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Kyrie Eleison


Mark 10:46-52

They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stood still and said, "Call him here." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; get up, he is calling you." So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "My teacher, let me see again." Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
The world is seldom, if ever, friendly toward religious enthusiasm. Notice how, when blind Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus the crowd tells him to shut up. But that does not stop the blind man. Rather, he cries out even more loudly. Even some religious people are not too comfortable with their fellow religionists who may be a bit too expressive in worship for their taste. I say this as one who has spent much of his life in a quadrant of Christianity usually reserved for "the frozen chosen". 

I remember a time many years ago in a church where I was serving as an assistant pastor. The senior pastor was leading a Communion service that Sunday, but before he could even complete the words of institution, something very unusual happened. A young woman who was a new Christian suddenly got up, ran down the center aisle, took the bread, ate it, took a little cup of wine, downed it, and ran off.

The rest of us in the congregation, including the pastor, were left wondering what to do or say. There was a long, pregnant silence before the service continued in its usual manner.

However, afterwards I thought: "That's the way we all should be responding to Jesus." We should all realize how desperate we are for God's grace, so much so that we should be running to Jesus to receive whatever help he has to give us.

That's the way blind Bartimaeus responded to Jesus, despite the rebukes of the crowd. And his words really formed the best prayer that any of us can pray. "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me."

The Eastern Orthodox have modified this slightly and call it the Jesus Prayer. "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Though the prayer is very brief, it is sometimes shortened to simply: "Lord have mercy," or "Jesus have mercy." "Kyrie eleison" is a transliteration of the Greek words for "Lord have mercy" and they have formed a vital part of Christian liturgy for two thousand years. When we don't know what to pray, this is the best prayer. To fill our minds with this prayer throughout the day, as many times as we can, would be a great exercise.

Of course the important thing is not the words we use, but the spiritual act of coming to Jesus, however we do that. If we come to Jesus with open arms and uplifted hands, humbly confessing our sin and our need of his mercy, I believe we will receive healing from Jesus in whatever way is most needed.

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