Crying For Help

Text: Luke 17:11-19

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Every Sunday in our Divine Services, we sing the Kyrie.  The words of the Kyrie are,

“Lord have mercy upon us, Christ have mercy upon us.  Lord have mercy upon us.” 

Now, even though this Kyrie is very brief, it is a comprehensive prayer for us as Christians.  You and I live in this world of sin and death.  All around us we see the results of hatred, envy, lust, and greed.  We also see natural disasters, diseases, war, and death.  And so, in the midst of all of this, we sing and pray by faith, “Lord have mercy!”

This is the same thing that those ten individuals cried out loudly that day when Jesus traveled to Jerusalem.  They cried out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 

But why did they cry this out? 

Well, they not only saw disaster all around but they saw disaster right in their midst.  They knew personally that they were in trouble.  They knew that they needed help, for leprosy had seized them.  They cried out in desperation to Jesus for they were completely and utterly helpless. 

It makes sense why they cried out loud for mercy.  On the one hand, they were suffering, helpless, and were the walking dead.  And on the other hand, they saw Jesus and had faith in Jesus.  They knew that Jesus was a friend of sinners.  And so, the word they chose to cry out was ‘mercy.’  You see, the word mercy means to have compassion.  It is a word that means to bring help and show kindness.  These lepers were in need of all of that – and more.    

And so, in our reading from the Gospel of Luke, we hear that Jesus cleanses them.  Jesus was merciful.  Jesus was compassionate.  Jesus showed them kindness. 

Now, it might be easy to think that you and I do not have much in common with these lepers, for leprosy is now a curable disease.  You and I will never fear the disease of leprosy for it can be remedied for about $400.  But contrary to what we might think, the only difference between these lepers and us is that there was no hiding of their mess, whereas you and I will often attempt to conceal our chaos.  In other words, the lepers were confronted head-on with their leprosy.  There was no hiding from their predicament.  There was no pretending that they were o.k., which drove them to cry out, “Jesus have mercy on us!” 

You and I, though, will often hide our problems and try to convince ourselves that we are o.k.  Like an ostrich, we conveniently put our head in the sand when the disasters of the world arise.  We say to ourselves, “Life is better when we can’t see the problems of our sin and the madness around us!”  And so, when you and I do not see the chaos around and when we do not see the ramifications of sin, we do not need to say the Kyrie.  Why would we say, “Lord have mercy,” when life is good? 

Dear friends, singing and saying the Kyrie – Lord have mercy – assumes that you and I struggle and fight against this sinful old nature. It assumes that we see the disasters around us.  It assumes that we understand the predicament of sin’s corruption. 

However, as already stated, singing and saying the Kyrie is difficult and humbling.  Because if we are going to cry out for mercy, like those lepers, we are essentially acknowledging that there is a problem.  And to acknowledge that you and I fight against sin and live in a world of sin, death, and suffering, is often difficult.  Most of our lives in North America are spent avoiding the reality of sin, death, and suffering.   

Take sin for example.  More and more the word ‘sin’ isn’t used in North American Churches because it is deemed as too negative and harmful.  Many pastors have struck the word ‘sin’ from their vocabulary.  Regardless, most people know that something is off in this world.  And many times people will feel guilty.  However, instead of the word sin, individuals will evaluate one another by their personal feelings and standards.  That way, when you and I do this, we can still have a standard of right and wrong, but a standard that causes everyone else to be wrong and us right.  As a result, when we do this, we go down a path where we do not have to cry out for mercy because we are never wrong.  We are never wrong because it is everyone else who sins, not us. 

