Mercy is compassion in action. As discussed in yesterday’s meditation, Jesus taught us to find him in merciful encounters. In doing so, he echoes the biblical sense of justice.

American iconography anthropomorphizes justice as a blindfolded woman holding a scale. We conceive of justice as no respecter of individuality where fairness is the bottom line. We deem mercy another matter altogether.

Biblical justice takes fairness into account, but fairness is not the bottom line. God, who wears no blindfold, insists on mercy in justice. The bottom line is a social order in which the hungry, thirsty, alien, vulnerable, sick, and imprisoned receive the care they need. Justice as fairness alone blindfolds us to human need. Justice infused with mercy shines light in the darkness, revealing the God who sees so attentively that no sparrow flies from divine care.

Today’s reading beseeches God’s justice for the king: to judge ”people with righteousness, and [the] poor with justice.” Specifically, the just king would ”defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.”

In harmony with the prophets (see Isaiah 60:1-6), this justice beckons other kings to come, pay tribute, and bow down to the king who lights up the night with the glory of God. This king overwhelms them not with arms but with care and protection for “the weak and needy,” for “precious is their blood in his sight.”

This may seem idealistic and naïve. On the individual level, a life lived in kindness and mercy may work out, but to expect our leaders and our society to put mercy before fairness and to enact kindness before force may seem far-fetched. Yet, such are the ways of Christ. Such is the vocation to which God calls God’s people. Such is the light in the darkness.

Lord, lead us from fear to faith so that we may see and be your light. Amen.


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Lectionary Week
January 1–6, 2019
Scripture Overview

As we approach Epiphany Sunday, we think of the coming of God into the world as the coming of a brilliant light—a light that shines into dark corners, a light that shines on people who dwell in darkness. The light of God brings with it the power of restoration to a people in exile. It shines transforming power on forgotten ones who will now arise and shine. God’s presence brings light and well-being. At this time of year, we may desire God’s light to shine upon us.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Matthew 25:31-46. Where do you see darkness in your community? How can you shine Christ’s light?
Read Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14. Consider the differences between fairness, justice, and mercy. Who around you suffers when fairness wears the cloak of justice? How can you turn the situation toward mercy?
Read Ephesians 3:1-12. Was there a time when you thought the gospel was not for you? What has changed?
Read Matthew 2:1-12. We can decipher mystery through light, mercy, witness, and love. How is Christ revealed to you this Epiphany?

Respond by posting a prayer.

I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.” 

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