Friday, November 5, 2010

Mercy, Not Religion

I love my church.
I love that we come close to God there, led by women and men and children.
I love that we are family, that there are many folks there who remember the days when Todd and I stood at the front of the sanctuary amongst the other new parents, dedicating our squirmy babies to God.
That the congregation has helped us raise those squirmy babies, loving them through their fidgety stages, getting to know what's fun for them and what kind of people they want to be. Teaching my children by example about what it means to serve God.
I love that we welcome EVERYONE.
And I love that when my daughter was 15, she once said she wished everybody could be like the people at church.
I thank God for my church. Some days I wish I could dip my wand in the soap water and make a bubble around my church and live in it.

But yesterday, the bubble burst. Again.
It's Matthew 9's fault. I've been studying the gospels, as told by The Message, a version that never ceases to make the Bible new to me, that presents the stories in a way that perks up my ears and has me scrambling for other translations, wondering if Jesus really said that.

In the passage I was reading, Jesus was having supper at Matthew's (the tax collector's) house and was hanging out with all sorts of disreputable characters. The religious leaders had a fit,

and lit into Jesus' followers. "What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?" Jesus, overhearing, shot back, "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: 'I'm after mercy, not religion.' I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders."
Matthew 9:11-13, The Message

Mercy, not religion. I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.

That's direct.

Do I ever ask to be coddled?
Do I waste time debating who are the real Christians and who is just a bunch of hot air or meanness, when I should be on the street, inviting outsiders to the table?
Do I get too wrapped up in the mechanics of church and organization when there's work to be done?
Mercy to be given.

What is really important to God?
Jesus makes it clear.

It's just the reminder I needed.

Have a wonder-full weekend, y'all! I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Love, Becky

Photo by darkmatter, licensed through creative commons.


Paula Clare said...

Hi Becky,
I LOVE reading the Gospels...I was once "stuck in" (via study and daily new revelation) Matthew 5 for a year. The Sermon on the Mount...FOR A YEAR. Imagine. I was SO CHANGED entire paradigm became one of grace and mercy and peace making.

I love my church is called GRACE Community church...and my pastor is one who makes sure (as much as it is up to him) that we live up to our name. No legalism, no judgement. Just grace!

BUT because Matthew 9 is absolutely CORRECT, we are joining the ministerial alliance and doing a Christmas in the park play instead of creating entertainment for those already within the walls of the church. The "Christmas in the park" is a community-wide effort by all the churches to reach out to folks in the community who walk through the park looking at lights and admiring the Nativity. I am happy to report that the "Us Four and No More" mentality is a thing of the past...both at Grace AND in my home! Sounds like you're there too?! It's a great place to be!

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Becky, good morning! Good reminder to put things in perspective. That said, I hear people all the time saying they are "spiritual but not religious." There is an aversion to religion that I think is misguided. Maybe we need to start with a definition of religion. I'm not going to attempt that now, but what I will say is that when the true heart of religion and religious life is grasped, mercy will automatically flow from it. I think there is a place for both religion and mercy. But in our fallen humanity we can forget the mercy part all too easily while trying to find the religion that best suits us. Still, I think religion has gotten a bad rap when, in reality, we need the backbone of our faith in order to draw strength so that we can go out there and be merciful. For me, taking part in the sacraments keeps me supplied with grace so that I can do mercy well and from the purest heart I can muster. But you're right to make the point that we have to watch ourselves and not get off course. Jesus' curt words help remind us how imperative it is to stay on the right path and not become distracted.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Our church has a philosophy that 40% of the congregation needs to be new and/or unsaved or else it's not doing God's work. Amen to that! I'm glad they remind us, though. It's easy to feel cozy and complacent.

Leah Skaggs said...

spot on. good word.

Amy Sullivan said...

Wow, that isn't where I thought you were going with that post, and I loved it!

I love my church community, but often, at the end of the service (um, and who am I kidding, during the service) I find myself searching for my friends and loved ones and not giving any attention at all to those I don't know.

I heard this story...(wish I could think where!). This long, haired, poorly dressed hippy kid walked into a full church, late. It had been a long, long time since he tried church.

There were no seats in the back of the church so he walked to the front, still searching for a seat. No seats. No one offered to scoot over. No one got up. So he kept walking all the way to the front and sat on the floor.Everyone just stared and gave the kid dirty looks for being so rude and disrespectful. How could he just plop himself down in the middle of everything?

Then an older man who walked very slowly with a cane made his way up aisle and sat down on the floor next to the kid. He smiled and patted his leg.

I always thought wow, that's how we should all be. WE should be the ones making others feel welcome and as if they belonged.

Mompriest said...

Mercy, the mercy of God is powerful. I'm mostly, these days, invested in hope. the hope that God offers us, through God's mercy and grace, a hope that really is all about love. God's love. Actually I counting on it.

Laura said...

Yeah, we do get too wrapped up inside the walls sometimes. This was a good reminder. Our pastor is always reminding us to "take it to the streets."

Clella said...

Becky, I am studying Beth Moore's Fruits of the Spirit right now and today I am reading about Patience=Mercy...your comments here just reinforce what I am reading in Matthew 18 about the forgiveness of the King and the Servant. I do so appreciate this post and I, too, like to read from the Message. Thanks Clella