Crowning Mercy

18 Jun

Kathryn Hauser’s Reflection for 4 Easter 29 April 2012

Crowning Mercy

When I think of shepherds on rugged terrain, I usually don’t associate the word mercy with a shepherd.  Other words like hardy, resilient, tough, vigorous, and indefatigable, come to mind.  The word “pastor,” itself, comes from the Latin meaning shepherd, literally meaning ‘a feeder; to put to pasture.’[1]  Pastors are not the only ones to feed the sheep.  I meditated on these verses: 

Jn 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

10:12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away–and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.

10:13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.

I laid this on top of Jonah.  Jonah was “hired” by God to go to Nineveh to preach repentance. (Jonah 1:2)  His self-pity (4:3, 9) got him in the shorts as he sat and waited to see what would happen to Nineveh. (4:5)  Jonah was a reluctant “hired” servant.  He did end up going back to Nineveh and preached these very words to them:

Jonah announced, “In forty days Nineveh will be destroyed.” (Jonah 3:4)

That’s all he said; a destruction message of one sentence, but God used it to wake up the people and soften their hearts.  The people themselves said,

Jonah 3:9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

Enter the current voice of the Church on the topic of the rapture, and that God rescues the Church, maybe even at Pentecost some forty days from now. (Actually, last Wednesday (18 Apr 2012) was forty days to Pentecost, and the heart of the Church was focusing on the topic of Redemption.)  Meanwhile, the collective Church is sitting under The Vine (Jn 15:5) and waiting to see what will happen to the world. (cf Jonah 4:5)  But God sent me to the Seven Churches not with Jonah’s message of destruction but God’s message of mercy!  Jesus taught us to pray and we must.  The Church, herself, just sits under The Vine like Jonah and prays.  For four years now, the Church has told me in various ways, “You pray in the garden and wait and we’ll be blessed.”  However there is no tending of this sheep. (ref Jn 21:16)  They feed her with their words and prayers, but do not tend her.

1 John 3:17 How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

The way for all sides to soften is to “see” and voice how God has already answered prayer rather than continuing to study how to pray.  Sharing how God has answered prayer will gather all “the sheep” instead of leaving them scattered.

The actual people of Nineveh believed in God (Jonah 3:5) and hoped in God’s mercy.  Jonah, however, was a tad self-absorbed.  There wasn’t a lot of room in his soul for mercy.  The Church, too, has been self-absorbed and not been terribly open to mercy on themselves or the world around them.  Jesus told us to expect this.

The Sign of Jonah

 Matthew 12:38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”

 39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.

Solomon had wisdom.  What is “something greater than” self-preoccupation and wisdom?  Mercy.  Wisdom and Mercy are not always simultaneously compatible in the maturation process.  Mercy is a choice to reject or embrace (cf Acts 4:11) or to lay down and pick up. (cf Jn 10:18) 

For the record, last Advent (2011) I had asked the ‘Magnificent Seven’ (the good shepherd ‘angels’ of the archetypal Seven Churches) to get together.  The boys are real people with real feelings.  They really have been posted as watchmen on “Jerusalem’s” walls and I doubt they have remained as silent (day or night) as the image they have tried to portray, as they have been trying to keep Yahweh’s attention. (Is 62:6)  They are human beings.  I am trusting Christ at His Own Word from last Sunday where He promised to open our minds to understand the scriptures. (Lk 24:45)  I also trust Him when He says,

Is 62:7 And give him no peace either until he restores Jerusalem and makes her the pride of the world!

When Jesus asked me on 14 May 2008, “Would you be my bride?” I didn’t “marry” Him so that I could be alone!  When Christ practically arm-twisted my attention to Isaiah this week, I am certain that He was serious when He said,

Is 62: 5 As a young man gets married to a young woman,
      your people will marry you.
   As a groom is happy with his bride,
      I will be full of joy over you.”

This was not metaphorical for me this time.  Christ wants to share His joy with everyone and today’s “people of Nineveh” outside the Magnificent Seven don’t know of God’s mercy.  The ‘Seven Wonders’ have been so homesick (Jonah 4:2) for God to come back that the collective Church curled up in self-pity with Jonah:

Jonah 4:9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

“It is,” [s]he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

But Jesus (not me) says AGAIN to the ‘Seven Dwarves,’

John 10:16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Since the actual people of Nineveh, who numbered 120,000 (plus their animals) (Jonah 4:11) knew of God’s mercy, how much more is our world of seven billion people and God’s creation ready to hear of God’s Good News of crowning mercy?

 

4 Easter                     29 April 2012                                                Gospel: John 10:11-18

Acts 4:5-12
4:5 The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem,

4:6 with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family.

4:7 When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?”

4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders,

4:9 if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed,

4:10 let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead.

4:11 This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’

4:12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”

Psalm 23
23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;

23:3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff– they comfort me.

23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

1 John 3:16-24
3:16 We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us–and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.

3:17 How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

3:18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

3:19 And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him

3:20 whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

3:21 Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God;

3:22 and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.

3:23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

3:24 All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

John 10:11-18
10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

10:12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away–and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.

10:13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.

10:14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,

10:15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.

10:16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

10:17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.

10:18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

 

 

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