Friday, May 28, 2010

Christ have Mercy, 3

The book is easily found at CPH, but also on Amazon, where it is less expensive, it seems. 

Chapter 3:  Father, Son, and Spirit, Who God is and how we will be. 

"Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful."  Luke 6:36.

"I must believe in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and then also love my neighbor.  The Catechism teaches me this.  Yet we minimize the importance of such doctrine today.  How many of us pay heed to it?"   Luther.

"I thank God and Jesus Christ that someone has regarded us as human beings."  Eric, of Othoro Lutheran Rescue Center, Kenya.
I like that Rev. Harrison uses his own stories and pictures.  Sometimes I read some people and if anything said is not directly something Jesus said and did, it's not ok to mention.  If it is not directly Word and Sacrament it's not worth mentioning.-- We must be able to talk about the work that is being done, the experiences that are being had without thinking we are straight in evangelical or pietist land.  We don't have to go there. 

So, in this chapter we learn first of all how mercy is about who God is.

Mercy is about who God is and who we are in Christ.  To deny mercy is more than a mere transgression of particular laws.  Denying mercy is a denial of who God is in Christ, a denial of the holy Trinity.

In this chapter we get the story of Harrison going to Kenya, where the HIV rate is very high.  We get a glimpse of the country where death is decimating families and communities.  The plight of orphans is always particularly pitiful.

My first visit to Othoro brought a "17-percent HIV/AIDS infection rate jolt.  I found a traditional mud-and-stick hut in pathetic disrepair about twenty yards from a modest church building.  I had been in Masai cow-dung dwellings at the far edges of the Serengeti Plain.  I had been in homes of mud construction that were beautifully painted, sporting marvelously troweled cow-dung floors, painted interiors, overstuffed chairs, and even doilies.  However, the Othoro boys lived in squalor when compared to the standards of their own community.  I have rarely beheld such lonely despair.  Inside the little hut, which was not more than ten feet square, there was no furniture, not even a stool or bench.  A scavenged rusted galvanized roof covered a mud floor.  Two or three mats of elephant grass had been rolled and propped in the corner.  Next to the mats were a half dozen worn plastic bowls of various shapes and colors.

As at many, perhaps even most, of the other Lutheran parishes across rural Kenya, the boys of Othoro had suffered the loss of both parents to AIDS.  Without their little Lutheran parish, these children would even now face an unfathomable darkness.  But the small congregation had mustered the mercy and means to provide a housemother to cook and look after them.

I note the dialogue that goes on with this mercy mission.  (A couple in Huston will pay for an orphanage.  $40 K will  do it.)  He asks the children's names, inquires about their circumstances,  discusses their church and church attendance.  He makes plans with them together and with their pastor.

When he returns he meets the children again, now older and taller.  "It's really you.  Show me your new home."  They survey the new home.

Our miles simultaneously broke into tears of joy, and we stood together weeping silently.  Finally, with tears streaming down my face, I broke the silence, "This gift has been given to you because this, the Othoro Lutheran community, loves you, and our Christians in America know about you and love you.  All of this is because of Jesus' love.  In this new home, we share His love with you."  Eric, a twelve-year-old boy whose life has been forged through years of deepest tribulation in the midst of a Christian community, was standing next to me.  I asked him "What do you think?"  Speaking with wisdom and faith well beyond his age, he offered these profound words, "I thank God and Jesus Christ that someone has regarded us as human beings.

Wow.  This is how it is done.  Via the church, via individuals, for individuals because of Christ's love for all of them, because of God's love for human beings.

How simple the dialogue can be.  Not that much biblical knowledge needed.  We know enough.

We have opportunities for such exchanges every day.  We don't have to build orphanages in Kenya.  We can start in our own families.  Where there are people, there is such work.

After this example, we get some more theology under the heading "Who God is and how we will be".  Among other quotes, we get one from Wilhem Loehe:

Out of mercy the Son of God became man;  he lived, died, rose, ascended into heaven, and lives forever to practice great mercy.  The motive and purpose of all His works is mercy, and mercy is what He desires for those who are His.  Because His love and His Father's and the Spirit's love can only be mercy, so our love for the brothers and all men should include nothing but mercy.  The great basic command for our life is:  "Be merciful, just as your Father in heaven is merciful." (Luke 6:36)

It really is quite something.  Lots to think about.  Certainly, I have received much mercy and don't extend enough of it. 

The chapter ends very beautifully pulling together some more words of Jesus, the lives of orphans, the nature of the trinity and the word and sacrament ministry of the local church. 

This chapter also reminds me of the lecture series "The Truth Project" which I attended in my town.  One of the last lectures dealt with mercy.  "You have never met a mere mortal", was the slogan and .  There were many examples given, including dancing with the wall flower at high school grad, etc.  It was quite moving to me and the phrase has stuck in my head.  The young man from the orphanage says something similar when he says:  "You have regarded us as human beings."

I just googled the phrase.  It is so easy to find.  It is from a lovely passage from C.S. Lewis.

quotes from The Weight of Glory, by C.S. Lewis... There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations--these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit--immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of the kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously--no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinners--no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat, the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.

Lewis is pretty good.  This quote works, too.

I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it but because, by it, I see everything else. 

God loves each one.  That changes things.

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