Lord Have Mercy On Us
It was all so long ago, and far away —
And the cumulative devotion of the remembering church
Each Lent reminds us in word, and hymn, and sermon
By imagining forth each bitter detail, among them
This: “And they that passed by reviled him . . .
others mocked him . . . and he bowed his head.”

And we are reminded, too, that the point of the remembering
Is not simply in pity to remember.
The point in remembering and prayer and work is
To bring together the past and the present,—
Our predicament and an everlasting Passion;
To bring together the passion of our God
And the torments of our fellows:
To bring together the Eternal bowing of one Holy head
And all the little bowings of hurt heads from that time until now.

It was neither long ago nor far away
But in a place as specific as my town,
And on a campus as here and actual as
The one I look out upon from the window of my room,
That a reviling face, and another face that approved of the reviling
Tore a heart, and bowed a head
And weighted with rejection a hurt and haunting face.

On Good Friday at the time of communion
In hundreds of churches, dim in vesper light,
Our people gathered, thinking holy thoughts,
Had guilty remembrances. And looked
Upon the white-gleaming altar where
The Presence was ensconced with God’s
Understanding, and adequate with absolving Love.

But His blessing to our screeching world
Waits upon something more than piety,
And duty done, and devotions ticked off from Septuagesima to Easter.
The connection must be made between
The Big Cross and all the little crosses:
Between this girl, in her pretty go-away-to-college coat
Clutching the promise-papers of her blasted dreams,—
And the solemn words, “heartily sorry for these my offenses . . .”

The connection must be made because
He made it by revilings accepted, and his own head
Bowed with the weight of all bowed heads
And thus became God for us and God with us,
Grace for life — but also Judgment to death.

Joseph Sittler

From The Lutheran, April 5, 1961. Used by permission.