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GOD is all mercy and grace— not quick to anger, is rich in love. GOD is good to one and all; everything he does is suffused with grace. – Psalm 145:8-9

When I was a boy strength was measured through a ritual called arm wrestling. Hands clasped, elbows on the table, cocky sneer on your lip and off you went trying to slam your opponent’s hand into the table. The implications of these events were epic, downright apocalyptic. Entire grade level pecking orders were often decided in a single match! These experiences however, led me to a less-than-helpful conclusion: being strong meant dominating, winning.

Life in the Kingdom of God is different. Strength isn’t measured by dominance and winning; it’s measured by mercy.

Mercy is God’s great strength, at the very center of God’s being. We see it revealed in Jesus over and over again in his radical embrace of the least among us and his insistence on forgiving those who least deserve it. Retribution and revenge are easy. Mercy takes serious soul-muscle.

Father Richard Rohr wrote in a recent meditation,

Mercy is not a virtue that you choose to put on one day. Mercy has to be your deepest way of seeing, a generosity of spirit that draws from your identity, your deepest dignity, which is love. It is basically a worldview of abundance, wherein I do not have to withhold, protect, or hoard myself. [1]

Scarcity and fear are twin enemies of mercy, which is perhaps why there seems to be so little mercy in our world. We have been convinced that more is always better and therefore there is never enough for everyone. But we worship a God of infinite abundance. That’s why Jesus said to the woman at the well, “…those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

Strength is measured by dominating and winning in a world of limited resources, a world in which a few win and the many must lose. But that is a world driven by scarcity and fear. That is not the Kingdom of God.

Strength is measured by mercy in the Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom of God all win because all are loved and forgiven. All that we need flows like a gushing stream from the heart of God. All are welcome to drink deeply. God’s great strength becomes our strength.

In the Kingdom of God, we can clasp hands, put our elbows on the table and a smile on our lips, not to arm wrestle, but to celebrate the mercy of God. And be made strong.

What prevents you from drinking more deeply from God’s abundant mercy? What might you need to let go of this Lenten season?

Jeff Marian is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN.


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