“Lord have mercy!” — a phrase we often hear or say. Indeed, the phrase is so common, that the shock might have worn off.

But God’s mercy is shocking! The Creator of all that is grants mercy when God could rightfully condemn or punish. God’s mercy is the ultimate gift and show of love to us. When we deserve the worst and are the most unlovable, mercy tells us differently.

Do we realize this gift? And do we know how to respond?

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The Lord responded, “Is your anger a good thing?” But Jonah went out from the city and sat down east of the city. There he made himself a hut and sat under it, in the shade, to see what would happen to the city.

Then the Lord God provided a shrub, and it grew up over Jonah, providing shade for his head and saving him from his misery. Jonah was very happy about the shrub. But God provided a worm the next day at dawn, and it attacked the shrub so that it died. Then as the sun rose God provided a dry east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint. He begged that he might die, saying, “It’s better for me to die than to live.”

God said to Jonah, “Is your anger about the shrub a good thing?”

Jonah said, “Yes, my anger is good—even to the point of death!”

Jonah 4:4-9

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I let down a friend recently. I agreed to take on a big task for him, and then life happened. I got sick and forgot, time slipped away, and eventually I failed my friend. Rather than being upset, my friend mercifully showed more concern about me than for the task. He made sure I was taking care of my health. He took over and did the work himself, and when he’d completed it, he said, “For your peace of mind, it’s all taken care of.”

God meets Jonah outside of the city, where Jonah is angry about God’s mercy for Nineveh. And where Jonah lands, God plants a bush that springs up to give him shade. God could have been angry but instead chooses protection. And when Jonah won’t quit sulking, God reacts. By removing the shade, God tells Jonah to snap out of it.

What amazes me about my friend and God in these stories is that when they could have easily been angry, they chose mercy and care. I’m forever grateful, but also now wondering, why is is so hard for me to be merciful?

Katie Barrett Todd

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God of Compassion, thank you for choosing the kinder way with me. Thank you for surrounding me with compassionate friends. Help me to show my gratitude. As you planted shade for Jonah, plant in me a desire to emulate your merciful ways. Amen.

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Let us be renewed by God's mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.

Pope Francis

Accepting the mercy of God means consciously changing our way of thinking. It requires us to realize that the One who is the Creator has love for all.

Allow yourself to be renewed. Let mercy flow through you into others.

Katie Barrett Todd

Rev. Katie Barrett Todd is the Executive Director & Pastor for UKIRK Greensboro, a PC(USA) ministry to college students in the greater Greensboro area. She holds a M.Div and MACE from Union Presbyterian Seminary in Charlotte, NC. Katie has served churches and campus ministries in South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Nebraska. Mommy to Luke and Lilly, she’s married to Mason, a pastor at a nearby church in the North Carolina piedmont.

Making Space - Fallow Ground

Carter Harrell

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