Tag Archives: church

Mercy, Not Sacrifice

Hosea 6:6, ESV

For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Mercy, not sacrifice. Steadfast love, not burnt offerings. An act of the heart not just an act of obedience.

This verse is breaking my heart this morning, echoed by Christ in Matthew 9:13

Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.

The whole Church, the Body of Christ needs to ask – what are we giving, mercy or sacrifice? Where is our heart? What is our concern – showing love or saving our own skins? What is the purpose behind our actions, our legalism, our quest for purity, our understanding of forgiveness?

We have been forgiven, cleansed, made new, all by the work of Christ with no effort on our parts beyond acknowledging when the Spirit opened our eyes to see it. So what do we do with that? We offer sacrifice – time and prayers and money and ego – all in hopes someone will see and acknowledge and validate us, that our mansion in heaven might be a little bigger, a bit better furnished. Where do we show mercy? Where do we acknowledge that it is by grace we are saved – us and everyone around us.

Mercy. Not sacrifice. Grace, forgiveness, following the example of Christ to seek out the sinners and what – yell at them about how evil they are? Tell them they’re destined to an eternity of torment? No, that’s not how Christ treated the sinner. Mercy. Grace. Forgiveness. Christians should be active in the work of restoration – renewal and healing and the journey toward wholeness.

Mercy, not sacrifice. God give me strength.

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And Then There Was Joy

I just had one of those moments where suddenly I understand things and I can’t believe how foolish I was for missing it in the first place. Some background:

  • my church has been going through the book Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas. A few weeks ago we finished looking at the Traditionalist pathway
  • We’re also, as a church, celebrating Advent with a reading and lighting of the candles each week. There’s also daily materials that I forgot existed until now.
  • I’ve signed up with my local multicultural association to help as refugees start pouring into my city – training starts tomorrow.

Now, I love the advent season, I celebrate solstice (in the sense of taking time to reflect on the darkness and celebrate the return of the light) and Christmas is both a cultural and a spiritual celebration for me. I understand the history, the richness, the excitement and the depth of this time of year – holy days and sacred times. However, this year it’s all felt really flat to me. Maybe I’ve been too busy, maybe I’ve been too distracted by the cultural rituals (shopping, wrapping, hearing my kids say they want a ton of things) – whatever it was, something was missing.

Then I read this post and suddenly my heart swelled and tears were in my eyes and I understand it more. It’s not just the rituals (spiritual or cultural) or knowing the significance of the celebration, it’s taking the opportunity to feel it. To feel the anticipation, the hope, to understand the longing and the fear that comes in the waiting – what if it doesn’t get better, what if the light doesn’t come, what if we miss the Messiah – and then choosing to hope regardless. Choosing to celebrate, to feel joy. Choosing to prepare and anticipate and believe that God is bringing something that will forever change everything and that you are part of it.

I have an extra special opportunity to understand Advent this year, and I almost missed it. I almost didn’t connect the experience of helping new people settle here with the excitement and anticipation of advent. Suddenly things feel different, I’ve got that anxious excited fluttery feeling and I can’t wait to see what happens, to experience what is coming. I am so thankful to be a part of it.

As the world turns

It’s a funny thing to think about live moving around me. A few years ago I was sick. Not quite bedridden for months. My husband was amazing and stepped in, taking responsibility for meals and groceries and laundry and bedtime routines for the kids. My biggest responsibility was to keep the kids fed and safe while he was at school every day, and to keep an eye on our finances to make sure everything got covered. I struggled a lot during that time realizing that he could do it without me – a realization that came back in a bad way a couple years ago. I was struggling with crippling depression and for a time I thought my family would do better without me. I trusted he could take care of them, of himself, of everything without the extra burden of dealing with my sadness and lethargy and needyness.

It’s hard to find your place in the world when confronted with the fact that it functions fine without you.

On the other extreme, I tend to have an overblown sense of responsibility. Generally I blame it on my mother, but really I know that’s a cop out. When I’m in charge of something to any degree, I get insecure. I want people to like me, and so if I am in any way able to make someone’s experience better and I don’t, then it’s on me and my fault. This leads to a lot of pressure I place on myself and a lot of guilt. It also makes it nearly impossible to take constructive criticism in the way it’s intended.

Yesterday my husband reminded me the extreme reaction I have is in part because of a position I was in years ago. One of those things I thought I’d moved past but apparently is still lingering in the background. He told me this after I called him home from work because I was crying and couldn’t stop and I knew I was over-reacting but couldn’t make it all make sense. I forget sometimes that there’s other things to consider – experiences and thoughts and habits and wounds and countless other bits and pieces that make me who I am.

So what’s to do then? Being involved and part of things is important. I need to be connected to stay healthy, to exercise my gifts and to serve the people around me. Part of things, but not too big a part, or the weight of it crushes me and I somehow believe it all comes down to me, that i am the most crucial element.

How quickly my pride moves from one extreme to the other.

I’m taking some time now to get some perspective. To step back and observe and see what happens. A reminder that the world still turns, and a chance to see where there’s a spot for me to fit into it. The right spot where I’ll fit and feel comfortable and not be crushed by my own expectations.

Weary

This morning I am not at my best. I’m tired. I’m frustrated. Despite my best efforts I didn’t get nearly enough sleep last night. There are things tugging at my thoughts that make me feel anxious and frustrated and confused. There are some conversations and decisions happening in my church that make me wonder where I fit and if I might be wrong about some issues that I feel very strongly on.

These things are hard to deal with. For years I was very hard on “the Church” and wanted no part in it. Finding a church – a group of people who regularly get together to discuss spirituality and share life together – was hard. It took a long time to feel comfortable there and to feel safe. Through a lot of changes I’ve seen a lot of growth and positive things, but right now there’s an issue and it’s just hard.

Community is hard sometimes. I try to teach my kids that. I try to remind them that when you live in a family, when you’re in family space, it means you can’t always have exactly what you want. It means I can’t have a clean, quiet home and it means they can’t drag in every bit of mud and grass from the yard. Church community is the same – we need to be willing to give a little and choose not to express our will for the better of the whole. I know it won’t be the ideal I picture in my head (and I even understand parts of my ideal are probably wrong), but times like this are hard.

Really this is an opportunity for us to grow, as a community. It’s a chance to discuss and share and learn together, and to make decisions that might stretch us and push us a bit. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just hard.

Especially when I have to admit that I might be the one who needs to be stretched.