May 26, 2019 [6th Sunday Easter] ● Acts 15:1-2, 22-29 ● Psalm 67 ● ● Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23 ● + John 14:23-29 ●
Title: The Practice of Mercy.
[_01_] I am practicing with this microphone.
“Practice” is something we are called to do, including the practice of MERCY.
Jesus preaches and practices MERCY toward this disciples, toward us.
In ancient Israel, King David was the successor to the throne of Israel. David was anointed the king-to-be of Israel.
By the time that David – or King David – actually became King and sat on the throne in Jerusalem, he and the previous king – King Saul – were serious rivals. The older and apparently less-good-looking Saul had become very jealous of the younger and more popular David.
The very young and apparently inexperienced David, as you will recall, is our pre-eminent biblical and cultural “underdog” having defeated the mighty Goliath with only a slingshot. Meanwhile, King Saul and the professional soldiers watched from the sidelines. As time passed, David got a lot more “likes” than Saul…but Saul was still the king.
If People magazine or other tabloids had been around, they surely would have written articles to ignite fires of discontent between these 2 royal rivals … sort of like a row between Queen Elizabeth and the Prince of Wales or between Prince William and Prince Harry. Do they all get along? We’re not really sure.
[_02_] At one point, David has the opportunity to take Saul’s life.
David knew very well of Saul’s jealousy. Meanwhile, David had his own soldiers and army separate from Saul.
David could have fought Saul in battle but did not, out of respect for the king who preceded him and who was also chosen by God. Once, David came upon Saul’s tent in the camp and found Saul sleeping. He quietly took Saul’s spear and water jug to prove to Saul how close he had been. After walking a long distance away, David called to Saul and told him that he could have killed taken his life but chose to show mercy. David preaches (shouts) and actually practices mercy. Mercy is showing kindness even though we have the power or opportunity to hurt someone.
Mercy is also not meant to be our last resort. Sometimes, we decide on “mercy” and forgiveness after other strategies – such as making another person conform to our wishes – does not work.
Mercy is meant to be our first choice.
[_03_] This Sunday is Memorial Day Weekend and we certainly recall the bravery and defensive measures taken by our sisters and brothers in the military.
Can the battlefield be a place of mercy?
In 2016, a Hollywood movie portrayed the real-life true sacrifice of a WW2 battlefield hero in HACKSAW RIDGE.
The true-life historical film is about Desmond Doss, of the U.S. Army in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, near the end of WW2.
Desmond is a medic, a military-level EMT on the battlefield, responsible for first aid and frontline trauma care for injured soldiers.
Desmond is a medic or army-EMT both because of his interest in medicine and because of his faith in God as a Seventh Day Adventist Christian. He refuses to carry a rifle. Desmond preaches and practices mercy.
At first, young Desmond seems very naïve – about how the Army will treat his faith and principles. Desmond expected to be treated with dignity and respect for his values, but this does not always happen. They do not know what to expect of him in the battle.
In the battle, many were wounded, and Desmond himself really could have escaped himself… but Desmond is extremely daring in his ability to rescue – with absolutely no help 75 soldiers by himself in enemy territory. He receives medals for his service, including the Bronze Star and Medal of Honor.
For Desmond Doss, every person was valuable – he seeks out every possible angle and method to save others.
At one point, he prays – in the movie – Lord, help me get one more, help me save one more, “1 more, 1 more, 1 more … = 75”, saved not simply out of patriotism but out of love. In fact, he even rescues some wounded Japanese and sent them to U.S. Army hospitals.
[_04_] The movie – Hacksaw Ridge – is an example of unconditional love and the desire to recognize the inherent value of a person, whether he is wounded, whether he or is your enemy, whether or not the person believes you can do something.
At times, Desmond’s patriotism and sanity are questioned because he refuses to carry a rifle. He does not object to the use of rifles or the value of self-defense, he just will not touch a rifle.
This is not an apparent luxury, it Desmond’s – it is also God’s abundant love to save life, to protect life whenever possible. Desmond practices mercy.
Desmond Doss of WW2 and David manifest similar values.
And, they live out what Christ taught us that we are called to a dwelling of love and peace.
But, what does it mean to dwell or live in peace?
In Proverbs we read, “rejoice not when your enemy falls and when he stumbles let not your heart exult.“ (Proverbs 24:17)
It is our Gospel value – but sometimes our struggle to believe that it is not “hatred” that drives out more hatred. Rather, love drives out hatred.
[_05_] Two weeks ago, we recalled one of our American saints and heroes, one who was also on in American battle, though without rifles or cannons.
In 1864, a missionary priest – Father Damien – arrived in Hawaii to serve a community on the island of Molokai. And, Molokai was a resort, in a way. But, it was not a holiday resort, but rather the “last resort”.
Molokai in the 1800’s had become a leper colony, for people suffering from leprosy.
Everyone on Molokai had been sent there because they had leprosy and for leprosy there was no real cure until the mid 20th century.
By the time Damien arrived, it seemed that the battle had been lost against not only against leprosy but also a battle against any form of community or life or peace or happiness. The people were miserable.
The religious superiors gave advice to Damien that would be quite different from what, for example, Mother Teresa would say … As you recall, Mother Teresa and her sisters picked up the sick and they dying. And, Damien did this as well, though his superiors told him, “Do not touch them. Do not allow them to touch you. Do not eat with them.”
But Damien decided to visit them, treat them and inquire of their needs.
In an article on the Word on Fire blog, I read this that Damien realized early on that he in order to show people that their lives had meaning, he also had to show them that their deaths had meaning.
St. Paul touches on this – “in life and in death, we are the Lord’s, whether we live or die, we belong to God.” (Bibl-Ref ___)
On Memorial Day, we do the same to say that not only the lives – but also the deaths of those in military service have meaning.
What did Damien do on the island of Molokai?
“So he built a fence around the local cemetery, which pigs and dogs regularly scavenged. He also constructed coffins and dug graves, committing that each leper, even if marginalized throughout his life, would receive a decent burial upon death. This had a remarkably uplifting effect on the community.” (Brandon Vogt, Word on Fire, Damien of Molokai and Solidarity, May 10, 2016)We profess our faith in God’s mercy which is also lifts us up in this life and in the next. [_fin_]