Canon Jim Irvinethe penultimate WORD
Series 1999 - January
How blest are those who show mercy;

mercy shall be shown to them.


The Irvine Tartan  ē My monthly column in The New Brunswick Anglican


How blest are those who show mercy; mercy shall be shown to them.
Matthew 5:7 New English Bible

I invariably find my lost keys in the most unlikely place: where I left them!

Frantically, I have passed what seems like a life-time looking for the familiar, the cherished, the highly valued only to discover that the object of my pursuit was more accessible than imagined! In pedestrian ways we can associate such effort in the search for those car keys. But such activity fills the day in a wide variety of ways.

It has ever been so.

The heart is gladdened with every discovery made. That which was lost is found. An epiphany!

And the unexpected discoveries, I find, are the most thrilling.

The opportunity of sitting, listening to Jesus would have provided more than one such occasion for discovery. And this is evident in the gospelís account of what we know as the Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes are a rich store house of discovery.

Our lack of familiarity with the Writings current in the age reduces the Beatitudes to proverbs that we treasure. But, it seems clear to me, the treasure is only enhanced in value when the familiar helps spark a memory of a lost passage.

We gain an insight into the heart and mind of Jesus, certainly. But more than that, we discover that having gained such an insight we have discovered God!

Mercy is just such a lost key.

Oh, we can hope that mercy will be reciprocated. Iíll show you mercy. Youíll show me mercy. The Golden Rule measurement, we might say. A lot like the mutual self-effacement of the Disney characters, Chip and Dale: where Chip defers to Dale and Dale defers to Chip. Iím not sure if they ever got through the doorway! And Iím not sure that we ever show mercy on this mutual self-effacement level. I donít think that we do. At least I donít think that I do.

The followers of Jesus, listening to him on that occasion may well have remembered words behind the words and placed them in a new light.

"But thou art merciful to all men because thou canst do all things; thou dost overlook the sins of men to bring them to repentance." (Wisdom 11: 23 New English Bible)

Mercy for me has been more akin to pity than forbearance. Jesusí inclusion of mercy in his thoughts shared confront us with the sort of challenge that draws us into a new relationship. Not a relationship built on inequality. Not a relationship built on pity. Not a relationship that in a modest way exalts our largesse.

God can overlook my sins and see me. And, I can overlook your sins, and in so doing, see you. The mercy shown me has me respond in my repentance. Iíll not wait for you. Let me overlook your sins, and in so doing, see you. Allowing you to respond in your repentance.

My epiphany is the discovery of you, redeemedÖ and in the redemption, Jesus!

Copyright © 1999 James T. Irvine

Sermon delivered at St Matthew's ELCIC, Fredericton

1999 Series | Festivals of Light

penultimate WORD - Festivals of Light Series