And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
We’ve meditated on this one before, but it can never be meditated upon enough – even as we can never say the Kyrie enough, which is sort of the whole point about the Kyrie as taught in the Gospels – but the story that begins with a “Lord, have mercy” almost always ends wonderfully. I only say “almost” because the one time it doesn’t end well is when the rich man cries it out to Abraham in the account of Lazarus and the Rich Man.
So we can revise… No episode beginning with someone or some people crying out “Lord have mercy” to the Lord ever, ever ends poorly. Ever.
We can count on His mercy because He has mercy on all, as St. Paul writes, “For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.” All!
Huh? you say? Me too. Paul too: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” This he writes immediately after his statement above.
Given this truth, that events begun with “Lord, have mercy” always have happy endings, why do some worship forms exclude this foundation for a happy ending? Why do some worship forms cut out the Kyrie, as so much “rote” material not fit for a true “heartfelt” worship?
Not only do the accounts of suppliants crying the Kyrie show us the way of true worship, but all the accounts together give wonderful dimension to this particular element of worship. The Canaanite woman shows us how to grab onto that one crumb of God’s grace with our Kyrie, even in the fact of disciples’ rejection, God’s silence, and God’s mockery. The man with the epileptic son shows us that even when the Kyrie is combined with doubting faith – “Lord I believe, help Thou mine unbelief!” – it ends well. The two blind men show us never to give up, even when the disciples themselves, or the crowds, or the creative worship team, wants to snuff out our Kyrie.
The Kyrie puts us exactly where our Lord wants us, relying on Him for mercy. If the humble will be exalted, then it behooves us to be humbled. Leprosy will do that. Blindness will do that. Demonic possession will do that. All these things arise from our disobedience, which as St. Paul says, God has “committed” us to.
Again, huh? Perhaps it’s a reference to the fact that God is the one who added that one little thing known as “and evil” to His creation, something beyond the goodness of everything He had created, something put there for some reason in His wisdom. But whatever His wisdom, we know the end game is that He might have mercy.
There’s our proof text for our many apologetic arguments that go something to the effect of, “I don’t know why God would do this, but I do know He’s a loving and merciful God and will work all things out for the good.” There it is, right there in Paul: “ For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.”
Because of the leper(s), we now know what proper faith and worship look like. Because God committed them to leprosy, we know what right looks like. It looks like (1) praying the Kyrie, (2) confessing Jesus as Lord and God, and (3) offering eucharist, a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
Again, why would a creative worship team, with all the examples from Scripture about what worship looks like, exclude the Kyrie? Perhaps they feel God is moving them to different worship forms. If so, they are taking us away from the Gospel. They’re taking us out of that universe and putting us in a universe arising from their own heads, that and K-Love.
The liturgy puts us in the universe of the Gospel. How wonderful to know what heft is behind our Kyrie as we pray it in the liturgy. It echos back to the cries of those who were healed by Jesus, which is a guarantee that the same will happen to us.