England has been on my mind a lot lately—partly because my husband and I love British TV shows (really, I do like Downton Abbey and Dr. Who and Call the Midwife and Sherlock way better than most American shows I’ve seen!). And partly because my sister is going to get to study abroad at Oxford next fall, a privilege I got to have when I was in college also.
So that merrie olde land has been rather at the forefront of my thoughts.
One thing I loved when I lived those few months in England was getting to experience the Church, the family of God, in another country and culture. And while I usually attended a slightly more modern congregation than some in Oxford, they still used the traditional Anglican liturgy and book of Common Prayer.
One liturgical piece that struck me was the common refrain for mercy—often lacking in our contemporary American services, it seems.
Lord, have mercy…
Christ, have mercy…
They’re among the oldest words of the church, I think … “Have mercy on us.”
Maybe because we need it so much.
One day recently, I was walking across the school campus feeling rather aware of my own fallenness. Inside the old auditorium where almost round-the-clock prayer and worship is held, they were playing Revelation Song, one that’s been significant for my critique partners and me at writers conferences in the past.
I stopped to listen and softly join in a bit, but I needed to head back to the high school building. So I turned to the outdoor steps under the tree leading up to our area.
And saw this, scratched in chalk on the steps.
Words that seem basic to me, words I’ve heard innumerable times since before I can even remember.
But they struck me anew…again. Because they are powerful. And they are true. And they are mercy…which is what I need, every day, over and over.
So quickly I forget.
A Google search gave me this definition for mercy: “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.”
That is mercy. What He offers us…because of Jesus.
Not that our sins don’t have consequences. I continue to learn how my thoughtless or willful actions can hurt my relationship with the Lord, my husband, and others.
But even then, there’s His mercy. His compassion to come and pick me back up again and bring healing.
Sometimes the church my family attends sings certain ancient choruses of the church, arranged anew to their Bluegrass-style music. Simple tunes, simple words, but sometimes, it’s these old refrains that speak deepest both to and from my heart.
The Trisagion, from an ancient Orthodox prayer, put to music by Fernando Ortega:
Or the Kyrie Eleison, from medieval Latin and Greek, also revived by Fernando Ortega and performed by a certain wonderful group of musicians:
Lord, have mercy…
Christ, have mercy…
Like the Psalmists, so many times:
Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, For I am desolate and afflicted.
Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me; Lord, be my helper!
Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, Just as we hope in You.
And Bartimaeus, coming to Jesus:
And he cried out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
And when we cry to Him for it, He hears.
For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.
For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him…
And when Jesus came…
Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
May we all know His peace and His mercy today.
How has the Lord reminded you of His mercy lately? Please comment and share!