Sunday Sermon 2004
“Crying Out for Mercy”
Only He who
received no mercy can bring mercy to you.
Only Jesus, the Son of David, can hear your cry and answer your
need. Of course, if you see
no need for mercy you are in the wrong place.
You don’t belong here in church.
The church gathers together to cry out for mercy.
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us. Only
those who obtain mercy from Jesus can learn to love. Only those in whose hearts the Holy Spirit has implanted His
living and eternal word can from their hearts love one another.
How can such a love
exist in what so often appears to be an increasingly loveless world?
Where can we go to find this kind of love and to learn to love in
this way? We know where we
must go. We must go to
where the blind beggar went. We
must go to Jesus and we must cry out to Him just as that beggar cried
out. And when we cry out to
Jesus for that love that suffers long, is kind, doesn’t envy or parade
itself, is not proud but gentle, humble, self-effacing, and pure, what
does Jesus show us? Where
does he tell us to look? Whence
is the source of this wonderful love for which we yearn and yet that we
cannot find within our own hearts?
Jesus tells us. He points us to His suffering.
Jesus said, concerning Himself, “For He will be delivered to
the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon.
They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will
rise again.” Oh, what an
irony! If we want to see
love, we must first witness hatred.
If we want to be filled with love for God and for one another
–and surely we cannot want anything greater than that! – we must
first be willing to confront the most horrifying hatred imaginable.
But we must not
only imagine it. We must
look at it. We must receive
instruction from it. For
only in the suffering of the Son of Man can we see love conquer hatred.
We look upon Christ’s suffering.
We see God’s promises fulfilled.
We see true love displayed.
We see our prayers answered.
In the suffering of
Jesus God fulfills His promises. The
first gospel promise God gave was that the Seed of the woman would crush
the head of the Serpent. In
so doing, His heel would be bruised.
This was a prophecy of the suffering, death, and resurrection of
Christ. The bruised heal of the woman’s Seed was the price of human
freedom from evil. The
prophets foretold the suffering of Christ, even speaking His words for
Him several hundreds of years before He spoke them.
David speaks for Christ saying, “For dogs have surrounded Me;
the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands
and My feet.” (Psalm 22:16) Isaiah
speaks for Him saying, “I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My
cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from
shame and spitting.” (Isaiah 50:6)
It was no secret that the Christ would suffer.
didn’t understand. How
could they not understand? This
was the third time that Jesus had told them.
They were familiar with the Holy Scriptures that taught them
this. The blood of the
covenant had to be shed. Who
did they think would shed it if not He who was identified as the Lamb of
God? But the disciples who had received instruction from Jesus for
three years could not understand the plain meaning of the words Jesus
He would be
delivered to the Gentiles. The
religious leaders of the Jews did not have the authority to crucify
Jesus. He would suffer and die by the authority of Pontius Pilate.
He would be mocked and insulted and spit upon.
There is no love visible here, is there?
There is only contempt and disgrace.
But He who bears it utters not one word of complaint.
Instead of cursing, He blesses.
Instead of threatening, He prays.
There is the love.
But there is also
love in the whipping and in the crucifixion.
Not only the love of Christ who patiently endures it, but the
love of the Father by whose will it happened.
Here is a love so wonderful it cannot find adequate expression in
words. It is our heavenly
Father’s love for us. The
Father sees the purity of His innocent Son.
He sees inside Jesus’ soul and witnesses a spotless and
beautiful innocence. It is
the purity they have shared from eternity with the Holy Spirit and now
the Son become flesh has manifested it for thirty-three years on this
earth. The Father, who
knows with intimate personal knowledge the purity and holiness of His
dear Son, watches as His innocent Son suffers shame.
There is love! The Father watches as His holy Son is whipped and killed.
He watches as His Son rescues us all from death.
The Father Himself
requires this suffering. The
Son willingly bears it. All
because God loves us so much. This
is no accidental death. It
is not by the Romans or by the Jews but by the eternal will and purpose
of God that Jesus suffers for us. And
in this suffering God’s love for us is revealed.
