“Lord, have mercy.”
“Christ, have mercy.”
“Lord, have mercy.”
This month you will hear those three phrases used in Beautiful Savior’s worship. They are known as the Kyrie Eleison (Kýrie eléison), which is simply a transliteration of the Greek phrase that means the same thing we say, “Lord, have mercy.”
Liturgical worship moves from the Invocation through Confession and Absolution to the Kyrie. We begin our time in God’s house by calling on his name and asking him to be present with us as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We reflect on our unworthiness to be there, but ask God to wash us clean and restore us for the sake of Jesus. Then we appeal to the mercy of our Three-in-one God for every aspect of our lives. We follow the example of believers throughout the ages and the centuries, even before there was worship in the sense of what we experience today.
David, and other writers of the Psalms of the Old Testament, used this phrase in their poems and songs:
I said, “O Lord, have mercy on me; heal me, for I have sinned against you.” (Psalm 41:4)
Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us, for we have endured much contempt. (Psalm 123:3)
As Jesus walked the earth, those who recognized his deity and his power addressed him with this title as they appealed to his compassion:
A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” (Matthew 15:22)
Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” (Matthew 20:30)
In all of those instances there was a need: sickness and disease to be healed, sins to be forgiven. When we come before our God we also have needs to be addressed. We may have sicknesses and diseases to be healed. However, in the Kyrie Eleison we appeal to God to address our greatest need and to heal our greatest disease; we appeal to God to forgive our sins. We also trust that he does.
Right now, we are in the midst of the season of Lent. As we reflect on the church calendar, these weeks before Holy Week and the triumph of Easter may be when we recognize God’s mercy the most. We focus on the suffering our Savior Jesus Christ endured in our place. We see his agony and torment and pain; agony and torment and pain that rightfully was ours to endure. Yet, that is the mercy of God; he spared us that agony and torment and pain. That is the mercy of Christ; he willingly endured the agony and torment and pain in our place.
Perhaps you sense a degree of sadness and mourning in those words, “Lord, have mercy,” but remember the truth that Christ has had mercy on you. He has healed you and addressed your greatest need. If he took the time to address that need, to heal that disease, and to forgive you, he will also bring his mercy to bear in the smaller matters of your life.