With my voice I cry to the Lord; I tell my trouble before [the Lord]. - Psalm 142:1-2 (NRSV, excerpted)
The New Revised Standard Version titles Psalm 142 “A Maskil of David. When he was in the Cave.”
The cave is where David hid when he was on the run after King Saul’s gratitude turned to murderous rage (1 Samuel 22-24). Exhausted and terrified, David poured out his trouble to God. “They’ve hidden a trap for me,” he cried. “No refuge remains for me.” David trusted God to be with him, but he felt abandoned by others. “No one takes notice of me … no one cares for me.”
His psalm echoes the human need to be remembered, especially in times of great suffering.
At the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February (also the start of Lent), the congregation I serve—like many congregations—raised funds and assembled Church World Service kits for the refugees pouring into neighboring countries. We also sang a Kyrie Eleison as our musical benediction each Sunday, #751 from The New Century Hymnal. Like David’s song, it’s a cry for God’s help: Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.
The text is ancient Greek; the music is attributed to the Russian Orthodox tradition. However, the melody actually originated in Kiev in the 900s, before the Ukrainian Orthodox Church moved its center from Kiev to Moscow. The Kyrie helped us remember the Ukrainians and other refugees. We never thought we’d still be singing it eight months later.
Kyrie eleison. Christe Eleison. Kyrie eleison. For all God’s people.