Thursday, August 5, 2010


What are we reading this summer?  We sailed through a book "G.K. Chesterton, Essential Writings".   He was fun.  There is another book, which is taking time.  I find I can only handle 5 pages at a time or so.  This is alright:  less reading more thinking, more enjoying favorable weather.  This books is "Heaven on Earth /  the Gifts of Christ in the Divine Service" by Arthur A. Just, Jr.

Just a sample.  Something I was reading  in "Heaven on Earth" , yesterday, and it dovetails with "Christ have mercy".


In the ancient world, the king would sometimes visit a village or city.  Anticipating his coming, villagers would line the road waiting for him to appear, and as he entered the city they would cry,  "Lord, have mercy!"  amid their shouts, one could also hear petitions from he crowd for gifts that reflected the king's mercy, such as food, protection, lower taxes, and always and most important, peace.  Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem is an excellent example of this.  In the Eastern Church, Christians adopted the practice of petitioning for gifts with cries of mercy as the clergy entered the church during the procession to the altar at the beginning of the service.  This secular practice was adopted for their King--the King of the Universe--for He was coming to them in His Word to bring the gifts of His presence:  "The Kyrie is not another confession of sins, but a prayer for grace and help in time of need--'the ardent cry of the Church for assistance.'"

The cry for mercy is biblical, particularly for those seeking the release from bondage that only Jesus the King can give.  It is the cry of the ten lepers, who seeing Jesus and knowing He can heal, cry out, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us"  (Luke 17:13).  It is the cry of a blind beggar at the gate of Jericho, who, on hearing that "Jesus of Nazareth  is passing by," cries, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"  (Luke 18: 37-38).  This petition for mercy has been explained in this way:

[It is] the most comprehensive and most expressive of all prayers.... To beg God's mercy is to ask for the coming of His kingdom which Christ promised to give to those who seek it, assuring them that all other things will be added (Matthew 6:33).  Because of this, it is a perfect example of a universal petition.

The Kyrie is the acknowledgment of gifts to be received with eager thankfulness and praise because the King is coming in His Word.  the most ancient form of the Kyrie was the simple acclamation  "Lord, have mercy,"  but early on it took the form of a litany similar to the one in many contemporary Lutheran service books.

In peace let us pray to the Lord.  Lord, have mercy.

For the peace from above and for our salivation let us pray to the Lord.  Lord, have mercy.

For the peace of the whole world, for the well-being of the Church of God, and for the unity of all let us pray to the Lord.  Lord, have mercy.

For this holy house and for all who offer here their worship and praise, let us pray to the Lord.  Lord, have mercy.

Help, save, comfort, and defend us, gracious Lord.

The cry for mercy in the Kyrie is a cry for peace.  The entire Kyrie is prayed  "in peace,"  and two of the first three petitions are for "peace from above"  and for "the peace of the whole world."  The petition for "peace from above"  acknowledges that peace came from heaven to earth through the incarnation of Jesus Christ and petitions the Lord to continue to be present among us in our worship.  The invasion of peace from above is why we petition for "the peace of the whole world"--a peace realized in salvation, the well-being of the Church of God, the unity of all, a peace for this holy house and for all who worship here.  Peace is the condition of "wholeness and well-being"  that now exists on earth and in heaven because of the incarnation and atoning death of Jesus, a theme echoed in the opening verse of the Gloria in Excelsis from Luke's Gospel.

Peace is also the new greeting of the Church of the new Testament that provided the foundation for the post-Pentecost Church in mission.  Jesus sent the seventy out to greet households in peace, and his first greeting to the eleven after the resurrection was the greeting of peace as He ate roasted fish before them (Luke 24:36).  Peace and hospitality at the table go hand in hand in the mission of Jesus and His disciples.  God's mercy is expressed at the table of His son through forgiveness offered and received, the very mercy and forgiveness that Jesus showed to sinners as He went from house to house with the greeting of peace.  The petitions conclude with a list describing the essence of our cry for God's mercy:  "help, save, comfort, and defend us, gracious Lord."  And so the divine Service as table fellowship with Jesus begins in peace as the people cry for mercy in the Kyrie.
 p, 189, 190.

Somehow, this is enough to ponder for one day.

Peace of the Lord to you and me, today, in his mercy.  Amen.

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