Monday, August 1, 2016

Becoming a People of God's Mercy & Delight, Part 1

Grace first and last

For Christians,
The first word is grace
The last word is grace
And every day along the way is grace, grace, grace

Grace is the free gift of God. This includes the many gifts of creation and the gifts each of us has. But, the ultimate gift of God is the gift of God’s own self which he bestows upon us freely and lavishly.

He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. (Ephesians 1:5-8)

I suggest there are two movements to God’s grace – Mercy and Delight. A basic Christian discipline is learning to pay closer attention to God’s mercy and delight. We are invited to be transformed by God’s mercy and delight. We are called to become ever better channels of that mercy and delight to this sin-sick, suffering world. As the body of Christ, the Church is to be a people of God’s mercy and delight.

At the 2015 Convention of the Diocese of Fond du Lac, I called on the diocese to become a people of God’s mercy and delight. Over the next weeks I want to explain more of what I think that means. I’ll begin with a bit about delight.


The Hebrew word most often translated “delight” is chephets, the root meaning of which is “to bend toward.”

Delight = Love + Joy + Attention. And that is what we have received from God through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.

God delights in creation

Creation itself is grace – the free gift of God.

When God finished creating this world, he saw that it was good, tov in Hebrew. Tov can also be translated "beautiful." God delights in the beauty of his creation and God delights in each of human being created in his image. One possible meaning of the Garden of Eden is the “Garden of Delight.”

God delights in us

In the lesson we heard from Proverbs 8, the Wisdom of God – prefiguring Jesus – proclaims, “[At creation] I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.”

Julian of Norwich, one of the Church’s great theologians of God’s mercy and delight declared, “For we are his bliss, because he endlessly delights in us; and so with his grace shall we delight in him.”

Pay attention to that. Do you believe it? God delights in the human race. God delights in you.

The Incarnation confirms God’s delight in his material creation and in each of us as that part of creation created in God’s image. In Jesus Christ God has bent toward us in cherishing, attentive love  in delight.

We are made to delight in God

“Taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are they who trust in him!” (Psalm 34:8)

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)

We are made to delight in God’s good creation.

Creation is sacramental – it is always and everywhere a potential encounter with God’s goodness

“The whole earth is full of His glory." (Isaiah 6:3)

“Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving.” (1 Timothy 4:4)

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
 It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
– Gerard Manley Hopkins, God’s Grandeur

Are we paying attention to God’s delightful creation? Do we delight in it? Or are we too busy, too distracted?

We are made to delight in one another as images of God

“God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

“What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:4-5)

Each human being, created in God’s image and for whom Christ died, is sacramental – an icon of God right in from of us. Are we paying attention? In his essay, The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis wrote, “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way.”

Can we learn to delight in other people the way we delight to receive the sacrament of bread and wine? Are we paying reverent attention to the holy object that is every other person?

Perhaps we can even delight in ourselves – delighting in the delight God has in us as holy images of God.

But . . .

This all sounds wonderful. And it is. Christians rejoice in the truth of it. But, we all also know that the reality of the world and human history are often much less than delightful. In is difficult to find the delightful in some people. And we each know that there is much about ourselves that is less than delightful. Though all of creation is a gift of grace and inherently delightful, there is also deep and radical brokenness and rebellion. We need mercy.

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