Deaconess Pamela Boehle-Silva
Martin Luther tells us that we are all beggars before God. We come before Him with absolutely nothing to offer. We stand before God weak, helpless and dependent upon Him for His gifts of grace and mercy. In one of his sermons, Luther describes it this way: We come to the Divine Service with empty sacks. We confess our sins, and the pastor pronounces absolution and that forgiveness and mercy goes into our sack. We chant a Psalm and a little more mercy goes into that sack. We sing a hymn, reflective of God’s holy Word, and that empty sack is getting lined with mercy. We hear the voice of Christ through our pastor as he reads the Gospel and preaches his sermon and our mercy sacks are filling up. We come to the Lord’s Table to receive Jesus’ body and blood (incarnate Mercy), and our sacks are no longer empty, but are filled to overflowing with mercy. We leave the Divine Service filled with forgiveness, life and salvation—Mercy! Perhaps we don’t even make it out the door of the sanctuary and someone irritates us, and we think, “here, have a little of this mercy from my sack.” We get to the parking lot and a friend or family member says something hurtful. Instead of responding in kind, we dole out a little of Christ’s mercy. Throughout the week, we encounter all sorts of people and events which require mercy and we give freely—not our own mercy, but the mercy of Christ, the merciful one, which we received on Sunday. By the time Saturday night rolls around, our mercy sack is empty and in need of replenishing. And so, we come back to the Divine Service, where again, our empty sacks are filled. And on and on it goes.
But this mercy, so freely given, comes with a price. The pastor who speaks those merciful words of Christ, has a salary that needs to be paid. The sanctuary in which we receive these gifts comes with its own costs: electricity, heat, air-conditioning, maintenance—just look around and you’ll see it. The coffee that’s served each Sunday, (and for some of us, caffeine is merciful), along with snacks—you got it—it costs money. And then there is the need to stock the bathrooms with paper towels, toilet paper and soap—mundane but essential realities.
As we desire to extend Christ’s mercy to those in our congregation, our community and distant lands, money is needed. Without money, there is no mercy missions. Without money, we would have no academy. Without money, we would not be able to send mercy to thousands of people in Kenya and across the world.
Fortified by Christ’s mercy which fills our empty sacks, we allow that mercy to spill out to others in need. Recognizing the great gift of love we have received, we are moved to care for others (and even the mundane things like buildings and roofs), knowing that mercy brings life and hope.