1 Thessalonians 4:1-7
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
In order to advance the Church, to bring people to faith, to grow ourselves in God’s grace and mercy we must realize that we must repent of our sins. And then we must live as though we are forgiven. We must live as though all depends on His mercy and His mercy alone. To be His faithful people in this world we must come along side others with that same attitude. Not as though we are high and mighty; not as though we have achieved anything on our own; not as though we have all answers, but as though we are common people, with the same hurts and failings common to all mankind. But with one thing that is uncommon about us: we admit our need. We do not cover up, hide, or pretend our faults don’t exist. Instead we go to God. We demand His mercy for our sins. We cry out Kyrie eleison, Lord have mercy. And we bring others to Him in prayer shouting Kyrie on their behalf as well. Demanding God’s mercy according to His promises.
Such a way of speaking to God seems presumptuous doesn’t it?! Yet it is faith. It is faith in what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross. It is faith in His promise to you through His cross. It is faith in His character revealed at the cross. It would be presumptuous if He had not already had mercy on you through His cross.
That’s what the foreign woman, a non-Jew, someone considered a “dog” by Jews did to our Lord. In faith she commanded Him to have mercy. She cried out, “Kyrie eleison.” And the twelve disciples responded, “Stop her Lord! She’s crying out, screaming after us.” In fact, the word in Greek for her screaming is where we get the word “crazy” from. “She’s crazying after us Lord. She’s screaming; making a commotion; making a scene. Its embarrassing. And besides we’re in enemy territory. We are amongst the dogs, the foreigners, the people You haven’t called and saved. It is treacherous to have everyone drawing attention to us like that here.”
But she commanded mercy from the Saviour of mankind. She’d heard about Him. She believed in Him. Her faith told her He can help me. So she went for it! She crazied after Him. And He rebuffed her!
“I’ve come for the lost souls of my own nation.” To which she implored, “Help me Lord.”
“It’s not right to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs,” said He.
“But even we Gentile dogs can get fed by the crumbs that fall from the Jewish God’s table. That’s all I need. Your crumbs will be enough. For your mercy is all sufficient. Your crumbs will supply all my need.”
Kyrie eleison. Have mercy on me. And He had mercy. It seems mean of Him to rebuff her and ignore her like that. It seems worse to call her a dog. So why did He do it? Because He knew she had faith that trusted in Him. And He wanted his own self-righteous disciples to see her faith. He wanted them to accept her into the fold, despite being a “dog” in their eyes. So though He came first and foremost to seek and save the lost of His own nation, He would later send His disciples to the lost of all nations with the crumbs that fell from His table.
Remember the feeding of the 5000? More than 5000 were fed from two small loaves and five fish with 12 baskets of crumbs left over. More than enough for any and all. Shouting Kyrie eleison is a way of life for the Christian. It is the foundation of our life as Christians. Trusting in Our Lord’s mercy is always a sure thing.
But the Kyrie way also recognizes that God is God. He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy. He will give His mercy in the way He sees fit. Remember that God has hidden Himself from our eyes. We do not see Him. He is an unknowable God, except for where He revealed of Himself in the flesh of His Son. He caused Himself to be lifted up on a cross so that He can have mercy on the world.
The lost of His own nation wanted Him there. It was Gentile lost ones—the Roman authorities—who nailed Him there and lifted up for all to see. It was done on a barren lonely hill outside the city. In the place where scapegoats are sent to bear the sins of the people. In the place where demons and vultures and things that live off the dead abide. There He was sent to conquer death so that He might have mercy.
And wonder of wonders! He gives out that mercy to those who stand in faith and demand it of Him! But what is His mercy? First and foremost it is the forgiveness of sinful thoughts and actions, and perfect righteousness to cover your lack of righteous thoughts and actions. In other words it is eternal salvation. That is His mercy. Life with His Father. The right to come to your parents and beg of them mercy.
For in all but most desperate cases we who are wicked have mercy on our wayward child who comes begging for it. The tender heart of the parent breaks for their child. Their eyes well up. Their love flows in tears that wash away the sins of their child against them. That love moves the parent to cover over their child’s wrongs and reconcile their wayward one to themselves. This does not happen because the child deserves it. This happens because parents love their child.
How much more so with God your Father who loves you and has already paid the cost in advance to reconcile you to Himself and cover over you sins?
The Kyrie way is always a sure thing. It is the cry of a child to her loving Father. Not because that child deserves it or has earned it but because their Father loves them.
And remember parents, who because of their superior years so often know better than their children, don’t always give them the mercy they want. But to the best of their ability they give the mercy their child what she needs. How much more so with our Father who loves us? He knows what we need and He well provides it even before we cry out to Him. He loves us. He delights in our coming to Him. So cry out to Him in faith Kyrie eleison, Lord have mercy. And He will. The Kyrie way is always a sure thing.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON