Fruits of mercy


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This presentation was given at the Generative Leadership Academy for the Paris and Paducah Districts of the Memphis Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church and addresses the role that mercy plays in the life of Christians.

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  • The image of God that is in us all can only be cultivated in community. It is impossible for us to live fully into God's likeness in isolation. God made it this way…connected us in this way…built the Body of Christ this way…so that we would inherently care about and need one another.Read quote. We find freedom in living more fully into the image of God that is in us all.It’s that image that bears the capacity for us to do mercy. I stress “do mercy” because mercy isn’t just a way of feeling…a sentimental thing…it is often an act of courage, an act of risk, an act that transforms.During this time together, we will be looking at the means and opportunities that God gives us to live fully into this facet of God’s image. The hour will be broken into three segments, with engagement after each, and group sharing. It’s an ambitious hour! But one that hopefully will inform all of our lives in the days and years to come.Let's pray.
  • God gives us the means to be merciful…through individual capacity to live into God’s image; through connection – that is expanding our capacity to act mercifully through the programs/works of others we connect with; and finally community – that empowers us to work side by side to share in corporate acts of mercy that we could never achieve alone.
  • God also gives us opportunities to do mercy – and this is the focus of our time together during this hour:Low Hanging Fruit – the fruit that grows low on a tree and is therefore easy to reach: You gotta have capacity.Mid-Hanging: the fruit that can only be picked with an instrument that extends your reach.You gotta have connections.STRETCH! The fruit that can only be seen and picked from on high because one set of eyes will miss certain things and will never have the individual vision that group vision can have.You gotta have community
  • Low Hanging Fruit seems the easiest, but sometimes can be the most difficult as well! It’s right there in front of us day by day, and we can grow wary or oblivious to it.
  • Since we have this God-given capacity for mercy, we see opportunities to practice it daily in the lives of family, friends, and even strangers. “In the image of God”Marriage is one of God’s covenants meant to grow us in perfection. Day and night, we are given opportunities to be merciful to the one closest to us. Children also give us this opportunity to practice mercy, and it can be trying in those toddler and teen years. Longtime friends give us opportunity as we see one another make mistakes, pick up and try again.When we practice mercy with those closest to us, we are growing in perfection many times in ways that God alone can see. Opportunities come our way.
  • Strangers. Where do you go in your daily life? To eat out? To the grocery store? To the gas station? What opportunities do you have to practice mercy in the lives of strangers?
  • Take 5: During this time, I'd like this group to focus on question 1; this group question 2; this group question 3. I'd like for you to discuss in groups of 3-4 the question assigned to you. We'll take five minutes, then come back together. When we're done, I'd like to hear from each group – so be prepared!Invite participation.
  • Mid-Hanging Fruit: Take a look at this picture and you’ll see what I’m talking about! The extenders…the stilts…these are the programs that we can connect with that extend our reach of mercy beyond individual capacity.
  • We have the capacity for mercy, but we are built for connections through the Body of Christ. This kind of extension multiplies opportunity for mercy to be practiced by many instead of one.We must know the gifts of those around us, and the programs that have come from those gifts.Knowing the gifts of those around us help us reach beyond our own grasp…to be more merciful in daily life.
  • Here are some examples of possible mid-hanging fruit in your areas. Some may be very localized – others may touch parts of the world that you will never physically experience. The thing they all have in common, is that they extend your reach of mercy – even when you are not around.
  • I recently traveled to Africa specifically to Malawi. While there, I was in a church preparing to teach a group of people about technology. A little face peeped in through a window and I waved. It disappeared, then reappeared in a window closer to me. I waved, then beaconed him to join me. A little boy – probably about 8 years old – came in and sat beside me. He said “give me money.” I shook my head no, but took his picture, then showed him how to operate my camera. He stayed with me the whole day – enjoying snacks and soda pop with the adults, taking pictures, reviewing pictures, taking more pictures.I tried three times to learn more about him. First through the pastor who asked him questions about his home. Boniface remained silent. Secondly, the pastor’s wife tried to coax information out of him, but she said that he wouldn’t “come clean.” Thirdly, the director of a children’s empowerment program joined us late in the day. I told her that I wanted to know if his parents are living, if he is ok. She began asking him questions in Chichewa and he slowly responded. “His parents abandoned him and his brother. They are alone and relying upon the community to give them something to eat.” I watched as a team rolled down the cheek of this program director…whose name ironically is Mercy. She and the social worker, Esther, took Boniface outside where they could talk with him more and have followed up with a home visit. Boniface is now part of the ZOE program where he will be supported and nurtured in ways that family would…he has new blood relatives through the blood of Christ.
  • This is the program that Boniface is now part of. You'll see in it how those who are given mercy become givers of mercy.
  • Take 5: At the end of each row is a piece of paper with a single instruction. Turn to your neighbors on the row and complete the instruction. You can discuss the instruction or not – but we will come back together in 5 mins.One person from each group stands and holds the pictures above their heads. How different each one looks! Not only did each group have different capacities, you had different tools, and there were also two different instructions!This is how life is. When we connect with other programs, our life pictures become more complete – more colorful – more animated. Connecting with others helps us extend our reach beyond our individual capacities.
  • STRETCH! The fruit that can only be seen and picked from on high You gotta have communityCapacity & Connections extend mercy from the individual outward. Community provides a means to practice acts of mercy in ways we could never achieve alone, and which highlight God’s kingdom on earth.Think about it! Each of you is looking at this tree from different angles, and with varying degrees of sight! One person can miss opportunities that together in community are not missed. Some things can only be done in and through community.This is one of the best things about The United Methodist Church! In fact, it always feels like a family reunion whether you travel within or outside the U.S. because you can find people that you are connected to.
  • These types of opportunities take gathering, meeting, working side by side, being merciful in particular and intentional ways.
  • I am a deacon at 61st Avenue UMC which is a church of about 100 members – and almost all are living in poverty. We meet on Saturday evenings – with a meal, Bible study and worship. Having worship on Saturday night provides a gathering space for interaction among various United Methodist churches, and for interaction among the rich, middle class and poor that might never otherwise happen. Communal acts of mercy touch upon needs that wouldn’t be recognized by individuals alone; they couldn’t be attained by individuals alone either.
  • The Rethink Church movement in The UMC provides opportunities for churches to come together for acts of mercy…working alongside people in community to achieve goals they could never achieve alone. Rethink Church provides grants so that communal gatherings to address hunger, education, housing and more can be publicized in ways that shine light on how God is working in the world.
  • I'd like you to take a moment in your groups to discuss the questions on your worksheets. Take question 1, 2, 3 and we'll share.
  • Fruits of mercy

