02-23-20 I CAN ONLY IMAGINE

Matthew 17: 1-9

Did your mind go to the beautiful Christian song by the same name when you read the title, “I Can Only Imagine?” Before 1999—when Bart Marshall Millard of the group MercyMe wrote it, that was just an expression. Now the words engage my imagination, and maybe yours. The song was addressed to Jesus:
I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk, by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When your face is before me
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

That is an invitation to imagine something spectacular! Here is another one:
President Reagan quoted part of it as the Space Shuttle Challenger tragically exploded just south of where we sit now. I was in the back-parking lot and witnessed the horror. But in a desire to bring comfort to the nation, the President quoted these words from a poem called “High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee:
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, – and done a hundred things ….
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew –
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Our imaginations see what eyes often can’t; they form images that our hands can hardly handle; and they inform and comfort our souls. Today as we hear that Peter, James, and John went up a high mountain with Jesus, we can only imagine what it was like, but on that mountain, through the mist of clouds and the piercing rays of light, it sounds like a mystical experience. Mystics, we learned two years ago in the year-long class I taught, were persons who tried to connect with God or with Christ in ways that engaged their imaginations; and mystics are still around today. You may be a bit mystical regarding the way you think about or approach God. In our Bibles, images from Mt Sinai in Exodus and or Mount Tabor in Matthew or of heaven in Revelation encourage us not to take biblical images literally, but take them seriously, inviting our imaginations to feed our souls. This is what Bart Millard did, and John Gillespie Magee did; and there were plenty others before them. Let’s talk today about transfiguration as a mystical experience.

Wonderful historic author Thomas Cahill, in his book about Christianity called Desire of the Everlasting Hills, said this: “The Christian life is an alternation of two activities, prayer and kindness, feeding each other. The plight of those in need sends me to prayer; prayer strengthens me to help those in need.” [Doubleday, New York: 1999, p. 190] Today I suggest that in the transfigured daily life of Jesus, he modeled those things for us. Through the ages we have been aware of those who have been both Christian mystics and Christian missionaries. Some days we go to a mountain, or a lonely place, to connect with the Holy One of God; and other days we move into the valleys in mission, having been recharged by prayer. Listen to some mystical ways people have connected with God. Today we have just heard that “Jesus took with him Peter, James, and his brother John and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shown like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.” (17:1-3) Soon afterward, the voice from the cloud announced the Heavenly Father’s pleasure over his son, words reminiscent of the words from the cloud Jesus heard at his baptism. Jesus had made a divine connection. Another man named John lived centuries later in 1564 and counted on a connection with God for his survival. His name was St. John of the Cross. I first studied him in 1999 and used his story for much of my doctoral project. John was tortured for more than eight months and went into hiding for two years after that. He was a mystic, a Carmelite Monk whose involvement with the reform of another monastic order led to his arrest and eventual banishment from the monastery. He was kept in a dark cell without any human contact, being fed only bread and water. During his captivity and exile, he had frequent visions of God and composed many mystical poems in his mind. Two of his greatest ones were “The Living Flame of Love,” and “The Dark Night of the Soul.” He described feeling a sense of happiness, joy, and love in his soul. He called it a love affair with God. In his commentary he wrote this. Picture Jesus on the mountain as you hear it:
If the soul shall obtain the highest degree of love, the love of God will then have wound it in its inmost depth or centre, and the soul will be transformed and enlightened in the highest degree in its substance, faculties, and strength until it shall become most like unto God The soul in this state may be compared to a crystal, lucid and pure; the greater the light thrown upon it, the more luminous it becomes ….”

Have you had an experience like that? Jesus did not bring Peter, James, and John to the mountain to dazzle them. Among other things, he brought them to say: “This is your strength. Stay connected with the Father in prayer.” But Peter, James, and John seem to miss the point. They were dazzled by the specialness of that day and of their leader. Perhaps we would say they are enamored with Jesus and were thinking about staying on the mountain, checking out of their work as the first missionaries.

