Preparing for Worship – R. G, Huff.
The Wilshire staff chose to use a Vincent van Gogh-themed Lenten devotional guide long before Putin invaded Ukraine. Little did they know that in the providence of God, one of the paintings highlighted for this second Sunday of Lent features the national flower of Ukraine. But there it is on our worship folder cover: Sunflowers, to remind us to pray for abundant mercy to be lavished from the hand of God upon all who suffer the ravages of war in a country half a world away.
Today, the choir sings Haydn’s setting of Kyrie eleison — Lord, have mercy. Again, this anthem was selected weeks ago for the second Sunday in Lent. But could we speak a better prayer for the people in Ukraine — or for ourselves!?
I’m quite sure my mother was totally unfamiliar with Kyrie eleison. In my east Tennessee home church, the choir never sang those words, nor did the pastor ever speak them. However, many a time I heard my mother say, “Lord, have mercy!” She wasn’t speaking Greek, but she meant exactly the same thing. I realize it had become more of a colloquial phrase spoken sometimes frivolously in an off-handed manner; but at times, she said it quietly when sincerely invoking that benevolent intervention that only her Lord could provide.
There was also “mercy me!” I heard that so much in my formative years that I disconnected it from my faith experience. Much later I realized that in that phrase, “mercy” is a transitive verb of request. In other words, it is akin to saying “love me” or “embrace me.” Our cry to God is “Let your mercy be poured out upon me from top to bottom. Drench me with your mercy.” Instead, we have shortened it to “mercy me.”
During Lent, mercy is that which we crave. When we realize our dusty earthiness, and move from being entitled to being humbled, mercy is the obvious blessing we seek from the One whose path to the cross we trace in these 40 days.
May this Lenten season take on a double cry for mercy: a personal cry for those of us from the bluebonnet state, and an additional cry for
those whose national flower is the sunflower.
Mercy me. Mercy us. Mercy them. Amen.