in the beatitudes. In our journey so far, we have learned that the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed. In the next three weeks, we will learn that the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted are also blessed. Today, we are going to be looking at what appears to be the shortest and simplest of the beatitudes. It is the shortest because it has the fewest number of letters and words in the original Greek and in most translations. Huawei do I say it is the simplest as well? Well, if you read the other beatitudes, you will see that the two halves of each one are different. Jesus talks about someone who is blessed and then he speaks about what blessing they receive. In every other case, the second half is different from the first half. In this case, the two halves match. Jesus tells us, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.” As usual in the beatitudes, though, appearances are deceiving. There is here, as there is in every beatitude, a world hiding in the simple words of Jesus.
I. The merciful (corporal)
II. The merciful (spiritual)
III. For they will be shown mercy
Really, you can talk about two different kinds of mercy when you talk about this beatitude of Jesus. I think it would be a very fair assumption to say that Jesus is speaking about two different kinds of mercy in this beatitude. He is talking about the mercy that we show to those who are undergoing physical trials, corporal mercy. He is also talking about the mercy that we show to those who have sinned against us, Spiritual mercy. in order to get a handle on the two types of mercy that Jesus is talking about, it is probably helpful to look at two of Jesus’ parables. When speaking about corporal mercy, we will take a quick look at his parable of the Good Samaritan. When speaking about spiritual mercy, we will take a look at his parable of the unmerciful servant.
Each of these parables is fairly well known. That’s why we don’t have to do an in depth look at each of them. If you will remember, one of the things that Jesus does in these beatitudes is to turn conventional thinking on its head. Conventional wisdom, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, is shown in the persons of the priest and the Levite. In this parable, Jesus talks about a man journeying from Jerusalem to Jericho. This was a very steep, narrow, and dangerous Rd. Robberies were common. This man is robbed and beaten and is left on the side of the road to die. Two men come along. One of them is a priest and the other is a Levite (a worker in the temple). When they see the man lying there, they do what most “good” people would do. They see that this man is not someone that they know. And they don’t think that they have to help him, therefore. They might have even justified it by saying that if they were to go over to the man and it turned out that he was dead, they would be ceremonially unclean for a period of time. Why should they waste their time and effort helping a man that they don’t know? Why should they do this when it will cause themselves some kind of inconvenience or would even cause them some kind of harm? Maybe there were robbers still hiding in the shadows who would waylaid them. They did what most people would have done, they turned aside, pretended that they didn’t see him, and went on their merry way.
Fortunately for this man, a merciful stranger came along. The man who came along was a Samaritan. We need to remember that the Jews and the Samaritans did not get along. For the Jews, it would be impossible to think that a Samaritan was capable of any good. Yet, this is exactly what Jesus said happened. This man was from a different nation and a different religion then the man who was lying on the ground. he didn’t know the man from Adam, as the expression goes. Even though that was the case, he stopped by the side of the road and helped him despite the inconvenience and the danger to himself. Not only did he offer him assistance right at that moment, he also made sure that his needs for the near future would be taken care of. He took the man to an inn and paid the innkeeper a fairly sizable amount of money in order to make sure that the man’s needs would be taken care of. This is exactly what we mean when we talk about showing mercy to those who are in physical need.
So what does that translate to in our day and age? The Catholic Church came up with a list of things that people can do to show mercy to those in physical need. Most of those things are taken from what Jesus said to those on his right in his depiction of the day of judgment in Matthew 25. We can think of all sorts of circumstances where we can show the kind of mercy that Jesus is speaking about in this parable and in this beatitude. Maybe the one that I use most often is the example of seeing someone stranded on the side of the road. Every time I mention this, I have to mention that I fall down in showing mercy in this circumstance more times than not. I always reason that there will be somebody else to offer the aid that that person needs. However, we need to remember that showing mercy is often inconvenient. It takes time, effort, and sacrifice. We can show mercy when we help those who are unknown to us. We can show mercy by contributing to charities that help people that we will never meet who live on the other side of the world. We can show mercy when we provide food for a food bank so that those who are hungry in our area can eat. We can show mercy when we volunteer to help visit those who need a visit. All of these things demonstrate to the world the kindness that our God has shown us. When Jesus says that those who are merciful will receive mercy, he is talking about how well our God takes care of our needs, even though we don’t deserve it.
That brings us to the second kind of mercy that we can show. There is a handy dandy definition for mercy and grace that I have heard and seen many times lately. It goes like this. Mercy is not receiving what we deserve. Grace is receiving what we don’t deserve. This definition is shown very well in the parable of the unmerciful servant.
In this parable, a servant does something that conventional wisdom at the time of Jesus said was the right thing to do. He found somebody who owed him a fairly substantial amount of money. He demanded repayment of that debt. When the man wasn’t able to do that, he did what the law said he was allowed to do. He took that man before the court in had him thrown into debtors prison until the man’s family and friends would raise enough to repay the debt that the man had reneged on.
The problem, of course, was this… Those who heard the first part of this parable knew that this man had been forgiven a mountain of debt. 10,000 talents is about as much money as somebody could imagine in those days. A ruler had done what was against conventional wisdom. He had simply written off this entire debt. This man deserved to go to debtors prison for the rest of his life. The ruler, though, did not give him what he deserved. He gave him the forgiveness that he did not deserve.
Jesus made it clear in this parable and in this beatitude that he wants us to remember what it is our God has done for us. We, like this servant, did not deserve to have our debt of sin forgiven. We deserve to have God punish us eternally for the mountain of sins that we have committed against him all throughout our lives. Jesus, though, spoke of God’s mercy to us. He spoke of the mountain of sin that God has forgiven for the sake of Jesus. And now, he wants us to forgive as he has forgiven us. Later on in the sermon on the mount, Jesus reiterated this when he taught his disciples to pray in the Lord’s prayer, “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” What he is saying by this beatitude and this petition is that our forgiveness of people should be a natural extension of God’s forgiveness of us.
It is not convenient, nor is it enjoyable, for us to forgive the sins of those who have hurt us. In our sinful nature, we would like to have those who have wronged us pay for their actions. It feels good for us to tell those who have sinned against us that they are not forgiven. It feels as if we are getting justice in that way. However, we have received mercy. This mercy is as infinite as our God is. When Jesus tells us that the merciful will be shown mercy, he is talking about how we really appreciate the mercy that we have been shown. The more freely and the more openly we forgive others their sins, the more we can see that our God’s mercy is something that we did not deserve. This is what Jesus is saying in this beatitude. He is talking about how we show the kind of mercy that our God has shown to us to the world. We do that both in acts of physical kindness and in the spiritual act of freely forgiving sins against us. the more we do this, the more blessed we are by our merciful God. Amen.
Blessed Are the Humble Souls that See, v. 5:
Blest are the men whose hearts do move
and melt with sympathy and love;
from Christ the Lord shall they obtain
like sympathy and love again.