As we begin the season of Lent this Wednesday, we are called back to the source; the one who created us and loves us. Mountaintop experiences were times when Moses, Elijah, and now Jesus heard a voice from heaven. They gained strengthen, then they came back down the mountain and into the valleys of life. Today we are on the mountain. But starting Wednesday, we will be called into the valleys of the shadows of death, anguish, or need. We’ll be called into desert times where the devil will have a crack at our fortitude as he did with Jesus that we’ll hear about next week. If you have dreams and seek to remember them; or you have visions and try to recall them, your soul may be open to a mystic sweet communion with Jesus. Nurture that connection; invite yourself to be open to it. There are people who wish they had such insights and yet none have yet appeared.

Remember too that whether you have mystical connection with Christ, or whether you just have a regular prayer life, there is a purpose to them both: strengthening your soul, and sending you out in mission; spreading the gospel of Jesus to others with words and actions. Again, the event described today was not just to dazzle. Jesus instead heard his baptismal words again, which blessed and commissioned him again. An accurate description of that day was captured effectively by Professor Thomas Troeger. In his Yale Divinity School journal, an essay by Ray Waddle was called: “Thomas H. Troeger: Between the Life of the Imagination and the Life of God.” Waddle says he called it that because “[Troeger] received a double theological blessing. His mother would read from the Bible to him, and he’d listen with his father to Bach, Handel, and Haydn.” Troeger wrote the words to the hymn, “Swiftly Pass the Clouds of Glory” which we will sing in a moment. Listen to verse one:
Swiftly pass the clouds of glory heaven’s voice, the dazzling light;
Moses and Elijah vanish, Christ alone commands the height!
Peter, James, and John fall silent turning from the summit’s rise
Downward toward the shadowed valley, where their Lord had fixed his eyes.

What magnificent writing coupled with an unforgettable tune! Jesus is giving his disciples his best guidance: he turned his face from the peak of the mountain to the valley, where he chose to meet human needs again, not just revel in a mystic sweet communion. There was work to be done. There still is. Even though people always think of Lent as a time of “giving up something sacrificially,” Dr Donald Macleod, has said beautifully that “Lent consists of doing something, not just doing without something.” [Presbyterian Worship: It’s Meaning and Method, Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982.] You have until Wednesday to decide not just what you might do without as a spiritual discipline, but also what you will do. Over the next month our Outreach Committee, and today our Youth Group, will give us concrete ways to bring Christ and his message to others. Pick one, or pick something else. But do it. Together Christians can cause a 2020 revival.
Let us pray:
Ah. Here we are dear Jesus. With you, in a sanctuary apart from the turmoil and needs of the world. We might want to stay here, near to the heart of God. But you say, “Go! Help! Make disciples!” And so we will go. Guide us in the ways we can bring your light and love to others. And regarding your wonderful face, one day we’ll see you face to face. Until then, we can only imagine. Amen.

Jeffrey A. Sumner February 23, 2020

02-16-20 THE POWER OF RECONCILIATION


2 Corinthians 5: 16-21; Matthew 5: 21-26

Through the years, rabbis, priests, ministers, counselors, and even advice columnists have provided a vital place where people have gone with relationship issues. It is the classic triangle that we form: someone hurts you or betrays you, and you go to share your pain or ask for guidance from someone else. The triangle satisfies your need for a listening ear, or revenge planning, or sorrow sharing, or guidance for awhile. But at some point along the way, a good rabbi, or priest, or minister, or counselor, or columnist like Dear Abby will encourage you to go talk with the person you have hurt. If you are the one betrayed, then you hope that the other will show some signs of regret. Perhaps you’ll need a mediator, or some other third person there if you decide to talk to the one who has caused your stress, lack of sleep, tears, or anguish. Who really wants to do that? People would rather just hope that God will be on their side as they share their tears or sense of betrayal. Even Jesus had apparently seen conflicts in his lifetime too. He wisely gave this counsel: “When you are offering your gifts at the altar, and you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, then come and offer your gift.” [Matthew 5: 23-24] Conversely, if you are the one who has hurt or betrayed another, and your conscience draws you to God before trying to work things out with the other person, God will send you to that other person first.

