Sermons

Mercy: "Agents of Mercy"

Pastor Mary Inman

04-02-17

 

I've loved this Mercy series--how about you? It has been an amazing journey into Christ-like love. So far we’ve talked about Miracles of Mercy--God’s Mercy and our Failures--Mercy that is authentic and forgiving—and the Ministry of Mercy.

 

Today we talk about being “Agents of Mercy”. We will explore how to take Christ's mercy to our world--those closest to us, our school or work associates, and even to those we just happen to meet.

 

How our world needs mercy! Has your world become more loving, more merciful lately, or has it become a bit more hostile, sarcastic and mean?

 

On a down day, a hectic or overworked day, a lonesome day, do you hope to encounter someone who gives you a little mercy? Mercy can come in the form of a bright smile, a pat on the back, a kind word, even a happy wave.

 

In a mean world, our greatest witness is mercy.

Jesus said, "Show mercy to others just as your Father shows mercy to you! (Luke 6:36 NIV)

 

So, how do we go about showing mercy? Think about it--what is your favorite way to give away Christ's mercy?

 

This is how I like to think about it: STOP, LOOK, AND LISTEN. Remember what we were taught in school about railroad crossings? (play train whistle)

 

First of all, we must STOP. That's the first step… Before anything else, we will need to stop driving so quickly, walking so quickly, going from one event to the next so quickly.

 

We fill our lives so full that we don't have time for anything except what is on our schedule. We aren't aware of the sad mother behind us in line at the cashier—the soccer Dad that can't figure out why his son is so hostile—the classmate that just lost her best friend—the work associate that is trying to figure out how to survive their credit card debt.

 

I understand being too busy. You've all heard about the 7 sons, 7 daughters in law, 27 grandchildren. But that is not the reason I'm busy. I think busyness is a sort of satisfaction for me--like "if I'm busy it means I'm doing important things". Does that seem true for any of you?

 

The truth is--giving people attention is the most important thing I can do, or you can do.

 

Giving others attention is giving them mercy. And I must stop the hurry, to do that.

 

When our son Tim was quite young, probably 3-4 years old, he instinctively knew how to get my attention. He would start by saying, "Mom! Mom!" and then take my face in his little hands and turn it so my eyes could meet his, and then he would say to me what he needed to say. "In the olden days" we did not have toddler car seats, or seatbelt laws, so he would stand beside me on the front seat, (I know--terrible Momming!) as we drove the small town of Scottsbluff, Nebraska. When he wanted to ask me something, he would grab my face and turn it towards him. "Tim, you can't do that while I'm driving!" I was probably a pretty distracted mom--loving much, but not always loving the right way.

.

And now I quote Rick Warren: "The highest form of love is attention." End of quote.

 

We can give our children a great education, gifts, money, a beautiful home, but what they really need is a non-replaceable commodity--our time and attention. And that's not "while I'm on my phone" attention or "while I'm watching TV attention".

 

And how about the other people in our lives? Here's the question--do we really notice the people around us? Are we awake and aware, or simply working to live and living to work, or working to vacation, ad infinitum--rushing from one thing to another?

Stopping is something we CAN do. It does NOT have to be an inborn character trait. We can become aware, not only of our surroundings, but of the people in our surroundings. We have the ability to reign in some of the busyness. Take inventory of what is necessary, and delete some of what is superfluous in our lives.

In fact, let's take a 20 second stop right now. In silence we will realize what it means to stop (20 seconds).

 

Good. We stopped. The next step in showing mercy is to LOOK. Now I know that in Northern California, we don't really look at people we don’t know. Guess what? That custom is not a God's kingdom custom!

 

If we continue to pass by people without looking at them, we will never see them or their needs. We will live in our own little world, and shut out the people Jesus loves.

 

Showing mercy will require change on our part--a willingness to stop and notice people around us.

Can we say--"I will open my eyes. I will look around me to see other beloved children of God. Every person I encounter matters to God."

Guess what? God doesn't have a "First Class Heaven", or a line A, B, and C for entering, like the airlines. Don't you hate to be "classified"? "Oh, I'm sorry Mary, but you can't use the forward restroom. It's reserved for First Class passengers."

