I gave a devotion at the Board for International Missions meeting in St. Louis based on the last few verses of Matthew 4. My point was that sometimes we forget mercy in the business of witness and life together. God condescends to us and shrinks himself to come to a manger and a cross. The God who fills the universe condescends to have our puny mouths spread His fame. Mercy is the same. God allows us to be His hands of mercy and sometimes we leave it in the background. There are still voices in the church that denigrate mercy work and it is sad. Unbeknownst to me, half way around the country at a meeting of the Lutheran Services in America, John Fale , Associate Executive Director Mercy Operations for the LCMS was giving a devotion on the same text with the same ideas. Here is a part of his devotion.
“Imagine what it was like for this news of Jesus to spread throughout all of Syria, several hundred miles away to Gentiles, but they came. Carrying loved ones many miles on carts and on stretchers, as they do in parts of our world today, they came to see and to receive from this Jesus. Yet they came because they were desperate for healing. In Jesus’ day, these enemies of Israel humbled themselves, bringing their loved ones to Jesus to be healed of their afflictions. And they received God’s preached word and the Incarnate Word healed them in soul and body.
Our world continues to need the mercy of God in Jesus. Our congregations and social ministry organizations see the effects of darkness and death each and every day. There is violence and death everywhere we look. There are many and various afflictions of people who need the mercy of God. There is great suffering in our world through natural and man-made disasters, poverty, hunger, sickness, and disease. There is, literally, a world that is crying out for the mercy of God.
We are called by the Gospel to live under Christ and His kingdom. As we do, we demonstrate to the world that not only do we value the gift of life that God has given us by speaking in defense for those who cannot speak for themselves, we value the gift of life as we proclaim life in Christ and sustain life through caring for those who are in need. That is our mission. We do not live for ourselves. Given life by God, we are called to live for our neighbor. Receiving the Light of God, we are lights of God’s mercy in our respective vocational calls.”