My professor for Presbyterian Thought and Doctrine at Princeton Seminary was Dr. Edward Dowey. He said one of the key concepts not only with Jesus but also with Paul in 2 Corinthians 5, was reconciliation. In 1968 he wrote this:
[Reconciliation] is one of the rare terms in the Bible that can epitomize the whole gospel in one word: God’s reconciling work in Jesus Christ and the mission of reconciliation to which he has called his church are the heart of the gospel in any age. The word “reconciliation,” unlike “love,” implies a previous violation of harmony and peace, a barrier erected, a battle going on…. One of the most important passages in all of Scripture—which [John] Calvin called “the best passage of all” on justification by faith—is II Corinthians 5:19. [A Commentary on the Confession of 1967 and An Introduction to The Book of Confessions, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1968, p.41.]

So one of God’s top tasks on earth is reconciliation—reconnecting God with people, and people with people. Reconciling is the end of estrangement, or of separation because of disagreement. I once told the story that Pastor Dale Galloway wrote about: “Last winter our dryer went kaput, so we called the repairman and he came out to take a look at it. After he evaluated the damage, he said it would cost just about as much money to fix the dryer as to buy a new one, so we agreed we would get a new one. [Then the brakes started going out on my wife’s car,] so we took it in to a repair shop. This time it was a lot cheaper to make repairs than to buy a new car. Many things in our society can be purchased cheaper than they can be repaired, so we have turned into a throwaway society…. Don’t think this attitude hasn’t crept into our personal relationships too! If love breaks down between two people, we have a tendency to throw away the relationship and look for [another] one. We just aren’t willing to spend the time and effort necessary to repair the relationship, so we treat the other person like a [malfunctioning appliance, throwing it away and buying a new one.] But when people are treated like objects—things to be discarded—the value of human life goes down.” [Love Can Be Repaired, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1990, p. 35]

We are part of a fractured world. How many can honestly say they haven’t hurt someone by betrayal or a hurtful comment or action? Conversely, who hasn’t been hurt by someone who spoke or acted harshly or thoughtlessly? Sometimes the harshness another person shows is less about your relationship with them than it is about a broken or binding relationship they have with another family member: mother, father, spouse, or sibling. So like a wound on an arm that hurts on touch, a word or action we bring up with someone else can cause an over-reaction because their pain is already raw from someone else. Relationships suffer and sometimes the pain can put a hole in our soul. The Rev. Thomas Patrick Nolan put it like this: “Deep in the human heart is a restless longing—a tender, aching emptiness yearning to be filled. It has been described as a thirst, a hunger, a vacuum of the spirit, a God-shaped hole in the very center of our being that can be filled only by God. [Our desire to be reconciled to God has also been addressed by some of the great spiritual writers of the ages.] German theologian Karl Barth said it was a longing for the heart’s true home. Augustine said it was a deep-seated restlessness that touches every part of our lives…. Charles Wesley described it as being ‘touched by the lodestone of God’s love.’ Our culture is propelled by the quest for efficiency, control, and success. Yet there is much loneliness in the world. Feelings of emptiness, lack of friendships, depression, and a deep sense of uselessness fill the hearts of many in our society.” [Alive Now, Upper Room Publishing, Nov/Dec, 2005, p 28.] Do you see the fractures in society and the fences people put up to keep others at arm’s length? One person sighs, “My grown child doesn’t talk with me.” A college student shares, “My parents don’t understand me.” And another says, “My partner has betrayed me.” Like a windshield that shatters after an impact, one hurtful action can splinter the human race into a million little pieces. Some here today, either intentionally or unintentionally, have created such a breach; a divide between yourself and some other person. Some may get to the point of building a bridge so the relationship can continue. That’s what God wants the most! God want us to go to that other person to clear matters up as soon as you can do so. God is in the business of reconciliation, never retaliation that is practiced much too often. Jesus said, “Love … and pray for those who persecute you.” My heart gets heavy when I see relationships of people I care about sour. I wonder if God’s heart gets burdened like mine does, and perhaps like yours does?

