Fellow Passengers: This week’s Pastoral Passage* (Romans 12:1-8) transports me to a land of living sacrifice, where God measures out different portions of faith and grace and kneads them into the dough for the Bread of Life according to some secret recipe never passed down. Each of us receives our portion of faith and grace gift, and without comparing or bragging, we are to find our function in the Body and play our role according to the measure of faith given us. To discover our gift and offer it is our living sacrifice, and it is not solely a matter of the heart and mind. Paul urges us to present our bodies as a holy and pleasing sacrifice to God. Paul urges this sacrifice according to the mercies of God.
By the mercies of God. Whenever I read that phrase two movies come to mind. One is a comedy; the other is a drama. The comedy reminds us how far off course we can get in claiming the mercies of God. In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the knights are facing a fierce foe and have to consult the Holy Book of Armaments, to find out how to employ the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. Brother Maynard reads from Chapter Two, Verses Nine to Twenty-One: “And Saint Atila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, Oh, Lord, bless this thy hand grenade that with it thou mayest blow thy enemies to tiny bits, by thy mercy.” The scene reminds me how often the ideal of sacrifice comes in the context of blowing our enemies to bits, by the mercies of God, of course. This kind of mercy killing is not exactly what Paul or Jesus had in mind. More to their sentiments is the drama I am thinking of, the little known film Tender Mercies, for which Robert Duvall won the Oscar for best actor. If you are looking for a Good Friday movie to rent and watch next week, this is one with deep themes of redemption and forgiveness. Mac Sledge, a run down alcoholic country singer, finds faith through his relationship with Rosa Lee, a widow, and her young son, Sonny. It is a beautiful story of a broken soul figuring out how to use the grace gift God has given him. It speaks of sacrifice and mercy, and it is tender. And there’s nothing like hearing Robert Duvall sing “On the Wings of a Dove.”
By the way, if you ever do come across the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, you pull the pin and count to three (not four, and five is right out). Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thou foe, who being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it. It’s definitely Friday, but Sunday’s coming.
*Daily Passages are the weekday reflections of Stan Dotson, connecting culture to biblical texts. Each week takes its guiding theme for the daily posts from the gospel reading on Monday, the “Primary Passage.” This week’s theme is “Mercy and Sacrifice.” As always, your feedback and comments are welcome. Feel free to share where the passages take you in your journey of faith.