And death?  In a recent study, it was reported that most people have this side of them that is scared witless about death. So, when death threatens to pop up, instead of saying, “Lord have mercy,” we try to comfort ourselves saying, "I'm good, so I'm protected; I'm special, I'm part of something great; I’ll last, I'm above the fray, an eternal soul, not a mere material thing."[1]  Indeed, when death arises, instead of crying out, “Lord have mercy on me,” we distance ourselves from the physical realities of our aging and dying bodies and talk about our intellect, our achievements, and so forth.  We do not talk about our bodies but talk about how smart we are or how generous we are, and so forth.  We do anything to avoid death and anything to avoid helplessly crying out with those lepers, “Jesus have mercy!”

And with suffering?  Instead of accepting the suffering and saying, “Lord have mercy,” we do everything possible to avoid pain so that we do not have to cry out for mercy in despair.[2]  We even will resort to euthanasia – the killing of life to avoid great suffering.   

What does all this mean?  It means that we avoid being helpless like those lepers.  We do not like crying out, “Jesus have mercy.”  But why?

I am sure there is a mixture of shame, doubt, and terror in all of us when we come to the reality of our helplessness and sin.   That is to say; it makes sense why we would want to avoid being helpless and dependent like those lepers.  But, dear Baptized Saints, do not let this shame, doubt, and fear paralyze you or cause you to run the way of denial.  You, who have ears, hear, just as the lepers expected every good from Christ and did not doubt His help, but rather cried out in mercy and relied on His mercy, we too can do likewise. 

To put it another way, when we sing and cry out the Kyrie, we are not confessing sin, but instead, we are crying for mercy so that our God would help us in the midst of sin.  We cry out because we know that the Kyrie is not just for the lepers or the tax collectors or the blind in the Bible, but it is for you and me too!  You see, the Kyrie is the cry of sinful and struggling mankind to God.  It is the cry of the Christian.  It is your daily prayer and cry before the Lord.    

Dear Baptized Christians, do not doubt.  Do not fear.  Do not be afraid.  Consider your predicament and then boldly cry out for mercy before the Lord.  In anguish and distress, without doubt, cry to the Lord because He is gracious and merciful to you. 

Christ Jesus did not cast these poor lepers off to the side.  He did not tell them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.  He was not disgusted with them but displayed His divine love by healing them. 

And this is the same Lord that you possess by faith.  This is the same Jesus Christ.  He will not cast you off when you cry out for mercy, for He has already given you mercy by His nailed scarred hands and longs to give you grace upon grace.  The Lord will not count you as worthless vile, for He has already claimed you as His own in baptism.  He will not regard you with contempt, for you are already a forgiven sinner at His holy table.  He will not despise you, for He will not forsake one of His own.  Your cry for mercy is not a nuisance, but the voice of faith to the Lord that possess you and cares for you!   

So, when we sing the Kyrie every Sunday, we sing it with faith.  We sing it with faith knowing that we belong to the Master – Jesus – who has overcome sin, death, and the devil.  We sing it knowing that whatever unthinkable thing we are going through that absolutely nothing – nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us..
Kyrie Eleison.  Yes, Lord have Mercy; Lord have mercy on you and me too.


[1] Hans Villarica, “How the Unrelenting Threat of Death Shapes Our Behavior,” The Atlantic, (accessed September 1st of 2018).

[2] In an interview for the Boston Review, Researcher Larissa MacFarquhar of The New Yorker studied the lives of modern-day “saints” and people of moral virtue. An interesting thing she discovered was that those of faith traditions and backgrounds weathered suffering much more easily than secular utilitarians (one of which she considers herself). She states:

“There is a difference between religious people…and secular people that was very enlightening…Within many religious traditions, there is much more of an acceptance of suffering as a part of life and not necessarily always a terrible thing, because it can help you become a fuller person. Whereas, at least in my limited experience, secular utilitarians hate suffering. They see nothing good in it, they want to eliminate it, and they see themselves as responsible for doing so…That’s why I think that, for secular people, there can be an additional layer of urgency and despair."

CLICK HERE to 'Like' on Facebook
CLICK HERE to 'Follow' on Twitter
CLICK HERE to Subscribe on iTunes
CLICK HERE to Subscribe on Podbean