The comedian, Jim Cary, was the lead in a movie called "Liar, Liar." In one scene he is driving dangerously in traffic to make it to an appointment on time. When he is pulled over, he is asked for his registration and proof of insurance. When he opened his glove compartment a mound of parking tickets come billowing out. Knowing his guilt is obvious, Cary looks up at the policeman with a pathetic attempt at repentance, and in a goofy-pathetic look says, "Be gentle."
On thing I learned early in life is that it can be truly disastrous to get what you deserve. The Word of God is very clear in The Bible that you don't want to get what you deserve (which is death and hell), for we have fallen short of perfection and that leaves us with the reality of Romans 6:23a "The wages of sin is death."
When I was in grade school, my Dad once said to me in a trying moment, "Bruce, sometimes you are your own worst enemy." I'm sure I tried the Cary attempt to look sorry for my error, but Dad and I both know the guilt was truly mine. So these words from the Psalmist ring out with an important message of repentance and of hope. The Psalmist doesn't bitterly relent to the tyranny of His God, but by faith, asks God to teach him His statutes/teachings/truths.
"Deal with Your servant according to Your mercy, And teach me Your statutes." (Psalm 119:124) What if God were to deal with you based on what you deserve? Isn't this how we deal with each other at times? They do something to you and you figure that gives you an excuse and a valid reason to hurt them back. What if the Lord paid you back like you pay others back? What if the Lord just gave you what you deserve for breaking His commandments? You'd be in trouble, plain and simple!
So we beg the Lord to deal with us according to His mercy. Mercy means God does not give you what you deserve. It means that what you've got coming is not what you've got coming! To put it another way, the Lord won't give you what your sins deserve. This means on the one hand that, He's going to give you what Jesus deserves (now that is sweet Gospel). But, Jesus, on the other hand, got what you deserved. Think about Jesus praying this prayer. "Deal with Your servant according to Your mercy." That means kill Him. Send Him to the Cross. Let Him suffer. Let Him bleed and die and be pierced by thorns and nail and spear. After all, if Jesus is the Lamb of God, God's mercy means HE is the one to suffer and die. This is what Jesus came to fulfill for you and all!
The Good News is that Jesus rose from the dead. That's a reminder that the Father was pleased by what His Son did. His inflicting wrath and judgment upon His Son was for your sake. That way, when you are in the Lord's house this Sunday, you will get nothing but mercy. Baptismal mercy, forgiveness of sins in His mercy. Scriptures and preaching about God's mercy. The Body and Blood by which God grants us His mercy. God gathers us for worship (His command noted clearly in Exodus 31:13 and Hebrews 10:25) so that you are hearing and receiving God's undeserved love and forgiveness because Jesus Christ took what you deserve and showers you with His love and joy and peace.
May we each receive Christ's holy gifts in Word and Sacrament as God's mercy is given to you because of what Christ has done 'for you!" These gifts give you something you never thought you had coming and make you something you never were: forgiven and a child of God in Christ.