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DEVOTIONAL GUIDE: God desires mercy, not hatred

The Great Physician, Jesus, demonstrated in Matthew 9 that he came to call "not the righteous, but sinners."

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Rev. Steve Norby

Reformation Day is Oct. 31. Yes, it is Halloween, and that receives almost all the attention, but something else happened on this day in 1517.

Martin Luther nailed the “95 Statements for Debate” on the Wittenberg Church door 503 years ago. Like most historical figures, Luther is both venerated and vilified.

Three years ago our church (Calvary Lutheran) and St. Peter’s the Apostle Catholic Church marked the Reformation with a joint worship service. On a Wednesday evening, about 250 members from both congregations gathered at Calvary and Father Thomas Friedl was our preacher.

I must say that after his sermon, there was applause! More importantly, members gathered in “mutual repentance.” Why? Because 500 years ago, Europe was ablaze in a religious civil war that took the lives of many thousands over bigotry and hate.

In Matthew 9:10-13, Jesus attends a dinner in a house, where “many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when Jesus heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” for I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’”

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Europe desired sacrifice and not mercy 500 years ago, costing the lives of its citizens. May that not happen here. I pray that we learn the lessons of mercy in a world that once again promotes hatred of neighbors.

I believe that three years ago, two congregations swallowed some false pride and gathered joyfully to worship the “Great Physician” who came to heal us all. On Nov. 4, when all the votes are counted, may all of us look to that same doctor of love, and come together in mutual repentance.

Happy Halloween! May the children remind us of joy that can lead the adults to see with the eyes to see.

Rev. Steve Norby serves as lead pastor of Calvary Lutheran Church in Park Rapids.

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