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Oasis Of Mercy

A few weeks ago, we read a story in the gospel of Luke about the Pharisee and the Publican who went to the temple to pray. Jesus, at the end of the parable, spoke about how the Publican went home justified. One of the spiritual practices that the Christ Church Vestry engages in during our monthly Vestry Meeting is to read the gospel for the coming Sunday and then engage each other in a healthy sober reflection.

At this recent Vestry Meeting, I shared a vision based on the text we read. I said that it is my hope that Christ Church would be an oasis of mercy. In other words, when you walk into our sacred space, when you spend time with all the people who bring life and meaning to this sacred space, when you express both your fears and anxieties, the worries and challenges that have taken their toll on you, when you reflect on your own vulnerabilities, you would come to find that there’s a listening ear available to you. More than that, you would find that there’s a warm embrace awaiting you. There’s a place for spiritual nourishment and healing for you.

Truth be told, I haven’t seen a natural oasis before, and I am not exactly sure whether what I thought I probably saw - thirty thousand feet above the Sahara Desert - was an oasis. But be that as it may, I am more attracted to the idea of the oasis being that spot that is filled with living water that quenches our lingering thirst. I am attracted to the idea of an oasis being that spot from which we can literally and figuratively drink from the water source that never runs dry.

More than that, I am attracted to the idea of a sacred space where no one is judged for being who they are, nor are their values questioned on the basis of someone else’s values - more like the Pharisee. I am all for a sacred space where we can all bring our brokenness to God’s altar table because we know that’s where they belong. It must be a holy place where we can feel accepted and affirmed because we know that no other place offers that to us. It is a place where your brokenness, and mine, point us beyond ourselves, reminding us that we are recipients of mercy so rich in depth, so wide in scope, and so tall in height.

This coming Sunday is All Saints' Sunday. It is also our Pledge Sunday, where we will bring our pledge cards to the altar table and, together, offer a prayer of thanksgiving. I have always considered that moment to be one of the most solemn we have. This is because we take that step in total recognition of our dependence on God and in appreciation of the gift of life that we have received.

I have never considered that moment as a time to placate God or to simply please Him. Rather, it is a time when we pledge ourselves, our souls, and our bodies as reasonable sacrifices to God. It is, for me, a moment where each one of us is captured and captivated by the spirit and joy of gratitude. Our hearts are full - not with ourselves, but with the God who provides for us.

In fact, more than the steps we take in walking to the altar table with our pledges, mailing them, dropping them in the offering plate, or offering them online, it is the deep belief that together with others, we are working to create an oasis of mercy, where deep compassion flows from our sinews, and that is what humbles me.

I once came upon this saying: “Coffee never knew it would taste so nice and sweet until it met milk and sugar. We are good as individuals, but become better when we meet and blend with the right people." Within our sacred space, I have found good, decent, honest, compassionate, and generous people - right people. You combine your individual gifts and talents to make our coffee (Christ Church) taste so good and create an oasis of mercy where many come to draw on the living water that Jesus promises.

Remember the story of a woman who meets Jesus by the well? Jesus promised her living water, to which the woman responds, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

How thirsty are you?

Whether we are carrying our burdens, brokenness, or pledges, we approach the altar table with a sense of gratitude - that is the one place where we are welcomed as we are, loved as we are, sustained, and transformed for goodness. It is the one place where mercy transforms morbidness.

Should I come by this sacred space, one where the altar table beckons, I want to feel that God’s mercy abounds here. I want to feel that I can draw on something so special, so uplifting, so life-transforming.

Not only can you and I create that oasis of mercy, but we can sustain, strengthen, and deepen it with our generosity.



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