Thursday, May 27, 2010

Christ have Mercy, 2

Chapter One"Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy".

Or as we sang in Germany in the service in Greek:  "Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison". And in German:  "Herr erbarm dich ueber uns".  My father liked the word "erbarmen", "to have mercy".  This is how he felt towards his children, he would say.  He could relate to God that way, being a father.

We have, in the book, the story of the car accident to help us understand our need.  It is everybody's nightmare to lose a child.  The whole community is driven to its knees, as in the story.  As you know I've been there and the whole community was with me.  "How could this happen?  How could this happen to you?  Why did it happen?"  600 people at the funeral. 

Several times I told people "Why not?",  "Why should this not happen to us?"  Do you not know we are all up for this one time or another.  Lately, I've heard of several very odd and sudden deaths, dropped over at home at 42.  Weird but not uncommon.  As someone has told me and I keep telling others:  "You only have today."  And as Jesus said to those who wondered why the tower fell on some:  "Repent!".

What people meant was that we were well known and well respected and known to be more "religious" than most and it should not happen to someone like us.  Which is a bit of a compliment, but as we see false.  We are nothing more than anyone else.  And our sack is as empty as anyone else's.  And nothing changed about getting it filled.  You keep going the same place for relief that you have been going all along and in the same manner.  The Word is the only thing/One who keeps you from going to pieces.   Your daily and hourly portion of it.

I cannot overemphasize this.  You must stick with the external word (as mentioned yesterday).  Your spouse and your friends are on their own path of suffering.  They have nothing they can give you that they have not also received from the same source.  Your relationships may also go to pieces if you don't share from this source.

Often you hear the footprints poem or people says "Jesus is with you."  This is too fuzzy.  It leaves me to imagine that Jesus is with me and carrying me.  Better to be involved in real worship with the congregation as described in this chapter.  Which is going with your "empty sack", your litany, your prayer to where it can be filled for you.

"'Dear God, I've got an empty sack!'  That is what the Kyrie confesses.  The place to begin a book on mercy is at the Kyrie, which is an essential element of the Divine Service.  Most people are convinced that the church service is about the Law.  It is about what we give to God.  All week long we give our labor to our employer.  We give time to our children.  We give  charitably ...  Jesus told a parable about a Pharisee with a similar view of worship.  (Luke 18:10-12).  Notice the subject of the verbs in the statements made by the Pharisee--each subject is the word 'I'". (p.21)

Luther sided with the tax collector on the question of what the church service is.  "The tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!'"

Yes, a sinner.  Not so special that death should not come to him or her or worse, to one or more of his or her children.  God was no sinner and knew this very same suffering.  He had the right to demand it from Abraham and from Job, even though this so goes against the grain and we scream.  We cannot fit this into our brains and designs.

But God is there to fill the bag, as we hear below.  We shall either be furious with him or come to him for bandaging.   This is what happens in worship.  We have nothing but Himself and what he gives us, all of us together.

"The action was all from man to God.  Luther completely changed the trajectory.  In the hymn Luther composed to teach the Ten Commandments, the Reformation Church sang, 'You shall observe the worship day That peace may fill you home, and, pray, And put aside the work you do, So that God may work in you' Have mercy, Lord!'  The movement is from God to man.  It is Gospel!" (p. 21)

"Luther described the divine Service as a man coming with an empty sack.'  In the Invocation, the name of the triune God, they name place on us in our Baptism, is spoken on us again.  That name is grace, mercy, and forgiveness dropped into our 'sack'.  We add an 'Amen', that is, a 'Yes, it is so!  It is in my bag.'  Then we confess our sins--'Dear God, my sack is empty'--and the pastor "in the stead an by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ' forgive us.  'We say again, 'Amen!  It is in the bag.'"

I do not have the same stab in the chest every time I see a picture, see a video, or listen to his songs.  Except once in a while.  Initially, the pain is also truly physical.  I can see how older people die from this. A man or woman dies months or a year after their spouse.  It is also very hard on your body and your functioning.  On top of that people get tired of you and your grief or the reminders of their own grief and you may suffer more isolation.  This is how people grow apart and couples split up.

I have confessed over and over the truth that it is the Word that welds you together even then.  Bandages are only so much good without the Word.  Being welded together is all we have for now, to be one body, a cluster on the vine, but it is so good, we are grateful.

What I see the author also doing in this chapter of the book, is to not just talk in terms of being a sinner and needing forgiveness.  This is expanded by talking about personal and collective tragedies--God's megaphone (Lewis).  Suffering these blows is another way of being a sinner, because it is the result of sin.  Indeed, "Lord have mercy".

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