You have restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You have forgiven the iniquity of your people.
You have covered all their sin.
You have taken away all your wrath.
You have turned from the fierceness of your anger.
Turn us, God of our salvation,
and cause your indignation toward us to cease.
Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you draw out your anger to all generations?
Won’t you revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your loving kindness, Yahweh.
Grant us your salvation.
I will hear what God, Yahweh, will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people, his saints;
but let them not turn again to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who revere him,
that glory may dwell in our land.
Mercy and truth have met together.
Righteousness and peace have kissed one another.
Truth springs out of the earth.
Righteousness has looked down from heaven.
Yes, Yahweh will give that which is good.
Our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness goes before him,
And prepares the way for his steps.
“Mercy and truth, my friends, have met together. Righteousness and bliss have kissed one another!”
These words are the crescendo of Babette’s Feast by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen’s pseudonym) spoken by General Löwenhielm as the mystical nature of Babette’s feast becomes evident to the participants.
So often, we say mercy must be tempered by truth, that bliss can only be achieved by justice and righteousness.
The question posed by God is, “Why?”
‘Man my friends,’ said General Löwenhielm, ‘is frail and foolish. We have all of us been told that grace is to be found in the universe. But in our human foolishness and short-sightedness we image divine grace to be finite. For this reason, we tremble ….’Never until now had the General stated that he trembled; he was genuinely surprises and even shocked at hearing his own voice proclaim the fat. ‘We tremble before making our choice in life, and after having made it tremble again in fear of having chosen wrong. But the moment comes when our eyes are opened, and we see and realize that grace is infinite. Grace, my friends, demands nothing from us but that we shall await it with confidence and acknowledge it in gratitude. Grace, brothers, makes no conditions and singles out none of us in particular; grace takes us all to its bosom and proclaims general amnesty. See! That which we have chosen is given us, and that which we have refused is, also and at the same time, granted us. Ay, that which we have rejected is poured upon s abundantly. For mercy and truth have met together, and righteousness and bliss have kissed one another!’ (pp. 43-45)
Remember the miracle of the loaves and fishes, the parables of the vineyard workers, the lost sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son. It is not about achieving merit. It is about the abundant grace of God, poured out on all regardless of merit and with plenty left over. There is nothing over which to fight or about which to judge ourselves or others. If we insist on shaming ourselves and others, God will sit on the ground and fashion garments to cover our shame.