    1. 1. G R O W I N G I N C A P A C I T Y , C O N N E C T I O N & C O M M U N I T Y The Fruits of Mercy
    2. 2. “Augustine taught that true freedom is not choice or lack of constraint, but being what you are meant to be. Humans were created in the image of God. True freedom, then, is not found in moving away from that image, but only in living it out.” - Roger Olson, Christianity Today
    3. 3. Overview God gives us the means to practice mercy through: • Capacity • Connection • Community
    4. 4. Overview God gives us opportunities to act mercifully: • low-hanging fruit (acts that require capacity); • mid-hanging fruit (acts that require capacity & connection); • and high-reach fruit (acts that require capacity, connection and community)
    5. 5. Low-Hanging Fruit Opportunities to practice mercy through those closest to us • Marriage • Children • Long-term Friendships • Co-Workers
    6. 6. Low-Hanging Fruit What about strangers? Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2
    7. 7. WATCH: Friends Like These 1Zhe2IU
    8. 8. "Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you." - St. Augustine
    9. 9. Mid-Hanging Drawing upon capacity and connection that extends our reach
    10. 10. 1 Corinthians 12: 4-6 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
    11. 11. Mid-Hanging Fruit Draw upon the gifts of others to extend your reach! 1. Local Church Programs (i.e. daycare, hunger relief, clothing closets) 2. Connectional Church Programs (i.e. ZOE Ministry, UMVIM, The Advance) 3. Community Programs (i.e. Room in the Inn, local shelters, YWCA)
    12. 12. Connections extend individual capacity to do acts of mercy beyond our singular limitations.
    13. 13. Watch: Christmas for AIDS Orphans nN1LtH&ct=7781687
    14. 14. “The quality of mercy is not strained; It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed- It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes.” - William Shakespeare
    15. 15. At the top of the tree - Opportunities that can only be found in community with varying perspectives and heights of understanding 1) Together with local churches in the Connection 2) Together with community services 3) Together with other faith traditions
    16. 16. Watch: Hands4Detroit
    17. 17. The sweetest fruit is sometimes at the top of the tree.
    18. 18. Acts of mercy echo into future generations… and into eternity
    19. 19. Contact Information: Rev. N. Neelley Hicks Email: Twitter: @nneelley Skype: nancy.neelley