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Sermon Madness IV: Showing Grace and Mercy To Others

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  • Might be helpful to define the terms for today, and it's an easy shorthand:
    • Grace is giving people what they don't deserve
    • Mercy is not giving people what they deserve
    • This all seems to hinge on the concept of deserve.
  • The word deserve always is in reference to worthiness - both in our own way of using it, but also in the NT
    • "They're going to get what they deserve" - their worthiness to receive (often in this case punishment)
    • "They're deserving of the gold medal" - their actions are equivalently worthy of the highest award
    • Over time, you can see how our concept of worth now directly impacts grace and mercy.
      • We talk about "freeloaders" it belies a concept of unworthiness and undeservedness
      • And I think we have a system where we believe that what we're bestowed in grace and mercy is connected to what we earn... which is ironic... because that's literally the opposite of what we're saying.
      • But, it shows us that we live our lives believing we have to work for our worthiness.
        • We give thanks to God should we have somehow earned well, lived well - that we've earned grace and mercy.
        • And, we start to believe that grace and mercy are indexed to the work we've put in - and so worthiness, grace, and mercy are all competitions.
        • When we see someone receive more grace and mercy against our work, we might consider them taking advantage.
  • Jesus turns this on its head during the washing of the disciples feet, something we reflect on during Maundy Thursday
    • Jesus performed one of the least desirable jobs amidst people who had already seen the work Jesus had done. He had the receipts. And yet her he is - he's going to perform this act of footwashing for others.
    • And Simon Peter has some responses that are not unusual for us, even now, when we witness that kind of grace and mercy given freely:
      • Incredulity - what, Jesus, you're gonna do what? This should be the other way around! I'm not the one who deserve this lavish treatment.
      • Denial - No, Jesus, you're not going to give me grace and mercy. I'm not worthy.
      • Hoarding - Jesus, I want everything. Wash all of me.
    • And in the end, the one who had the most claim to the rewards of grace and mercy said go and do it to others.
    • The only index now for "deservedness" is relationship. You know me, I did this to you, you will know others, and you'll do it to them.
  • This might feel a long way around the barn, but it's because this is something that is so ingrained into us. Like the weeds you cannot ever seem to remove from your garden, the roots of grace and mercy have become so indexed to values that are not representative of Jesus at this moment that unless we dig to where the smallest of roots are and pull them out, it will grow back.
  • To show grace and mercy to others requires us to reindex worthiness and deservedness to simply being in relationship with.
    • So now, instead of wondering what they've done to earn grace and mercy, we wonder more about whether they've experienced the warmth of being loved as Jesus loved the disciples
    • Eph reminds us that the extend of that relationship is all the Saints - the grace of Maundy Thursday covers us all
    • Our acts of grace and mercy are recreations of washing one anothers feet - and all the good and ugly that comes with that kind of intimacy.
  • So what does this mean practically?
    • It means defining the boundaries based on a relationship with Christ
      • This is how we can differentiate between "freeloaders" and abusers
      • At some point, justice has to arbitrate grace and mercy, and who will ultimately receive it.
    • But within those boundaries, it means we pour ourselves out to others.
      • The question should not be "should we?" because it should always be "yes"
      • The question isn't "do they deserve?" because it should always be "yes, and how can we be judge?"
      • And yes, it will be discomforting work at times - we are touching and washing the parts that connect and carry us through a dirty, dusty, and crowded world.
    • And perhaps just as important, we allow others to pour themselves out to us.
      • We have to at some point recognize our finitude. We will burn ourselves out with grace and mercy
      • But we can replace it like for like should we not find ourselves too much like Peter with Jesus.
      • Because those deflections are still indicative of a different index than simply relationship
      • Yet we also have to find in ourselves where the limits are, for the sake of our community. It's easy to have a taste and then hoard it all. Instead, we take our fill, and we give to others.

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