Lent Studies – Loving Mercy

lovingmercyThroughout this year we are thinking about and reflecting on God’s mercy. We started the year looking at Titus 3:4-5, ‘But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy’. Mercy is defined as, ‘a deep, heartfelt compassion aroused, by the need or distress of another, in one who is in a position to relieve such need or distress but who has no requirement to do so other than the impetus of their compassion.’ It incorporates such things as loving-kindness, pity, forbearance, grace, forgiveness. These are all attributes of God; mercy and compassion are fundamental to his very nature. ‘The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abound     ing in love’ (Psalm 103:8), ‘He is the father of all mercies and the giver of all comfort’ (2 Corinthians 1:3). He has no requirement to show us mercy, it is just the impetus of his compassion. His mercy is towards all people. It is inspired by our human weakness and helplessness. God helps us, as he did King David, when we are in distress. King David said ‘let us fall into the hands of God because he is merciful’ (1 Chronicles 21:13). All through Scripture we read that God is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4), generous and lavish in love and mercy (Ephesians 1:8; 1 John 3:1) and that his mercies never end (Lamentations 3:22). His mercy flows from his throne of grace not in stingy drips but as a constant, gushing outpouring flowing from his heart of infinite loving-kindness and compassion towards all he has made.

We experience God’s mercy in a deeply moving & personal way as in Psalm 23, ‘Surely goodness & loving mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever’. God has supremely shown his mercy to us in the giving of his Son, Jesus Christ, to the manger and to the cross to be our living Saviour.  ‘The crowning jewel of God’s mercy came in the form of a man named Jesus’.

The definition of mercy also included the phrase – ‘Mercy is an active word, if the emotion does not result in action, it is not mercy.’  As a church we are not only reflecting deeply on the mercy of God but also on what it means for us in terms of action. Studying God’s mercy is not like learning about Henry VIII or the properties of plutonium as unconnected facts that do not involve us. This is not about achievement but about formation. By exploring this subject we enter into a holistic heart experience that involves us changing and growing in grace and in the knowledge of God. Not only do we receive God’s mercy but this is then the motivation and inspiration both for how we live and the way we in turn show mercy to others. Jesus said, ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful’ (Luke 6:36).

 And the Lord has told us how he wants us to live in Micah 6:8, ‘He has showed you, O people, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ This verse is translated in The Message (a modern interpretation), ‘He’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbour, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously – take God seriously.’

‘Taking God Seriously’ is our theme for the Sundays of Lent 2016. Lent has traditionally been a period from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday (40 days) of fasting and self-denial in commemoration of Christ’s fasting in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1,2). In recent times it has become as much, if not more, about what we actively take on rather than what we take out of our lives. The real aim of Lent is to prepare people for the celebration of the death and Resurrection of Jesus. The better the preparation the more effective the celebration will be. So it is perhaps best understood as a period of dynamic engagement with God. It might mean fasting and self-denial but it certainly involves prayer, contemplation, self-examination and an intentional seeking after God. In other words, taking God seriously.

Each week we will be reflecting on a passage of Scripture that explores different facets of the mercy of God. There will be readings and suggested topics for discussion/personal reflection.

You can download the full series here: 2016-loving-mercy-lent-studies-leaflet.

Our Theme for 2017

‘‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Matthew 25:40