“May God be merciful to us and bless us,” from Psalm 67
A common thread of the readings today is the mercy of God.
The reading from the prophet Isaiah does not mention the word itself, but the message is that the LORD will be merciful to all who will join him and hold fast his covenant.
All who keep sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast the covenant, will be brought to the Holy Mountain of God where they will join in a house of prayer.
And the foreigner, says the LORD, who joins to him shall never be cut off. He will also be brought to the Holy Mountain of God.
Psalm 67 begins with the plea: May God be merciful to us and bless us.
It is one of the most positive psalms in its sheer excitement for the blessing of the LORD.
“May God give us his blessing, *
and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.”
The psalmist is pleading for everyone everywhere to respect the LORD and receive his blessings. “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,” he writes. The nations refer to all people outside of Israel, or all foreigners.
The passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans speaks of the mercy shown to the Gentiles because of the disobedience of the Jews.
Gentile is the term used by the Jews to describe all non-Jews.
From St. Paul’s letter, listen to this:
“29 For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. 30 Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all.”
Paul is saying that since his own people, the Jews, rejected Christ, we gentiles received mercy because of their disobedience.
And because we were once disobedient and now receive mercy, they may receive mercy.
Now we come to the Gospel reading today, from St. Matthew. This is the story of a Canaanite woman. It is significant that she is Canaanite and not a Jew.
The Jews were rejecting Jesus, not recognizing him as the Messiah. The Canaanite woman is considered a foreigner to the Jews, as her people were driven out of the land given to the children of the Exodus.
She is a Gentile then, a foreigner, not a Jew, and here she comes to the Messiah of the Jews begging for mercy for her daughter!
She says: “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.”
Here is a person, a foreigner, presuming to beg mercy from Jesus. The Canaanites and the Jews didn’t get along very well in those days. It was probably much like it is between the Palestinians and the Jews today.
But this woman had no hate in her heart. She had love for her daughter, and respect for the mercy of God.
What follows is a bit of an odd conversation, and Jesus tells her he has come for the lost children of Israel, and not for her.
He seems to have insulted her, with the comment about the dogs, but she doesn’t care about herself, only for her daughter. She is willing to humble herself completely before Jesus.
Then Jesus recognizes her faith as being great! And indeed it was great, for she had no agenda, only faith that Jesus would answer her prayer.
Mercy is in short supply these days, it would seem. There are mean people on the streets of our nation who want to push their agenda, and for all others to bow before them.
Violence in all its forms is completely wrong, and those who perpetrate it should be ashamed. Have they never felt any mercy in their own lives?
Perhaps they never have felt mercy. Perhaps they have been so wrapped up in their hate that they don’t know what mercy looks like. Maybe they have never been shown mercy by anyone, and now they don’t want it.
They want the opposite. They want to feed on fear, and trample on the defenseless. This is nothing new, of course. In the age of social media, they crave likes and shares and retweets and other ways to build up their low self esteem.
I pray that someone will tell them about the mercy of the Lord. I pray that someone will convince them that they should put their trust in Jesus, and not in the works of the world. I pray that someone will tell them that God is love and life, and hate leads only to death.
“Lord, have mercy on them, for they know not what they do.” Amen
If Jesus could have mercy on those who crucified him, could we show mercy to those that offend us, and wish us harm? Could we forgive them their trespasses as we ourselves are forgiven?
As ambassadors of Christ in this world it is our duty to live like Jesus, to practice mercy and forgiveness. It is our duty to tell others about Jesus, and what he has done for us.
And it needs to be one on one, not in the noise of social media. In the Christian Motorcyclists Association we have a saying that is very appropriate to our mission:
Saving the world, one heart at a time. Real ministry is done face to face.
May our efforts to tell the world about the saving grace of Jesus glorify his name in heaven.