Thursday, December 10, 2009

I have been thinking a lot about mercy lately, wondering what it truly means to ask Christ for mercy.  What are really praying as we sing the Agnus Dei?

Christ the Lamb of God
That takest away the sins of the world
Have mercy upon us.
Christ the Lamb of God
That takest away the sins of the world
Have mercy upon us.
Christ the Lamb of God
That takest away the sins of the world
Grant us Thy peace.

Were I able to order up another one of Pastor's great pieces of writing, I would task him with:  What is mercy? But, you know, if Pastor did not have a wife or children or graduate school or even a church, the sad truth is that he would still not have enough time in his life to teach me the things that I want to learn.

Wouldn't life be different if everyone I met started off their time with me singing the Agnus Dei?

But...about mercy.

Last night in an email to Pastor, I was trying to explain why I asked him about mercy, really why I asked about prayer.

When my step-sister was going through her bat mitzvah, she never bothered to learn the meaning of all the Hebrew she had to read during the service.  I admit that I was pretty hard on her, pushing her again and again to try to learn them, telling her that it made no sense for her to read something in temple just for the sake of wearing her dress and getting a bunch of gifts.  But that was all she wanted.  Twenty years ago, my step-father spent $700 on her white dress.  That was the words meant to her.

Mercy.  Grace.  Forgiveness.  Trust.  Prayer.  Love.   They are my Hebrew.  I am ashamed I could never admit that.  Not that I have not had faith.  She had none.  Rote exercise was her only experience.  We are not alike.  But they are my Hebrew in that I did not truly understand them and I have long since stopped trying to learn.

That hymn, Pastor...that hymn.  To God the Holy Spirit We Pray.  Ever since that hymn I have been wondering if I understood mercy I might better understand prayer. 

Have mercy upon us...a siren call of sorts to my heart.  What is mercy?

The more I read the bible, the more I realize I do not know, I do not truly understand.  What I thought I knew is merely a pale reflection of God's Truth.  The love of God, not to be trite, truly is wider and deeper and higher than I can ever fathom.  What does it mean, truly mean, that we put on the body of Christ, his birth and death and resurrection, in the Holy Waters of Baptism?  What does it mean, truly mean, that we are washed clean of all our sin?  What does it mean, truly mean, that, in the forgiveness of the Cross, our sin is as far as the east is from the west? What does it mean, truly mean, that the Creator of the universe claims me as His and calls me by name, chose me and has not forsaken me?  What does it mean, truly mean, that His Son will never leave me, will be with me always?  What does it mean, truly mean, His Spirit will teach me through His Word, will sustain, enfold, and uphold me?

What is mercy?  Bettina calling you during a harsh afternoon at work and asking if you would like to play Scrabble after her children go to sleep.

During the game, I asked her not to play in one area because I had good word.  She played there (having not seen my note in the chat window since she had taken another call at the time).  The following conversation took place:

I have a good word.
I had a good word, but you took my spot!
But I'm forgiven!
[Myrtle guffaws]
Maybe not by you, but I'm forgiven!
[More laughter.]
Her good word:  chortle!

Do you want to know how smart she is?  She had played a Z word with the Z hanging five spots above a double word score.  For many rounds, I was trying to find a five letter Z word, but I had stinky letters all night.  Then, she played across to the bottom triple word spot.  That meant to play off the Z, you had to come up with a six-letter word that ended in L.  I imediatly groaned that that was impossible.

But, you see, if I said I couldn't possibly think of a word that had 2 Cs in it, Bettina will promptly name out six or eight of them, so brilliant is she!

So brilliant is she that she came up with zoonal:  any of the individuals of a compound organization.  So loving is she that she told me to play my O on the Z.  She then played her N and then her O, so that I could play my A and complete the double word for my 30-point word.  Techinally, I got 41 points out of the play, whereas she only got 13.  She still won the game.  She has been winning altogether too frequently of late.

The very small part of my heart savors that my rating is usually higher than hers even though she is better at playing Scrabble.  It is one of the mysteries of life, truly so.  However, now, this evening, after enduring many agonizing defeats of late, I am not only down in the dire 500s, but lower than her rating.  SNIFF.  SNIFF.

What is mercy?  Bettina asking me, after wiping me across the Scrabble board, if I would like to sing hymns with her!  We sang:  Jesus Comes the Heavens Adoring, I Leave All Things to His Direction, At the Lamb's High Feast We SingStand Up For Jesus (Becky singing), Praise the One Who Breaks the Darkness, When Morning Guilds the Skies (Becky singing), God  of Grace and God of Glory, O Sacred Head Now Wounded, and Holy, Holy, and Holy.

She also read me Psalm 139....


What are the odds that I could teach either Madeleine or Sam to do this?

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