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Across the Pastor’s Desk: Now more than ever, have mercy

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Nancy Overgaard

Recently, I decided to start reading daily in the Greek New Testament as one of my seminary professors once suggested.

I love the way it slows me down and makes me think about the meaning of each word, as I struggle to remember once familiar words and decipher the meaning of others based on context and what I recall from reading in English.

I began with the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12 and found myself awed all over again by their beauty, wisdom and relevance — even 2,000 years after Jesus first spoke them. It was as though I was reading them for the first time.

Some in the media would do well to refresh their own memories on the meaning and message of the beatitudes, especially the fifth one: “Blessed are the merciful.”

Nancy Overgaard

For some — from the national media to social media — they seem bent on mercilessly, if not viciously, scourging those with whom they differ, those who stumble in their words or commit typographical errors in hasty tweets.

Many seem to have forgotten their own human imperfection and need for mercy in their own turn, as the second half of that beatitude reminds us.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

I love the way the beatitudes refrain from lecturing, appealing instead to our better senses, helping us realize it is in our own best interest to live by them.

I remember well a scenario from my teenage years — one of many — when I was the undeserving recipient of mercy. It is an ever-present reminder I owe to others to extend the same kind of mercy I received.

While learning to drive, I was vexed by one station wagon in particular. I have no idea who designed it (or I might be tempted to mercilessly judge them) but the front end was not designed with new drivers in mind. I found it impossible to judge where the car ended and the side of the garage began. To make matters worse, the garage had been made too small.

One evening, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Asked to simply pull the car into the garage from the driveway, I did so at about two miles per hour, inching forward lest I misjudge the frame of the garage. Depth perception never my strong suit — it was a lose-lose situation.

On hearing the crunch of the mirror against the frame of the garage door, I tried to minimize the damage by backing out. In the process, I managed to cave in the front passenger side door. It really was the fault of the designer, I am sure, but the blame was certain to fall on me. Needless to say, I would rather not have gone back into the house that night.

Fully deserving judgment, or at least a merciless scourging, I was astounded and profoundly grateful to receive mercy, instead.

“Mercy rejoices over judgment,” James wrote in his short New Testament letter (2:13b, KJV).

And, believe me, I was rejoicing with it!

“Mercy triumphs over judgment,” by another translation (2:13b, NIV, NAS).

That, too, is something to ponder.

James is more biting in the first half of that verse. There, he warns that “judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful,” (2:13a, NIV).

He advises that we speak and act accordingly (2:12).

“What does the Lord require of you?” God asked long ago. “To do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God,” (Micah 6:8).

A little humility and a lot of mercy is still needed in our day. If we will all extend it, joy will abound all around.

With Mother’s Day in view, I would like to end with a tribute to my mother, from whom I have received much mercy, and to the many like her. May we all be like them!

Nancy Overgaard is a member of the Freeborn County Ministerial Association.