A Literary Medley: Mercy

“’Mercy, GOD, mercy!’: the prayer is not an attempt to get God to do what he is unwilling otherwise to do, but a reaching out to what we know that he does do, an expressed longing to receive what God is doing in and for us in Jesus Christ. In obedience we pray ‘Mercy!’ instead of ‘Give us what we want.’ We pray ‘Mercy!’ and not ‘Reward us for our goodness so our neighbors will acknowledge our superiority.’ We pray ‘Mercy!’ and not ‘Punish us for our badness so we will feel better.’ We pray ‘Mercy!’ and not ‘Be nice to us because we have been such good people.’ We live under the mercy. God does not treat us as alien others, lining us up so that he can evaluate our competence or our usefulness or our worth. He rules, guides, commands, loves us as children whose destinies he carries in his heart.”

Eugene H. Peterson in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

Mercy. So, so needed.

“Just go on—alone. How can I tell what I shall do? You know the whole of me. You know I’m not one for a life of mourning. I’ve always been bad. Probably I shall be bad again, punished again. But the worse I am, the more I need God. I can’t shut myself out from his mercy. That is what it would mean; starting a life with you, without him. One can only hope to see one step ahead. But I saw today there was one thing unforgiveable … the bad thing I was on the point of doing, that I’m not quite bad enough to do; to set up a rival good to God’s.”

Julia in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited

Yes, mercy.

Because of this:

 

O all ye who passe by, behold and see;

Man stole the fruit, but I must climbe the tree;

The tree of life to all, but onely me:

Was ever grief like mine?

 

Lo, here I hang, charg’d with a world of sinne,

The greater world o’ th’ two; for that came in

By  words, but this by sorrow I must win:

Was ever grief like mine?

 

Such sorrow as, if sinfull man could feel,

Or feel his part, he would not cease to kneel.

Till all were melted, though he were all steel:

Was ever grief like mine?

 

From George Herbert’s “The Sacrifice”.

 

Yes, mercy—so that even in hard times, we have hope:

 

Whilst my physicians by their love are grown

Cosmographers, and I their map, who lie

Flat on this bed, that by them may be shown

That this is my south-west discovery,

Per fretum febris, by these straits to die,

 

I joy, that in these straits I see my west;

For, though their currents yield return to none,

What shall my west hurt me? As west and east

In all flat maps (and I am one) are one,

So death doth touch the resurrection.

 

From John Donne’s “Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness”.

 

Yes, mercy.

And resurrection hope.

Lord, have mercy.

 

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