Weekly Reflection (NEW!)
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Please read Matthew 9: 9-13 in your Bible.
I like to go jogging through the trails in Schenley Park two or three mornings each week. Through most of my run I am alone on the trail, but along the route I will pass several people coming in the opposite direction. (Maybe Iím going the wrong way?) Often I will say, "Good Morning!" or "Hello!" as I go by them. Some people shoot me a wary glance and go on their way. Others smile and return my greeting. Still others give me a weird looks at first, but then on the following days when they see me coming they will greet me. They must be thinking, "Oh, here comes that ĎGood Morningí guy I better be ready." I give out my greetings for two reasons. First itís fun to watch peopleís reactions. Running can be so boring. Second itís good to reach out to people and build some community no matter where you are.
I was listening to the radio earlier today and a self-proclaimed terrorism expert was being interviewed. He said that he had been sounding the alarm about possible terrorist attacks in the United States for the past five years. He was warning us to be suspicious of everyone. He said that guy who married the girl-next-door may not be who he says he is. "People you think you know you may not really know," he warned. He also told us to watch out for the "weird looking guy" messing around the air conditioning vents of our buildings.
What will our fear drive us to do? We have already kicked people off of airplanes because they look like they might come from the Middle East. Middle Eastern people have been harassed and assaulted. One Hindu Sikh was even killed out of ignorance. How safe do we really want to be?
Do we want to be so safe that any hope for community and especially diverse community is shattered? In the passage from Matthew Jesus goes to a big dinner party with a bunch of "tax collectors and sinners." The religious leaders are incensed. Heís making a mockery of their attempt to be pure and separate from such "outcasts." Jesus then quotes some Scripture from the prophet, Hosea. God is saying through the prophet, "I desire mercy not sacrifice." (v. 13, NRSV) Isnít one of our spiritual goals to be Christ like? Hasnít God shown us unending mercy by coming to us again and again in love?
Sure we need to be on alert, but we donít need to be alarmists. God in Christ calls us to show mercy. We are called to reach out to the people that are cast aside by our society and the world. We are called to be merciful in building community. I admit that I sometimes have irrational, racist thoughts. You probably do too. The thing is we donít have to be paralyzed by, shamed by or even act on these thoughts. Instead, we can act by showing mercy instead. We may have to grit our teeth as we say it, but we can say, "My faith is in God. My trust is in Jesus." You can show mercy and reach out to others for two reasons. First itís fun to watch peopleís reactions. Life can get so boring. Second itís good to reach out to people and build some community no matter where you are or no matter who "they" are.
Pray that God will continually open your eyes to Godís everlasting mercy. When we see Godís mercy for us, we cannot help but be merciful to others.