March 20th Lenten Devotion

Mercy, Not Sacrifice

Hope E. A. Molozaiy

Matthew 9:10-13

Beloved poet, Mary Oliver, wrote in her poem “Wild Geese:” “You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.” Are you trying to be extra “good” this Lent? Have you given something up or taken something on? Are you repenting in your hair shirt, crawling across the sand?

There is much good to be gained from a Lenten fast or from an increase in our spiritual disciplines, in this or any season. But however we strive to improve ourselves – however excellently we pray, however tirelessly we work for God’s justice to be made real on earth, however diligently we worship and study – no amount of improvement will make us worthy of God’s love. Jesus gave his presence – his compassion, his mercy, his nourishment – to tax collectors and grave sinners. He gives the same to us. We hear this over and over again, and yet it’s still a challenge to accept as truth. Wouldn’t Jesus like us better if we were better? No, not really. Oh, he wants us to live our very best life, yes, indeed. But his love for us, his care for us, his willingness to stop everything else and sit down to dinner with us could never be greater than it already is on our worst day. And that good news makes me hope I can be better.

Oh Lord, we want to be good. Help us grow strong in our faithfulness. But whether we’re strong or weak, sinning or repenting, you call us in and circle us in love. Thank you. Amen.


 Hope E. A. Molozaiy is the pastor of The Community Church of Richmond, UCC, in Richmond, IL, and always a mom.

©2019 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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