Because God Is Merciful

Tree falling on St. Athanasius
Before we retired a couple of years ago and moved to Oklahoma, we attended St. Athanasius Lutheran Church in Vienna, Virginia.  Longtime readers of this blog may remember how I would often post about sermons from our pastor, Rev. James Douthwaite.  Well, we still get the newsletter, which this month includes  a column from Pastor Douthwaite that deserves wider circulation:  “Because God Is Merciful.”  I reprint it here with his permission.
As background, the congregation has been struggling with some maddening problems. For example, a tree fell on the building they have been using–a small Seventh Day Adventist chapel–doing so much damage they are having to meet elsewhere!  Also other trials of a small congregation referred to in the piece, which Pastor Douthwaite gave me permission to share.
From Rev. James Douthwaite, Newsletter: From the Pastor:

Because God Is Merciful

A number of years ago, I resolved that whenever someone asked me why God did or did not do something, I would respond: Because God is merciful. I have not always kept to that resolution, but I’ve started thinking about it again . . .

Why did God allow or cause _____ ? Because God is merciful.
Why did God give me ____ ? Because God is merciful.

Why did God take away _____ ? Because God is merciful.
Why isn’t God doing _____ ? Because God is merciful.

Now, maybe that cannot be the answer to everything, but I think it can be to most of our questions. And it puts us in the right way of thinking about God. He is doing what He is doing because He has a merciful purpose behind it all. We may not be able to understand it, we might not be able to even imagine what God could be doing and how a particular thing might be merciful to us and benefit us – but just because our little, fallen minds cannot grasp it doesn’t make it not so.Or in other words: Because God is merciful is a statement of faith. Faith in the goodness of God. Faith in His love. Faith that He is always working for us and the salvation of all people.

I began thinking about this again with our current church situation . . .

Why did God allow or cause that tree to fall on our church? Because God is merciful.
Why are we having financial difficulties at church? Because God is merciful.
Why are some of our members moving away and we haven’t been getting as many new folks in church? Because God is merciful.

Maybe we needed to be shaken up a bit. Maybe we’ve grown complacent or satisfied. Maybe we haven’t been good stewards of what God has given us. Maybe we need to give more of our time or money. Maybe we need the challenge. Maybe we need . . . what else? So God in His mercy is providing for us, working in us, even through hardship.

So we do not lose hope. Things may get worse or better in the months ahead and in the next year. Whichever, God will still be merciful. On that we can always rely.

A quick read through the Old Testament confirms this. The people in those days did not always realize what God was doing, but God revealed much of it through the prophets; how all that had happened was according to His good and gracious will.

And now as we enter the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, we see it again – how God used difficulties and struggles for His merciful purpose. Did Joseph and Mary always realize why things were happening as they were? Surely not! But in looking back, we see why: Because God is merciful.

So too in your life and in our life together as a congregation. God has brought each of you to Saint Athanasius because He is merciful. We need each other. Christians are not meant to be outside a church, a flock. We need you, and you need us, and we together need the gifts of our Lord which He so mercifully provides for us here. Whether here is in a church building, a home, or someplace else. That will never change. For wherever two or three are gathered in His Name, there is He. Wherever His Word is proclaimed and His Sacraments given, there is the Church. God promised. Because He is merciful.

Lord, have mercy!

His servant and yours,

Pastor Douthwaite
Photo of damage from the tree from the St. Athanasius Lutheran Church FaceBook page

 

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