Have mercy on US! Grant US your peace!
I had the privilege of being the first of the LCA/LCANZ bishops to preach for the morning devotions at our recent Convention of General Synod. Using the story of the “Passover” in the Exodus text that was given to me for the service, I focused the delegates on the “Lamb of God” who takes away the sin of the world, that is our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this context, I led the delegates in praying a very ancient prayer of the Church which is regularly sung whenever we gather for Holy Communion:
“Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, grant us your peace.”
While I was preparing for this message, a colleague reminded me of a profound element of this “Lamb of God” prayer. It is plural. The prayer doesn’t say, “have mercy on ME.” Our Christian mothers and fathers have taught us to pray, “have mercy on US … grant US your peace.”
This deep truth of this cherished prayer guides us into a good response for Lutherans in Australia and New Zealand, following the recent Convention. Delegates discussed and debated the ordination of women. Once again the delegates did not vote to change the teaching of the Church although once again, the majority of delegates voted in favour of the practice of ordaining women.
There is grief, lament and uncertainty for many in our Church, particularly because of this outcome.
The “Lamb of God” prayer gives us words to pray for each other: “Have mercy on us.”
If I am opposed to the ordination of women, then I am able to pray for myself and for those who are in favour of ordaining women, “Have mercy on US.” If I am in favour of the ordination of women, then I am able to pray for myself and for those who are opposed to ordaining women, “Have mercy on US.” If I am neither opposed nor in favour, and I am listening to the arguments or maybe struggling to follow the issue, then I am able to pray for myself and for others involved in the discussion, “Have mercy on US.”
The “Lamb of God” prayer repeats the line, “Have mercy on us”. That is a good reminder to keep praying for mercy from our Gracious Lord. Then the “Lamb of God” prayer ends with “Grant us your peace.”
Following the Convention of General Synod, God’s people of the Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand are called to pray to the Risen Lord, “Grant US your peace.” This is the peace the Lord speaks at the time of the resurrection. This is the peace that is light in the darkness. This is the peace that is hope in the face of despair. This is the peace that is much more than the absence of strife. This is the peace that sent the disciples from Jerusalem, to all Judea and to Samaria and to the ends of the earth, to proclaim the good news, “He is Risen.” Down through the ages, in uncertain places, the people of the Church have always united their voices to pray to the Lord, anticipating that he will hear our praying and will guide our feet into the way of peace.
As I write this devotion for you, I am about to take part in the first meeting of the College of Bishops meeting after the Convention. Please pray for the bishops and other leaders in our Church as they work through the outcomes of the Convention.
We are the “body” of Christ where each part is connected (1 Corinthians 12) so together we pray, “Grant us your peace.”