Between Sundays for Week of October 24, 2022
Judgment invites us to draw a line between us and them. Jesus does not buy into this false dichotomy. Instead, he teaches through story. With his very life, Jesus teaches us about opening his arms wide enough for all: Tax collector and Pharisee. Rule-follower and rule-breaker. Self-righteous and self-loathing. Saint and sinner. Jesus brings life to us all.
In her sermon, Pastor Amy reminds us of a hymn that captures this gift:
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
like the wideness of the sea;
there’s a kindness in God’s justice
which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth’s sorrows
are more felt than up in heav’n.
There is no place where earth’s failings
have such kindly judgment giv’n.
For the love of God is broader
than the measures of our mind;
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
But we make this love too narrow
by false limits of our own;
and we magnify its strictness
with a zeal God will not own.
(“There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy, ELW 587, vs. 1 and 3)
May we abandon our false limits and strictness this week, and lean into the wideness of God’s mercy that gives us life.
In this week’s message, Pastor Amy invites us to pan out and see a wider scene than the close up Jesus offers. In that wider scene, we are invited to see ourselves on a continuum that stretches from one who is content to rely entirely on himself to one who is certain he cannot measure up and lies beyond the scope of God’s mercy. Across that wide expanse, Jesus offers himself as the source of life for all.
Reading prayerful words of a fellow believer as they contemplate their life often helps engage our own. Near the end of Thomas Merton’s detailed memoir The Seven Storey Mountain: Fiftieth-Anniversary Edition (New York: Harcourt, 1998), tucked in the epilogue, he exclaims, “But oh! How far have I to go to find You in Whom I have already arrived!” (p. 396). Spiritual progress, it seems to Merton, is a myth. How does the exclamation of a Trappist monk challenge the Pharisee’s prayer?