Listen to how the poet expresses it:
Of what the paltering world calls love,
was not the anger of the mob, or the pain of the whip, or the shame of
the spitting, or the physical dying that brought the greatest sorrow to
the soul of our Lord Jesus. It
was the curse of God Himself against sinful humanity, the curse that
Jesus Himself bore as He took the place of sinful humanity in order to
become a curse for us. Love required it. By
bearing God’s curse, Christ removed the curse from us.
He set us free from sin. We
are forgiven by God.
one can understand that unless he first understands his need for that.
But, as St. Paul reminds us, “For the message of the cross is
foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it
is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Who are those being saved? It
is those who are crying out for mercy.
cry out for mercy to the Lord Jesus is not a once in a lifetime
experience after which one has it settled and will from henceforth move
upward and onward in sanctified living.
Far from it! To cry
out for mercy to Jesus, the sin-bearer, is the daily cry of even the
most sanctified Christians.
cry for mercy is called the Kyrie Eleison, which is Greek for Lord, have
mercy. The Kyrie is set at
the beginning of the Divine Service.
In the older liturgy we sing, “Lord have mercy upon us, Christ
have mercy upon us, Lord have mercy upon us.”
That’s been a feature of the Service since the earliest years
of the Christian Church. In
a newer liturgy, brought to Denmark, and from there to Norway and from
there to America we sing the Kyrie this way:
“O God, the Father in heaven, have mercy upon us; O God the
Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy upon us; O God, the Holy Ghost,
true Comforter, have mercy upon us.” In either case, the Kyrie or cry for mercy stands at the very
beginning of the Service and sets the tone for everything that follows.
are we saying when we sing the Kyrie?
We are saying that we are the blind beggar standing at the side
of the road, crying out to Jesus in our need.
The very up to date religious crowd tells us that this is no way
to worship God, but that we should toss out the historic liturgy and the
Kyrie with it, replacing it with more upbeat “praise” songs that
celebrate good things going on in our lives.
But we are stubborn, just like that blind beggar, and we ignore
the crowd as we cry out all the louder, “Jesus, Son of David, have
mercy on us!”
He never ever fails to hear our cry.
Every time we gather in His name, and by His authority, He
chooses to be present. Not
only is He here, but He is here to give us our sight back.
We have become blinded by our foolish and persistent infatuation
with the things of this life that are perishing with the world.
We have served our own appetites instead of God.
We have not loved our neighbor.
We have been impatient and unkind.
We have envied. We have paraded ourselves and become puffed up.
We have been rude. We have sought our own benefit over others and we’ve been
provoked when we haven’t gotten our way.
We have though evil against our neighbor with no more basis in
fact than the malice within our own hearts.
We’ve rejoiced in the sins of others because it gave us
opportunity to judge them.
we come, week after week, to bemoan our loss, to confess our sins, and
to cry out for God’s mercy. Yes,
we celebrate God’s goodness every day and we love to sing His praises.
But our deepest and more pressing need is always for the mercy
that only Jesus, the Son of David, can provide.
He, who was delivered to the Gentiles, mocked, insulted, spit
upon, whipped, and crucified did not remain dead in the grave, but rose
from the dead and is here with us whenever we gather in His name.
He gives to us the forgiveness He won by His bitter suffering and
death. He answers our Kyrie
with pure divine mercy, flowing from His wounds into our lives, blotting
out every sin and healing our souls from the guilt that distresses us.
By forgiving us, He opens our eyes to see the pure love of God.
By giving to us the mercy for which He bled and died, He pours
the Holy Spirit into our hearts who enables us to love one another even
as we have been loved. And
for every imperfection of our love, the mercy of Christ is the
all-sufficient covering. The
faith by which we are saved is the faith that receives the mercy for
which we cry.
we gather together as blind beggars and every time we gather Jesus
deigns to give us our sight and confirm our faith.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus