Have Mercy


I can’t hear the Advent scriptures from Isaiah without also hearing Handel’s Messiah in my head. When I was in 9th and 10th grade, I sang in the adult choir at my Southern Baptist church. Both the pastor and the choir director had children in the high school age bracket, and the daughters wanted to sing. They also wanted to invite their friends from Suburban High School, where the choir director was also the choral teacher. We doubled the size of the choir, and we had a great experience singing from the classical church repertoire. Looking back now, I’m impressed that we were singing Handel and not Gaither.

Advent calls me back to those words:

“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

Musicians, I’m sure you hear it as I do.

This week in the lectionary, both Isaiah and John the Baptist call on us to make a straight path for God. A highway is a road set above the dangers and distractions of the immediate landscape, a smooth pathway, a direct route. I’ve been thinking about the sorts of roadblocks and barriers we encounter in this modern world. What keeps us from making a straight path for God? I don’t think this is limited to Christians; it’s a valuable question no matter what you believe or don’t believe. What prevents us from directing ourselves purposefully on the spiritual path?

As I left for work yesterday, I realized we had no Cascade, and I could not run the dishwasher. I meant to mention it to Pure Luck, who had more time to go to the store, but I forgot in my haste to get going. So I came home to a dishwasher still full of dirty things, and a sink piled high with the leftover pans and pots of Sunday night that I never washed when I wasn’t feeling well on Monday morning and never got back to after working until well after nine that night.

It’s a busy season.

It’s hard to work in the kitchen when you can’t find sink or counter space for food preparation.

It’s hard to do the inner work when there is neither space nor order. What does spiritual clutter look like?
Too busy to pray
Too anxious to sleep
Too tired to worship
Too angry to let go
Too disappointed to hope
Too lonely to connect
Too sure to be surprised

My beloved sister-in-law lives in a wee, small house. To fit a Christmas tree into the house, she needs to put furniture into storage.

We have to make room to let wonder into the house.

We have to make room to let Spirit into our lives.

The good news is a fresh start: the tidy desk, the vacuumed living room, the clean sink and the freshly-wiped counter. The good news is the mercy of God who gives us yet another chance.

“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.”

The Spirit of Mercy reaches out to comfort us. Will we have mercy on ourselves and say yes?

15 thoughts on “Have Mercy”

  1. This is a test, since there seems to be some sort of Typepad problem yet again. Did I break Typepad by subscribing to it?

  2. this is EXACTLY where I am..amid the piles of abandoned washing up, the crowded chaotic study and still more chaotic jumble of thoughts and anxieties. Thank you for posting…No time to pause yet, but I can at least set that goal before me…

  3. I know what you mean about being unable to read much of the Advent scriptures without hearing Messiah in my head–I’ve sung it so many times in choirs and even had the chance to sing the soprano solos.
    Also love the description of spiritual clutter–it hits home. I just finished putting everyday dishes in the storage cabinet so I can bring out the Christmas set we use all through December. I never thought of this as spirituall preparation before, but it is.

  4. Boy this is great stuff.
    FWIW, I was doing some work on this text for Sunday School and discovered that in Babylonian religion, the people would make images of their gods and parade them on these certain highways/routes at certain times, to show the people the “objects” of their worship. (I think that was in the NIB)
    So in this context of exile, Isaiah is kind of co-opting the traditions of the dominant culture in a manner that says, “We’re going to make a path for *our* God [subtext: who is the one God].”
    Of course there are also parallels to the exodus.
    Put all that in the “FYI” category.

  5. I wish I had a better context for these passages this week.
    Unfortunately, if you peek over at my place, you see I am going in a different direction.

  6. Thank you for this inspirational post. What struck me most is the comment, “We have to make room to let wonder into the house.” Indeed. We had to move a piece of furniture into the garage for the tree. To me, the act of doing this represents a commitment to the spirit of joy, so it’s sacred.

  7. Great post! When my husband and I were in 9th grade we learned parts of the Messiah in Concert Choir at school. We still know those parts by heart today…
    Thank you for the image of spiritual clutter. I have more of that in my life than I’d like to, especially the first three items on the list. Not good at all.
    On an unrelated topic, I met a Bernese Mountain Dog for the first time earlier this week on Amelia Island in Florida. What a neat breed! You are very lucky to share your home with a couple of them! 🙂

  8. what a wonderful and encouraging post. 🙂 and the picture. wow!
    wasn’t sure what cascade is .. dishwasher detergent ?? lol
    not that that’s important
    hope you were able to clear the kitchen and make space in your heart as you did so.
    be blessed

  9. You are right–there are so many times where it seems that there isn’t room for spiritual cleansing. It is those times that we need most to make room.

  10. Some of my recent decisions seem to set the tone for a “perfect” Advent, but I have to admit that your words about spiritual clutter hit home…more than one on the list. Thanks…. Much for me to think about.

  11. They are true for me as well. I’m going to try and catch up on both the physical and the spiritual clutter tomorrow. (Since I didn’t get my day off today. Grumble, grumble.)

  12. Woo! Fantastic image of the spiritual clutter. It is amazing that in the run up to Christmas, we seem to collect real and spiritual clutter, rather than to make room. Can I borrow your metaphor for this Sunday? It fits so well.

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