Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
As I promised when we had readings for St. Thomas (December 21) posted some time early, there's now a flurry of special observances that will keep us busy for a while. I may even go to posting more than four days a week at some point. Here's what we have on the docket: Christmas Eve 12/24, Christmas Midnight 12/24, Christmas Dawn 12/25, Stephen 12/26, John the Evangelist 12/27, Holy Innocents, Martyrs 12/28, Eve of the Circumcision and Naming of Jesus 12/31, Circumcision and Naming of Jesus 1/1, then Epiphany ⅙. When people called the end of December "the holidays" that was part of what they were talking about.
Of all the world religions, it is Christianity that is focused on a God who created everything and chooses to be merciful to his creation. Let me say that again in a different way as it sinks in. Only Christianity understands a merciful and all-powerful creator God. Nobody else has one of those. Go ahead. Prove me wrong.
This is revolutionary. Over the last two thousand years it has inspired countless acts of charity, countless adoptions, the founding of hospitals, schools, and burial societies. Do you know what a burial society is? These came about in antiquity and still exist, in one way or another, today. If you have paid into the society, either using money, time, or both, often by attending the funeral of others in the society, you can know that when you die, there will be mourners around and you will have a decent and reverent burial yourself. It's kind of like life insurance with a personal twist.
Christians do works of mercy because God is merciful. He showed his love (v. 9) by sending God the Son, Jesus, so we could live in him. As we live in the love and mercy of God, we naturally show love and mercy to others.
Now we know that it doesn't always work out very well. Christians have normally been among the first to admit that there is such a thing as a fallen and sinful nature, and that we sin. But by the mercy of God we also know how to find forgiveness.
Our text for this week describes that too. In verse 10, love is seen in the fact that God loved us and arranged for "propitiation." This is a difficult theological word. It could be unpacked all day and probably not shed much light on the matter. As a thumbnail sketch, though, let's just say that in propitiation, someone does something to cover and quench righteous anger. God is angry at sin. We have plenty of sin to make him angry. Jesus covers the anger of God, diverting it from us to himself.
This takes care of our big problem - the problem of a sinful nature. It also allows us to ask God's forgiveness when we sin against others. We realize we also need to ask the person we sinned against to forgive us. That's difficult. But it's also exactly the point. God in Christ has forgiven us. We show mercy and forgive one another.
It's all rooted in the mercy and love of God. His love knows no bounds. It is sure, steadfast, and dependable.
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