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Lord, have mercy! (part 1)

Liturgy Notes continued

After Martin Luther had just died, a piece of paper was found in his pocket. On it were scribbled the words, “We are beggars, that’s the truth”. The fact that we are utter beggars before God is expressed in our liturgy every week with the words, “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy”. This is nothing else but a beggars cry for mercy, help, assistance, pity and charity.

The words recall many of the New Testament accounts of people crying to Jesus for mercy, either for themselves or for others. For example, we think of the Canaanite woman whose daughter suffered from demon possession (Matt 15:22), the ten lepers (Luke 17:13), or the two blind men (Matt 9:27). In every case, these desperate people appealed to Jesus for help by crying out, “Lord, have mercy!”

In the same way, the “Lord, have mercy” in our liturgy is a wide ranging prayer for mercy and help in any possible situation or need. In these words we are holding out our begging bowls before God – and not only for ourselves, but also for the needs of others and the world. While in times past it has been regarded as a prayer for forgiveness, that is not really its function here. After all, we have only just confessed our sins and received forgiveness in the absolution! Rather, we are exercising our role as the priesthood of believers, representing the world in all its poverty to God; in praying “Lord, have mercy” we are acting as public servants for all who are deprived in any way – materially, socially or spiritually.

For this reason it is repeated several times, so that we can place our needs within it, and so that it’s not over before we even begin. The pastor may hold his arms out with hands upturned, visibly depicting our beggar status. In the Alternative Form, the “Lord, have mercy” is accompanied by actual petitions, as we shall note at another time.

Question: Who do you know that needs God’s mercy today?

A series of studies on the Liturgy – Linards Jansons

Rhonda Bruggemann

About the author

Rhonda Bruggemann

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Downfall Creek

St John’s

St John’s Downfall Creek, has been a centre of Christian faith and life in the area for over 100 years. They operated a Christian school for twenty-two years (1940 – 62).

This faith community is a warm-hearted bunch, who love to share their hospitality with the district. They enjoy many a pot luck dinner and host ‘Easter Dawn Service & Breakfast’, ‘Christmas Eve’ & ‘Advent Tea’’ and ‘Games Nights’ for the community.

Home Groups are an important part of life in the Downfall. Discussion and exploration of the faith are encouraged.

Religious Education at the nearby Guluguba Primary School is provided by St John’s.

Downfall Creek



Redeemer Miles, is a dedicated group who know the love of Christ and are keen to share it. They meet regularly in various homes throughout the district for intergenerational worship and home groups.  

Religious Education at nearby Drillham State Primary School is provided by Redeemer.



The Charleville faith community meet for worship once a month, then go out for a fellowship meal together. A Home Group is planned to begin soon.

They host the annual ‘Western Muster’, an ecumenical Bible teaching gathering, held on the first weekend after Easter.


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