The Many Faces of Mercy

By Sharron R. Blezard, May 30, 2010

Lectionary Reflection for Sunday, June 6, 2010

Second Sunday after Pentecost Year C

Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me;

O LORD, be my helper.”

You have turned my wailing into dancing;

you have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.

Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing;

O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.

Psalm 30:10-12

There are certainly several ways that one could go when studying these texts to prepare a lesson or sermon. Many preachers will choose to look at physical healing; the Old Testament, psalm, and gospel texts certainly lend themselves to that approach. In fact, it would be a excellent day for a healing service. That said, I’m going to take a somewhat different approach to the material, looking at healing through a different lens—that of social justice and the healing of society.

Social justice has become quite the “charged” term in recent weeks thanks to conservative political commentator Glenn Beck. Mr. Beck ignited controversy with his comments, including “I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words.” If you’ve been following the fracas you know what I’m talking about. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, a key fact remains: we can argue and talk until we’re blue (or red) in the face, but all of our rhetoric and grumbling won’t feed hungry children or help lift our neighbor out of poverty. Oh, and fear doesn’t feed folks either.

Now that we have that out of the way, if you’re looking for a fresh approach that taps into discipleship, why not consider thinking about this Sunday’s texts (the semi-continuous Old Testament reading from 1 Kings 17:8-24, Psalm 30, and the gospel from Luke 7:11-17) in light of hunger and the many faces of mercy. I also have a great challenge for you and your congregations, the SNAP to It: June Food Stamp Challenge, but I’ll say more about that shortly.

Hunger continues to plague our world and neighbors near and far. If your church or social service organization has a food pantry or other assistance program, you’ve lkely seen increased needs. This crisis is not a new one, not just some social ill of our time. Look at the Old Testament reading: a woman and her son are at the end of their resources during a severe famine, God sends the prophet Elijah to the widow, and she extends hospitality. In doing so, God provides abundantly so that her oil jar and flour supply are never empty until the rain comes again. In the gospel, Jesus restores the widow’s dead son to life, ensuring that her future is secure. The psalmist asks for mercy and praises God for turning wailing into dancing. If you decide to pursue this approach, you might wish to substitute Psalm 146, the semicontinuous psalm appointed for this day. The key point is that God does provide and mercy has a face.

So who is the face of mercy in time of suffering and hardship? Obviously God is the one who offers relief, but notice that God uses human agents. That makes you and me as disciples of Christ, the faces of mercy. We are the ones who our sisters and brothers see offering relief, assistance, and hope. We are also the faces they will see if we ignore their pleas and make light of their situation. There is much healing that needs to happen in our world, but if we look for the end of time, a new political leader, or some magic lightning bolt from on high to solve everything, then we might be cooling our heels for awhile.

It’s up to each one of us, all of us, to tackle these tough issues with compassion, attention to scripture, creativity, and without fear. Problems rarely are solved through arguments; it takes wise and visionary people to step up the plate, shoulder responsibility, and follow the example of Jesus. Will you be one of those people? Will you be one of the many faces of mercy in God’s name?


Why not challenge your congregations to the SNAP to It: June Food Stamp Challenge. The original challenge was issued by blogger Katy Wolk-Stanley at The Non-Consumer Advocate. She challenges individuals and families to live for the month of June on the average amount of assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that they might receive and then to donate the dollars saved to their local food pantry or other hunger program. Why not make this a congregational challenge or build a class around it? You can follow my progress for the month of June via the SOLI “Just Living” Blog.

About the Author

The Rev. Sharron Riessinger Blezard is an ELCA pastor currently rostered in the Lower Susquehanna Synod. She came to ordained ministry after teaching secondary and college English, working in non-profit management and public relations, and moonlighting as a freelance writer. See more posts by .

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  1. Robert Charles

    Excellent column! It’s good to be reminded that 99.9 percent of the time, “divine” intervention takes place when God uses US. What’s the ELCA’s motto? “God’s work, our hands.”

  2. So true! Leaders, teachers, and preachers would do well to regularly lift up this idea before congregations and students. Thanks for your comment!

  3. Teri Hermsmeyer

    I enjoyed finding and reading your article “The Many Faces of Mercy” – I may take that approach in my sermon (mercy and compassion). Wanted to say “hi!” – do you remember me from LTSG around 2001-02 and 2004? I live in Boulder, CO. Great ministry you have here – even while on leave from call!

  4. Thanks, Teri! Blessings on your proclamation this week.
    Yes, I do remember you, and it’s very good to hear from you! Thanks for visiting the site. Hope you’ll continue to join the conversation.

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