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River of Mercy

July 30, 2014 | Mason Gravley

I've been eager to see how living in a terrestrial masterpiece like Yosemite would change the longer I am here.  Frankly, it hasn't changed much.  I would describe it as more of a growth than a change.  I knew I could never grow tired to being somewhere like this but would lose focus and perspective from time to time.  That has happened, of course, but only for brief moments.  I am finding that the longer I stay the deeper in love I fall.

The Merced River flows through here in such brilliant grace that I often find myself walking its shores anytime I have a free moment.  It doesn't take a scientist to understand that The Merced is the winding water source that gives life to all the fauna and flora within the valley.  Every creature and plant has access to these crystal snow-melt waters.

While talking with a friend about the Merced River I was enlightened to the fact that merced is Spanish for mercy.  This would translate the Merced River into the Mercy River.  One afternoon while contemplating this name, I began to reflect on the concept of mercy and what it means for mankind.  As the water gracefully sang and rolled by me I realized I could think of no better way to illustrate mercy other than as a river.

Here’s why:

In Yosemite Valley we are 4,000 feet lower than the high country all around us.  The High Sierra, as we call it, is a seemingly celestial realm that is not easily accessible from down here.  The half-mile high, sheer granite rock walls give a sense of unreachability and otherworldliness to that “highland” above.  This high-country provides the pure and white snow that is the source of the Merced (Mercy) River, which makes its way to the valley.   It is only through the transformation of pure snow to pure water that we, here in the valley, can enjoy a habitable environment.  In order for the plants, animals, and visitors to live we needed the snow to change and become tangible to us down here, via the Merced.  It’s the only way these creatures could survive. 

When Romans 1:20 states, “...since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities---His external power and divine nature---have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse,” it is apparent that God is teaching us something through his gallery of Yosemite Valley.  Just as the snow melts from the realm of the high-country to be the source of life for the valley, God has transformed himself into a man in order to be accessible to us here in the “valley” of Earth.  Still remaining God, just as the snow is still water and water still snow, but in the form of a man, he has made himself tangible and accessible to us.  His perpetual river of mercy flows from heaven onto earth in a way that everyone can access if they so choose.  

That is the difference.  He has done the impossible work for us.  All that is left is for us to choose to stand in that flowing mercy, the river that never ceases to flow and wash clean.  It is always there, always flowing, always accessible and always as pure as snow.   Make the choice to stand in that soul-cleansing water.  Through the transformation of the Father to the Son, it has been made accessible to you and me.

"The opportunity to minister to persons that I would never encounter in my circle at home was rich."
– Sharon, Perkins School of Theology 2002

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