Today we consider the call to love the other people in our homes and families by considering a few more portions of our liturgy. The logic of the gospel is that we have been made alive together with these other saints, and we continue to live out an ecclesiology in our homes whether we realize it or not. Today, we think particularly about how God grows up and teaches us as his children in a context of mercy.
Lord Have Mercy
Since the early church, Christians have begun worship with the prayer, “Lord have mercy.” This is one of the common ways we see people addressing Jesus in the gospels (Mt. 15:22, 17:15, 20:30, Mk. 10:47, Lk. 17:13), and it comes with rich covenantal overtones in the Old Testament (e.g. Ps. 136, cf. Dt. 7:9, 12, 1 Kgs. 8:23, Neh. 1:5, Ps. 89:28). And the birth of Christ is the fulfillment of that covenant and mercy (Lk. 1:50, 54, 58, 72, 78). The Kyrie is a plea for God’s covenant promises in all of life for the whole world in Jesus. And as soon as we begin talking about covenant, we’re talking about generations, and that means children. We come as suppliants, inferiors, servants before a master, subjects before a king, as children before the Father. And this raises the question, how does our Father respond?
Jubilee is a Person (Lk. 7:18-29)
This mercy is not merely forgiveness, but comes in the form of sitting at the feet of Christ, listening to his teaching and instruction and finally being invited to eat with him. This pattern is played out vividly in the gospel. John has sent messengers to inquire if Jesus is the “Coming One,” and Jesus responds by describing his ministry (7:18-23). This description is in part a reference to Is. 61:1 which was the passage that Jesus began his ministry with in Luke (Lk. 4:16-21). Jesus has said that his ministry is to proclaim the “acceptable year of the Lord.” This word for “liberty” is only use a few other places, one of which is Lev. 25:10, describing the year of Jubilee, the year of forgiveness of debts, the return of land and inheritance (cf. Is. 61:2, 49:8). Jesus reflects on the ministry of John, and even tax collectors justify God (7:24-29).
Wisdom is a Forgiven Sinner (Lk. 7:30-50)
Because the Spirit of the Lord is upon Jesus, we should expect him to be filled with wisdom (e.g. Ex. 31:2-3, 28:3, Is. 11:2, Acts 6:3). And therefore, Jesus responding to the rejection of the Pharisees and lawyers (7:30), says that this generation is like foolish children who are amazed when the world doesn’t conform to their whims (7:31-32). Neither Jesus nor John the Baptist conformed to their preconceived notions (7:33-34), but Jesus says that wisdom is a woman whose children justify her (cf. 7:29). This flows right into the story of Jesus eating in a Pharisee’s house (7:36), and the implication is that the woman is an example of this wisdom. Notice that Jesus has just described his ministry as characterized by eating with sinners, and the very next episode is Jesus eating with a Pharisee and woman shows up who is a “sinner” (7:37, 39). The woman’s actions are lavish, overdone (even grotesque perhaps to us), but they are acts of hospitality and love (Lk. 7:44-47). While there is perhaps room for nuance, the parable suggests that these great acts of love are a response to a great act of forgiveness (7:41-42, 47). The word for “forgave” means to release, to free, to bestow liberty (e.g. Acts 3:14, 25:11, 16, Phm. 1:22), and of course it also frequently refers to how God has dealt with us in Christ (Rom. 8:32, Eph. 4:32). And as this story teaches us, forgiveness forgets debts. If this story is a picture of the liturgy, following the pattern of our worship, then Christ’s teaching and instruction comes in the context of mercy and forgiveness at a meal. The love of the sinful woman is evoked by the embodiment of Jubilee in the person of Jesus. Jesus is the return of the inheritance, Jesus is our return home, Jesus is our invitation to begin again.
Conclusions & Applications
As we consider the pattern of our worship as a blueprint for treatment of other people, and particularly those other people in our own home, it should be noted that the entire liturgy works as a good outline for disciplining our children in general.
Jesus eats with sinners; Jesus is a friend of sinners. And this means that we are called to imitate this in our homes cheerfully. The sinners that come to your table need to be invited in the spirit of Jubilee: Welcome home.
Bestowing forgiveness is an act of nobility and royalty. God wants us to live lavishly, with forgiveness to spare at every point (Mt. 18:22). We have endless supplies of grace, treasuries of mercy untold. We are rich because God is (Eph. 2:4). Fathers, you are called to this in particular.
We want our homes to be rich with mercy and grace. This is not to downplay the need for discipline, it is to insist that it be surrounded with mercy and forgiveness. He who is forgiven much will love much, and we are required to believe this and live it even when it doesn’t look like it’s “working.” Grace works.
We are called to live as embodiments of Jubilee, and Jesus says that there are particular rewards for those who bestow mercy upon the youngest and most insignificant disciples (Mt. 10:42). This is wisdom.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!