Here is a biblical pathway to be able to bring your gift to the altar of God again; to have your sins forgiven in the manner that you hope God will forgive yours on the day you meet your Maker. Restored connections with other people bring delight to Heaven, they and restore your relationship with God. That is the power of reconciliation- reconnecting with those you have hurt; and reconnecting with the God who’s been waiting to see that happen. These key words all start with “R.”
You may want to jot them down:
First, show remorse or regret over what you have done.
Second, repent from your wrongdoing, and return to the path of life where lost trust can begin to be built again.
Third, establish a means of restitution to square either the financial account between you, or the emotional account, or both. Jesus shows willingness to go to the altar with us and square our account with God only after we seek to work things out with our family member, our neighbor, or whoever.
Fourth is reconciliation; being connected again, not by naïve trust anymore since trust was destroyed, but by verifiable arrangements.
Fifth and finally, we can gain renewal and reunion; renewal of relationships once severed, and renewal of relationships restored. God’s way is not the way of walls; it is the way of bridges. Consider well the roadmap just described that can move you from estrangement to engagement in an important relationship you once had.

Jeffrey A. Sumner February 16, 2020

02-09-20 A JESUS PEP-TALK


Matthew 5: 13-20

When I was in elementary school, my father and I had a coin collection; we shared the passion of looking for and categorizing coins. Many of them went in cardboard sleeves in a protective book. What I remember most was him saying to me either, “We need more light in here!” or “Will you see if you can read that date?” When I read the date to him, he’d say, “You have good eyes!” I’d beamed at him through my horn rimmed glasses I’d worn since 3rd grade. I didn’t have good eyes as much as I had young eyes. When we were on the church cruise last week, Mary Ann pulled out her phone light to read many menus, as did a number of other passengers. As we age, we especially appreciate good lighting. Just last week I went to the store and came home with my sunglasses on, having set down my regular glasses. “My glasses are in this house somewhere!” I declared. I began to look for them in the house, but with sunglasses on, everything was dark. When I took my sunglasses off for brightness, everything was very blurry. Getting older has its challenges!
Jesus said two interesting lines in his Sermon on the Mount on which I want to focus today. One is, “You are the salt of the earth.” The other is, “You are the light of the world.” Stephen Schwartz, in his musical “Godspell” based on Matthew 5-7, worded them this way: “You are the salt of the earth; but if that salt has lost its flavor it ain’t got much in its favor. You can’t have that fault and be the salt of the earth.” Rhymes are great ways to remember verses. Here is the other wording from “Godspell:” “You are the light of the world. But if that light’s under a bushel, it’s lost something kind of crucial. You gotta stay bright to be the light of the world!”
Let’s talk about light first. Jesus has entrusted his followers with sharing his light in the world. It was the late Rev. Peter Marshall, who I mentioned in our Kirkin’ O’ the Tartans service, who said he couldn’t stand the painters who depicted Christ as gentle, slender, and weak. As he said, the Christ of the gospels was rugged, a carpenter, a man’s man, one who could stand toe to toe with anyone. Jesus was a bright hot light against injustice, arrogance, and corruption. I believe Jesus deliberately said, in his early in his ministry, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12.) But here, in his pep-talk, he shifted his words to tell the crowd: “You are the light of the world.” You know that old style flashlights I showed our children today? And the new style? I can’t believe that Jesus wants us to be light in the world like old dim bulbs. What good are those? They add almost nothing to our ability to see. It’s like asking coal miners to go down into their mine with no light or asking submersibles to go deep underwater in darkness. I can now tell many cars that are older when I encounter them on the road at night; their headlights are cloudy and dim! Jesus, like us, has no use for people to take his light into the world without his original brightness! “You are the light of the world!” he said. Dim lights, darkened by not getting recharged in Bible Studies or sermons, can do little to change the world. And the messages from the world can put shades or filters on his “Light.” How do you take the pure light of Christ to others? First, know your Bible and what Jesus said, so others cannot make you doubt what you believe. I really don’t see how people can charge their light by just attending a Christmas or Easter service. Second, let the light be used not just to illumine, but also to transform. We ask others to follow Jesus, not just to know about him. Virtually everyone Christ encountered came away changed. Our lights grow dim if we equivocate the message of light by letting the world put a bushel of doubt over it. On the years we’ve had Confirmation Classes, we asked those young teenagers to stand before the congregation and answer this question: “Who is your Lord and Savior?” I their answer was “Jesus Christ,” we asked them to say it in a loud voice. Sometimes adults reaffirm their faith and they timidly respond with “Jesus?” No! As one man enthusiastically said when I asked him, “Do you believe Jesus is your Lord and Savior?” he responded “Sure! Don’t everybody?” Such wonderful innocence. No, everybody doesn’t. But others will not be persuaded to consider Christ as their Savior by people who shrug, whisper, or nod their answers. Be the light of Christ to others.