 

But God--He breaks down all those man-made partitions. He loves us all the same. Then why do we have such trouble loving all equally? Why do we classify, judge and discriminate? It's ungodly!

 

Let's start putting on glasses of mercy, looking through them to see His children.

 

How can I start? How can I change the way I've been behaving all these years?

 

Start by:

1. Being pleasant--smiling, nodding, waving.

2. Being approachable. If you look unhappy and grouchy,

I imagine you will not have many God-encounters.

3. Make small talk, and if you are received, continue the conversation.

 

Let's look to the Bible for some encouragement:

 

--Rich young ruler--Jesus looked at him and loved him.          (Mark 10:21 NIV)

--Zaccheus--Jesus looked up at him in the tree and told him to come down. I'm going to your house for tea! (Luke 19:5)

 

--Lame Beggar at Gate Beautiful--Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Acts 3:4 NIV

 

--Lame man at Lystra that had never walked--Peter looked at him and saw that he had the faith to be healed, Acts 14:9

 

OK. So, we've decided that we will STOP and LOOK. What's next? LISTEN. We are going to learn to listen in two ways.

 

The first way: We will sincerely have both ears open when we engage people around us, we will be attentive.

 

"You have a 17 year old son at home? And he's encouraging his younger siblings to joust with the broom and mop handle--while you are away at work? Inside the house?"                                OR

"You said you just said goodbye to your first child going to college?"                              OR

"You had a heart attack. How are you doing now?" Listen for the music behind the words, the unspoken emotions--read the body language.

 

The second way we listen is to listen to Holy Spirit. We listen to the people in front of us, and at the same time, we listen to the Spirit of Christ in us.

 

This might be a little tricky, because we are doing two things at once. And when Holy Spirit speaks to me, most of the time, it is a silent voice in my mind.

It would be easy to ignore His silent voice. But if we DO listen to Holy Spirit, the moment becomes a true-life adventure.

 

Holy Spirit can read the intents of the heart.

 

He can help you show mercy to the person "in front of you". Father wants everyone to hear about how much He loves them. Listen to what Holy Spirit might want to tell them.

 

The last simple step is to OBEY. STOP—LOOK—LISTEN--AND OBEY! Holy Spirit will tell you to stop and listen to their story, or perhaps offer a blessing or prayer over them. You may want to decide right now to obey Holy Spirit the next time you hear His still small voice. Take the leap and show Christ’s mercy!

 

Let me give you some words I might use:

 

"As I've been sitting here beside you on the plane, I think God has been telling me something about you. Want to hear it?" You call yourself to a higher standard than those you work with. You are generous with your friends, and Father God loves that. You are definitely an individual, not expecting to fit in exactly like those around you."

OR

"May I offer a prayer of blessing over you?"

OR

"You have an awful headache?" "Father, I thank you that you have not forgotten ______. You knew them before they were born, and have been watching over them. You know right where ______ is right now, and understand their struggles. Please heal them, in Jesus' name."

 

But what if they look at me disgustingly and refuse? I can guarantee that 99 % of the time they will allow you to pray.

 

If they are at work, they may say, "Well as long as it doesn't take much time." Or they will look around, as if to see if anyone is looking, at that time I say, "It's ok. We will pray with our eyes open. "

 

I call this "drop-in mercy". We might dive deep for 30 seconds, and then allow the conversation to come to the surface again. A more challenging kind of mercy goes further beyond our comfort zone.

 

Holy Spirit might prompt us to offer food, money, a clean bed for a night, to those who need it. I challenge us--do we expect the "church" to take our place in showing mercy to the homeless? Or maybe we want the government to be our representative to those less fortunate?

 

Do we want to pay our way out of actually showing mercy face to face? I've said to one of my children: "Have you cleaned out your garage so that homeless can sleep there?"

 

Now, I don't pretend to have this all figured out. I haven't offered my garage, or a clean bed in my house. But I do know that I'm thinking about it. What can the body of Christ do to help the homeless population?

 

Have we invited them in for a meal when they are hungry, as Jesus Christ instructed us to do?"

 

He said, “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor…

Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God’s people.”

(Matt.14:12-14 MSG)