Jesus was always getting himself into trouble with the Pharisees, the stern keepers of the law, for his common sense and practicality.
When his disciples were hungry on the Sabbath, he let them glean. (Matthew 12 :1). When he saw a man with a shrivelled hand in the synagogue on Sunday, he healed him.
Furiously accused for doing what was unlawful on the Sabbath, he answers simply, “ If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
“I desire mercy not sacrifice,” God says. He would, wouldn’t he? He does not need our sacrifices, for the cattle on a thousand hills are his.
What he does covet is our hearts, because he loves us.
He wants our hearts to be soft and gentle, because that is what his heart is like.
I desire mercy, God says.
* * *
I am becoming increasingly aware that the real battleground is within. Follow Christ becomes a joy as we increasingly win interior battles against grumpiness, against meanness, against unforgiveness, against revenge.
On the days when I have woken up too early and am tired, I am astonished at how swiftly my inner stream of thoughts can turn to negativity. I tell Roy, “I need to be alone a bit. I am feeling negative,” to ensure I do not sin, and do harm with my words.
And then, I have to consciously turn that stream of thoughts to praise and thanksgiving.
* * *
It’s October now, autumn in England, and the leaves are falling. But we have clematis still in bloom in our garden, three rose bushes, one yellow buddleia, butterfly bush, a lone cyclamen, and a stray hellebore.
Always beauty, always something to thank God for, though the days grow shorter, and the nights longer.
And if my negative stream of thoughts turn towards other people rather than towards my own failures and struggles, then, Holy Spirit within me, remind me that God desires mercy, not sacrifice. Help me think of other people mercifully, with the same mercy the Lord God Almighty shows me, his child.