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There are few things of human engineering that are more beautiful to watch than the marching of the Marine Corps Silent Drill Team. To see them move in perfect sync is astounding as they pivot on a dime, all in unison or in perfect order, as they loft their hand-polished, 10 and one-half pound M-1 Garand rifles with fixed bayonets through the air and catch them, often throwing them to one another. With every step that is taken, there is the smooth swooshing of their uniforms and the quick snap of their shoe heels as they come back together in seamless unison and the tight rap of their hands slapping the stock of their rifles.

As a Marine Corps photographer stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona, I had the privilege of documenting photographically their winter desert training. I and the other photographers with whom I worked knew the sounds of the silent drill team very well.

Our fathers, in their theology, expressed the sounds of the precision and snap of God’s actions; they have passed down to us a great legacy of the stirring sounds of the wrath of God. Many modern ears, however, have heard only the soft swooshing of God’s favor, but have not listened for the rifle and the sharp click of the heel.

The beauty of the sovereign God of creation, though, is understood most full in the light of all He is. He is just, but He also loves. He is strong, but He is also slow to anger and abundant in mercy. Kindness without justice is mere sentiment. Justice without mercy has no power to move or change the stubborn heart. The cross is the only place where the picture is in focus. God’s justice and mercy come together in His love for us sinners.

(From a sermon by Chris Surber, "The Pilgrim’s Path 5 The Merciful" 1/29/2009)

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