But the Holy Spirit lays on us no greater burden

Acts 15:8-11, 28 [After a dispute over keeping Jewish laws, Peter said] God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? We believe we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus. … For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater burden on you.

Matthew 11:30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.

Galatians 6:2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.

So, Dave and I sat with Rachel, Brian, and Liliana at one of the family tables (with a box of activities for kids of all ages) set up on the periphery of the tent where our church is meeting for one of its Sunday services. My 16-month-old granddaughter kept wandering to a blanket on the grass next to our table, where a family with a baby played with him while they listened to the sermon. At one point Lili grabbed the baby’s ball and took off with it down the sidewalk.

Thief Liliana stole my glasses

At the end of the service I commented to Brian, “Lili doesn’t quite have down yet the concepts of ‘mine’ and ‘yours.’”

Brian replied, “Oh no, she understands perfectly. What’s yours is mine.”

Dave said, “And God says, ‘All that is mine is yours.’”

Wow. Think about that. All that is mine is yours. Do you remember which parable that quote is from? The Father in the Prodigal Son story didn’t say this to the prodigal, but to the older brother. Think about that. In the face of such abundance, could he not have found it in his heart to show some mercy to his brother, who by his own fault is now destitute?

When I realize how much I have received, it is a small thing to extend mercy to others. Love mercy, Hosea tells us. Freely you have received. Freely give (Matthew 10:8).

I told this story the next evening to begin a brief presentation on the theme of mercy at the second of three Arts Festival evenings held in the same tent where we had met for worship the day before. This was the second of three summer Arts evenings focusing on justice, mercy, and humility, from Hosea 6:8.

The next Arts evening is August 30, on the topic of humility. Pittsburghers, you are welcome! If you’re an artist and wish to sell your loveliness, contact Elise Massa, elise.massa@gmail.com. And if you’d like a copy by email of my booklet with three reflections on mercy, let me know.

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