Here is the other line Jesus said: “You are the salt of the earth.” These days that message can lose its punch. We can go pick up a pound of salt for less than a dollar. But salt also was used not just as a seasoning, but also as a preservative. With no refrigeration, meats that were salted would last longer. So, if we are to preserve something, what might that be? I’m struck by the historical words presidential nominees have declared on their election day as they raised their right hand and said: “I do solemnly swear or affirm that I will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” I hope you heard that in that oath those who crafted it believed in preserving the Constitution. It was Thomas Jefferson himself who amplified the use of that word when he wrote to John Adams on September 12, 1821 saying: “”Should the clouds of barbarism and despotism (despotism is when a country’s ruler holds absolute power) again obscure the science and libraries of Europe, this country remains to preserve and restore light and liberty to them.” We would do well to still be guided by the Founding Fathers words. There are others in our world who also seek to preserve things; think of the Amish, who seek to preserve their way of life. Think of conservationists, who seek to preserve the forests or the seas. I also think of the jars of preserves my grandmother used to keep in her cellar, allowing fruit canned “in season” to be preserved and eaten out of season. Could Jesus be asking his listeners to preserve his teachings so they could be told to others? You may know that salt becomes useless once it is polluted with dirt. Jesus might say: “Keep the words I gave you preserved and pure; then they will always have their original meaning and potency.” We need to preserve the message of Jesus so that it can always be offered to new generations with the same power and potency. Here’s an example of how to preserve the faith.

One of my ordination questions proposed the following situation: youth leaders were going on a weekend retreat were asked by the youth if they could have Pizza and Cokes and treat it like a communion meal. The question ended with these words: “Give your answer and defend it.” Here was my answer: to make pizza and coke into the Sacrament of Holy Communion would fail to preserve the faith. Jesus had specific words: Lifting bread he said, “take eat, this is my body, broken for you.” “And “this cup is the new covenant sealed in my blood.” Through the years people have used unleavened bread, leavened bread, and gluten free bread, but they have still used bread. During prohibition, most Protestant churches changed from using wine to grape juice; some have changed back and some haven’t. A preacher in a country church was explaining what I just explained to you and then he added, “In Jesus’ day, our Savior certainly used wine.” A woman in the congregation scowled at him. He saw it and asked: “What’s the matter Mrs. Jones? Didn’t you know that Jesus used wine at the Last Supper? “Yes,” she retorted, and then said in a loud voice, “And I’ve never forgiven him for it!!”
We seek to preserve the sacraments that Jesus told us to continue doing until he comes again, and to see that the message is not polluted by the world. Be light! Be salt! Jesus needs us—the body of Christ—to carry his message with conviction and purity of purpose. Then we can change this darkened world with his light and bring the original precious message of Jesus that was preached on the shores of the Sea of Galilee to the United States of America and beyond. Make it so!
Jeffrey A. Sumner February 9, 2020

02-02-20 MERCIFUL BLESSINGS

Matthew 5:7

February 2, 2020
Westminster by the Sea Presbyterian Church

Radford Rader, D.M.

Last week, it was blessed are the meek; this week it is “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.”

