What We Do When We Do Church – Kyrie

Psalm 123:3

Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt.

This series of devotions is about the classical liturgy that many Christian churches use in some form all around the world.

The reason for these devotion is to help us better understand what we do when we “do” church. I think it will be extremely helpful for us to understand what liturgical worship is.

Too often I’ve heard that “worship is boring” and that’s why people don’t like to go to church. They like God and they consider themselves Christians, but Sunday morning finds them doing other things. There are many reasons for this, I’m sure, but at least one of them, hopefully – after this series of devotions – won’t be “liturgy doesn’t do anything for me.”

The classical liturgy is used by many Christians today and has been used in various forms throughout the nearly two thousand years of the Christian church.

Many parts of the liturgy actually have been used before the establishment of the Christian church in the middle of the first half of the first century – used by Israel during Old Testament times.

So far, this series of devotions has looked at the following (click on the name to go to each devotion):

Part 1 – Hymnody

Part 2 – Invocation

Part 3 – Baptism

Part 4 – Confession of Sins

Part 5 – Absolution

Part 6 – Introit / Psalmody

Today we explore that part of the worship service called the Kyrie.

Kryie is the shortened form of the Latin phrase Kyrie eleison which means “Lord, have mercy.”

It is a cry for God’s mercy by the people who have gathered to worship God.

It is a phrase used specifically in Psalm 51 and Psalm 123 and also the cry to Jesus of two blind men in Matthew 9, a Canannite woman whose daughter was possessed by a demon in Matthew 15, and a father whose son has epilepsy in Matthew 17.

In this world, we have daily reasons to cry to God to “have mercy on us.”
In one liturgy of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod the Kyrie is expanded to reflect this:

In peace let us pray to the Lord. Lord have mercy.

For the peace from above and for our salvation let us pray to the Lord. Lord have mercy.

For the peace of the whole world, for the well-being of the church of God, and for the unity of all let us pray to the Lord. Lord have mercy.

For this holy house and for all who offer here their worship and praise let us pray to the Lord. Lord have mercy.

Help, save, comfort and defend us gracious Lord. Amen.

Daily we are surrounded by sin and its results: hatred, envy, lust, and greed.

Today – with shootings and violence in Joplin, Missouri and Milwaukee, Wisconsin making national headlines – the world is truly in need of God’s mercy.

Now, maybe more than ever (but then again, maybe it’s always been this way), the church, in her worship, needs to plead before God on behalf of the whole world.

The Kyrie is a prayer that no one else is going pray, that truly no one else can pray, as it is a prayer that only a Christian can pray through Jesus Christ our Lord and expect to be heard (we’ll explore this aspect of prayer in a later devotion).

I like the current melody of the Kyrie in Lutheran Worship (Lutheran Service Book, Setting 1) as it conveys a confidence that we, as God’s people, have that our Lord is merciful and will answer our prayer for mercy.

Maybe not always immediately or the way we think He should, but the Lord will answer and will answer powerfully!

Next time, we’ll explore an immediate response to the Kyrie – the Hymn of Praise!


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