I made two serious parking mistakes yesterday morning:
- I parked in the garage that doesn’t validate parking tickets.
- I lost the unvalidatable parking ticket.
This means I forked out $21 for a parking spot that should have cost me $6 and as I pushed the “lost the ticket” button on my way out of the garage, the machine spat out this special receipt:
Lost Ticket – no grace.
Maybe there would be grace bestowed upon me by the Voice In The Machine. “I was just at the doctor for less than two hours.” Maybe the disembodied voice would have mercy on me.
Grace happens when we receive what we do not deserve. Mercy happens when we do not receive what we deserve. Two different things.
Church is in the grace business AND in the mercy business. It’s been this way since the First Century if the Church has authentically followed Jesus. When most of the First Century world cast out disabled children and “sinful women” the Early Church took them in and loved them. When most of the world left widows to fend for themselves, the Church provided for them.
This is what the Church has always done if we have been faithful to Jesus’ teaching. This is what we do today if we are faithful to Jesus’ teaching.
I know congregations who welcome undocumented immigrants who haven’t followed the rules. I know congregations who re-purpose classrooms for transitional housing for people coming out of prison.
We who believe God calls us to offer grace and mercy are often called fools. One woman snapped at me in church years ago and accused me of being a “do-gooder.” I wish I actually did as much good as she seemed to think I did.
It’s interesting to me that the poor seem to offer more grace and mercy than the rich – and maybe that’s an unfair assessment. But people who have experienced their own need for grace and mercy seem more willing to offer it.
On this very day in the year of our LORD, we are going to see less grace than rudeness. We will witness less mercy than cruelty . . . unless we are very fortunate or we make the commitment to offer grace and mercy ourselves to those who don’t deserve it. Weirdly it’s a joy to do this.
Oh this is so good. I wish you could come and preach it to my congregation. If I did they’d dismiss it as “there she goes into liberal politics again.”