The Cry Of A Christian: "Lord Have Mercy!"

Text:  Luke 17:11-19

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 

This was the cry of the ten lepers to Jesus – ten lepers who stood at a distance and lifted their voices to Jesus.

Now, in case you haven’t noticed, this is not the first time someone has cried out in mercy to Jesus.  Consider for a moment all of the accounts in the New Testament.  In the New Testament, we hear people like blind Bartimaeus, the father of the epileptic son, the Canaanite woman, the ten lepers, a tax collector, and so forth, crying out for mercy.  From their inward gut and tightened heart, they cried out for pity, help, mercy, compassion, and grace to Jesus.  And Jesus?  Well, he certainly gave mercy to the weak and the afflicted.  He gave mercy to those who had nothing to give and were spiritually bankrupt.  Jesus gave mercy to lepers, demoniacs, the hungry, the blind, the dead, and so forth. 

It is interesting, though, Jesus does not give mercy to people such as the Pharisees.  The reason why? The Pharisees believed that they were not in need.  You see, the Pharisee, Sadducees, and Scribes – that big bunch of religious leaders of the first-century – believed that they had it all together.  They crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s.  They were squeaky clean, or so they thought.  As a result, they didn’t cry out for mercy like all the other ragamuffins did.  And Jesus?  Well, he didn’t give them mercy, but more often than not, He met them with a stern eye and judgment.

Dear friends, that is how it works with mercy. Those who seek mercy, have nothing to give. Those who cry out for mercy, surely cannot buy or trade for mercy. And Christ, well… He never sells mercy. Christ never allows His mercy to be purchased, for that would negate the very essence of what mercy is.

To the point: moved by compassion, Christ shows and gives mercy to those who are at the end of their rope.  Indeed, it is for those who have lost everything that is most dear to them. Mercy is for those who cry over their own failures and sins. Mercy is for those who know that they cannot overcome sin, death, and the devil. Mercy is for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness - those who know that they are never going to meet up to the standards of the world and especially God’s holy Law. 

And so, it is starting to make sense, is it not?  We cry out for mercy each and every week right here in our liturgical church services when we sing the “Kyrie.”  Just like those lepers of our reading from the Gospel of Luke, we cry out and sing:

“Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy; Lord have mercy on us!” 

But wait a minute.  You and I do not have leprosy, so why do we cry out for mercy in our church services?  The answer, our cry for mercy to the Lord is a cry for salvation.  It is our cry seeking help, aid, and mercy upon us – not as lepers – but as sinners. 

Dear friends, think about the implications of crying out for mercy in our church services.  When we cry out for mercy in the Kyrie, does this cry mean that we are weak? Yes, it does. Does our singing of the Kyrie mean that we are in need? Yes, it does. Does it mean that we need help outside of ourselves?  Yes, it does.  Does it communicate that we have a problem?  Yes, it does.  As poor miserable sinners - in thought word and deed - the only thing that we can say before God is:

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

Only sinners in need of mercy can properly cry out the Kyrie, “Lord have mercy! “

Many years ago, I had a conversation with an agnostic. (An agnostic is very similar to an atheist – they don’t believe in God.)  In an attempt to criticize Christianity, this agnostic said that Christianity is just a crutch for the weak, unintelligent, and scared.  He went on to say that Christianity offers comfort to losers in life.  Now, before we get too defensive, was he right?  Brush aside any offense, and ask yourself, was he right? 

In spite of our defensiveness to this agnostic’s so-called criticisms upon Christianity, this agnostic was actually closer to understanding the Kingdom of God than the self-righteous Pharisees of the New Testament were.  That is right; this agnostic was closer to understanding the Kingdom of God than many self-righteous religious people in our modern-day and age.  The reason being, Christianity is about Christ being merciful to those who actually need mercy. Those who cry out for mercy know that they cannot buy it, earn it, or accomplish it.  To cry out for mercy is to plead for mercy that comes to us as a way of gift. And Christ?  Well, He gives mercy to repentant sinners - sinners who beat their chest and cry out for mercy with open hands.  To paraphrase Psalm 51, “Perfect performance pins do not impress God; however, heart-shattered lives and broken pride do not escape God’s notice.”

Dear friends, this is why the Kyrie is so important to our church services.  It is the cry of Christ’s Church.  It is not a dead liturgical song but the church’s cry and prayer before God.  Perhaps nothing else defines us greater than this simple cry for mercy because Christianity is not merely weak people looking for a crutch but dead sinners crying out and receiving forgiveness, life, and salvation.  That is right; even though that agnostic was close to understanding Christianity, he had not gone far enough.  Christianity is not just a crutch for the weak; it is merciful life for the spiritually dead.    

You see when you sing the Kyrie or say, “Lord have mercy,” you are acknowledging two things.  First, you are acknowledging that you cannot pull yourselves up by your bootstraps.  You are acknowledging your sinful condition.  You are acknowledging your powerlessness in this sin-sick world in the face of sin, death, and the devil.  Secondly, the cry for mercy is an acknowledgment – by faith – that the Lord is the one who is sovereign over all things and all situations.  The cry for mercy to the Lord acknowledges that the Lord has compassion on sinners like you and me, that He does not turn a blind eye to a broken cry for mercy. 

Dear friends, this is why pagans do not and cannot cry for mercy.  They don’t want to acknowledge their weakness, their sins, and their powerlessness.  And they don’t want to acknowledge that there is something great than them – someone, who stands above them. 

But that is not who you are.  You are not a pagan.  You are a Christian.  You are the baptized!  And so, you and I know that this Christian life is a life of dependence.  You and I know that we are never able to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.  You and I know that we are never called to go at this life alone but are instead called to remain in Christ.  You and I know that we are called not to the delusion of self-sufficiency but to the role of a beggar - to be receivers of good gifts. 

You, who have ears, hear!  You and I never stop crying for mercy, for you and I are always in need of the Lord’s mercy in everything.  So, when you sing the Kyrie every Sunday, sing it with faith.  Sing it with confidence.  And don’t just sing it on Sundays, sing it every day, knowing that you belong to the Master – Jesus – who has overcome sin, death, and the devil for you.  Sing the Kyrie with faith, knowing that whatever unthinkable thing you 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 you and God’s love because of the way that Jesus your Master has embraced you in your baptism.

Baptized Saints, Christ Jesus, did not cast those poor lepers off to the side who lifted their voices for mercy.  And He does not cast you aside either when you cry for mercy.  He has already given you mercy by His nailed scarred hands and longs to give you mercy continually in His Words of Absolution and His body and blood from His Holy Table. 

Take comfort, He will not regard your cries of mercy with contempt.  He will not despise your cry of mercy for He does not forsake His own.  Your cry for mercy is not a nuisance, but the voice of faith to the Lord – a Lord who merciful to those in need of mercy. 

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy… and He does.   

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

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