A king had a large orchard. He had a great variety of fruit trees planted there. He employed a skilled gardener to take care of the fruit trees. The gardener picked the ripe and juicy fruits each day. Every morning, when the royal court was in session, the gardener would take a basket of fruit to the king.
One day the gardener collected some cherries for the king. Already in a bad mood, the king picked a cherry and popped it into his mouth. It was sour, which caused the king to vent his pent-up anger upon the poor gardener. He threw a cherry at the gardener and hit him on the forehead.
The gardener responded with, “God is merciful.”
The king enquired, “You must be hurt but you say, “God is merciful.”
The gardener said, “Your majesty, I was going to bring pineapples today, but I changed my mind. If you had thrown a pineapple at me, I would have been badly hurt. God is merciful for having changed my mind.”

We can make light of mercy, but it is the very essence of God. In Exodus 34:6 we hear for the first time the refrain that runs throughout the scriptures: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” God need not care about us. God need not do us good. God need not seek us out and forgive us. We may wonder why “in God’s great mercy, we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (I Peter 1:3). Yet that is the love of God. God’s grace gives us what we don’t deserve; God’s mercy does not give us what we do deserve. To be merciful is to imitate God, to act like God, to live as God wishes all people to live.

Mercy is not easy. It goes against our grain for we are not always gracious. We are quick to act in anger and vengeance, wanting what we think is justice and to see anyone who has done wrong squirm and suffer, particularly if that person has wronged us. The more normal behavior is that of the servant in Jesus’ parable who is forgiven much by his master and then turns around and nails another who owns him little. Mercy is hard because to be merciful we must deny ourselves and identify with the other person, want for them what is good, want to redeem them so that they have wholeness. To do such necessitates that we know that we are forgiven, not because we deserve it or even because we have sought it but because God in God’s mercy has already given it to us. The merciful are those who have allowed the mercy of God to penetrate the very core of their being. We are not to be merciful so we can be forgiven or out of fear that we won’t be forgiven but we are to be merciful because we are forgiven. Mercy is always something we pay forward.

Mercy in Matthew is more than forgiveness; it includes compassion. Two blind men ask Jesus for mercy (9:27). The Canaanite woman sought mercy for her daughter (15:22). The father of the boy with the demons begged for mercy (17:15). Jesus shows compassion and heals their diseases. When he saw the crowd, Jesus had compassion upon them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (9:36). Mercy is shown in compassion to others in need. Compassion is an attitude of sympathy, where one feels sorry for another; mercy is when compassion becomes action. Mercy does something. The Greek word for mercy is “eleos”, the word for almsgiving is from the same root. Helping the poor, assisting those in need, giving food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, visiting the sick, these are acts of mercy. J.M.DeMattheis wrote, “Any time, any of us reaches out, any time we pour even a drop of love, compassion, simple human decency…into the sea of earthly existence—we are, each and every one of us, the being called mercy.” Mercy does not stand above with concern, sympathy and empathy, it gets down into the gutter where the man who has beaten beaten and robbed is lying, does first aid, puts him in one’s own car, takes him to a hospital, stays with him and pays for it all—At least that’s how Jesus described the one who had mercy to his neighbor.

We may not be merciful as we should be, but we know when we see it. We saw it displayed in a courtroom this year. Brandt Jean stepped into the dock to offer testimony in the sentencing phase of Amber Guyger’s trial for killing his brother while he stood innocently in his own apartment. He did not ask the judge to through the book at her although he believed she was guilty. He saw a broken woman and he chose mercy, even at the expense of his family’s gasping disapproval. He requested of the judge an unusual ruling, that he be given the opportunity to step down and hug the convicted Amber. It was granted and we saw them fall tearfully into each other’s arms and heard him whisper to her, “I forgive you.” If we are merciful, we give compassion and forgiveness whenever and to whomever it is needed.

Mercy is a blessing upon the one who receives mercy. It offers them a way to wholeness and life. It is also a blessing upon the one who is merciful for it removes from within a person the hardness of heart that will eat them up and lock them out of the kingdom. Portia speaking to the vengeful Shylock in The Merchant of Venice still speaks beautifully and accurately
The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath
It is twice blessed: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
As Jesus’ said, “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful!”