Thursday, February 18, 2016

For the Second Sunday in Lent, Year C: A Lament for Jerusalem

Jesus laments for Jerusalem

Some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." He said to them, "Go and tell that fox for me, 'Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.' Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'" -Luke 13:31-35

The first time I heard any music by the blues great, Robert Johnson, was in a record store in my hometown when I was just 17. I had been a fan of Eric Clapton and the genres of hard rock from the sixties and seventies for a while. Hearing that Clapton looked to these "blues greats" for inspiration sent me on a quest to hear their music. 

It blew me away. What little I knew of suffering and hard times (and believe me, I knew little of those at that time), was being sung to me by a man using a second-hand guitar who was recorded with primitive equipment. He was a phantom echoing out of the speakers, and his message was limited to a small corpus of recordings made in a few sessions. He didn't live long enough to see much material success, and his legacy of music and the influence he has had on others down through the years is something I don't think he could have conceived of in his age. 

Yet, there it was...a man singing laments to the human condition. Feelings that we all share, and yet require someone-a poet or a prophet-to make explicit. Pain set to words, and grief to music makes us all able to share in both the sense of loss and the seizing of hope.

Jesus laments Jerusalem when the Pharisees warn him that Herod wants to kill him. Instead of running scared from this terrifying despot's will to harm, he instead turns his face toward the holy city of peace and cries out to the grief in his heart that is his to bear, even as it is God-borne. 

The people of the land just don't get it. In not getting it lies the seed of sorrow for Jesus as he articulates God's longing for the people to rise above the pettiness and violence of the every-day. Killing prophets, abandoning those in need, forgetting to whom belongs glory and honor....all cause for lament because what grows from those seeds is despair, loss....and the blues.

Jesus is so very human in this moment. His unfiltered sorrow is apparent. It is also testament to his being bound up in God's whole divine awareness of this city's sad journey through time and the ages. The mess, the blues, are not bound to one person, one act, one age. Sadly, we struggle on today much as the ancients did in theirs. 

What matters today is that we open ourselves to the lament, and to the fruits of that sad song: a resolve that we will do what we can, when we can, to enact mercy, grace, peace and mutual care when poverty, famine, injustice, oppression and ignorance bear down on us all once again.

Like a hen gathering her chicks....that is how Jesus yearns for the consolation of the city. That is the chorus we are called to join in singing...

May we, when the blues are sung, be open to feeling the despair, even as we resolve to proffer comfort and relief to those in the throes of loss and pain.

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