Lent 2, 2016
Last week, we talked about the Devil’s temptations of Jesus—turn a stone into bread, worship me and I’ll give you authority over all the Kingdoms, jump off the pinnacle and the angels will save you. All of these temptations, metaphors for “substitute your will for mine.”
Jesus teaches us that God comes first, and this is the preparation we must do for the next phase of ministry.
Today’s Gospel follows a similar vein. But instead of instructing us on how to resist temptations and move forward with Christ, we hear the lament. Jesus weeps for us.
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.'"
I found this passage so human. For any of you who have children on grandchildren, maybe you can imagine this feeling. Jesus looks at God’s people, the people of the holiest city. And he wishes he could bring them close, protect them and comfort them. But they are not willing. And so he tells them that they won’t see him until they recognize him as the Messiah. I have these feelings about my teenagers. They are old enough now so that I can’t actually scoop them up and put them in my lap. I can’t make them do what I want them to do. I can’t protect them from hurts, I can’t stop them from making bad choices. I can only hope that they will do the right things.
Jesus speaks to us like teenagers. I hear Jesus saying, “My darlings, I love you so so much. I wish I could cuddle you in my arms like I used to when you were babies. I wish I could protect you, and help you to have everything you need and want. But I can’t put you in my lap anymore. You are too big now. There will come a day when you know what I know, but for now, I am just wishing that I could help you and I can’t. “ “There will come a day, when you know the truth, but for now, I lament for you.”
This passage is so rich because it points us to God’s feelings for us. Jesus Christ, hoping that we will turn towards him. And this lament is juxtaposed with Psalm 27. In the psalm, we have the psalmist, David longing for God’s presence with him. He talks about being with God in God’s dwelling place.
“One thing have I asked of the Lord; one thing I seek; *that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; . . . keep me safe in his shelter; * . . . hide me in the secrecy of his dwelling”
David talks about seeking the face of God, he hears God begging him to look for God’s face, and he promises to see God.
And this also speaks to the role of teens—they have moments when they want to be protected. They need their parents, they want to be comforted and held, guided and shielded. But they are becoming adults, and they cannot come into that embrace without giving up some autonomy.
May you remember that phase for yourself—that time when you were separating from your family—becoming autonomous and responsible and yet still sometimes wishing you could be a child, taken care of.
This is a painful time, this time of growing up and making our own choices in the world, separating from who our parents are. And we hope that there might be some mutual respect, some new way of seeing one another as adults, recognizing in each other what is good and admirable, while we accept the failings, frailties of the other person.
I know that I have had some insights in recent years—looking back and acknowledging that my parents were right about some things that I fought with them about. I know now that their hopes for me came from a place of loving me. Even when it felt like I was being judged harshly, they really wanted what is best for me. For me, there is still time—my parents are alive and I can say to them, “I appreciate what you tried to tell me. I am sorry for the ways that I have disappointed you.” “I can see now that you wanted what is best for me, and I can try to do better.” And in this admission, this apology, there is an opportunity for a deeper relationship with them.
I give us these family recollections today, thinking about being a teenager with my parents, about being a parent of teenagers—these images are perhaps a window through our Scripture today towards a Lenten relationship with God.
We are separate, disobedient, willful. We don’t do what we should, we act rashly, wrongly, unthinkingly. And God, like our parent, remains faithful, hoping that we will come to Jesus, know him for who he really is. God continues to hope that we will accept his protection and care—Christ continue to promise that we will be reconciled to him when we know him as the Messiah. Paul in the letter to the Philippians articulates this hope and promise: “He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory.”
And this is the offer of repentence that we celebrate during Lent. We can hear God’s hopes for us, we can see God’s promise. We can have our humiliation turned into glory if we acknowledge our mistakes, and see God’s desire for us and God’s forgiveness of us.
Today, we are given the opportunity to confront our sin. We can look at all the ways that we have separated ourselves from God. We can name them, confess them. We know that God is not punishing, judging, criticizing. God is hoping that we’ll come close. God wants to gather us up and collect us under God’s wings. God is offering us guidance and comfort.
Our passages today give us this very intimate exchange between God and God’s people. We long to see God’s face, Christ longs to gather us under his wings. But we know that this desire is not only the personal relationship, but also the collective relationship. God’s desire is not just for us in family relations. God’s desire is for us in social, societal relations as well. We have the image of Jerusalem, the holy city. The place that persecutes and kills the prophets. Jesus speaks to the human Kingdom that has failed. Jesus is lamenting for us as a City, us as a collective--creating failed governments that do the wrong things.
Our passage from Genesis speaks to God’s promise to Abram. “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates." Not only is God forgiving and welcoming back God’s child as a hen gathers up the chicks. God is also promising land and rivers. There is a Kingdom that God promises, even though we have not seen that Kingdom, even though we cannot count the stars.
So our prayer today is that we might hear Jesus' lament for us. We pray that Jesus' call, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem" might beckon us to turn towards God, repenting our willful ways, recognizing God's desire, God's hope that we would do God's will. As we hear God's call we might recognize that awesome grace, the love that God offers us. When we repent, we must repent our individual failings and the collective failures that have created power structures that oppress God's people and creation. And as we confront our individual and collective sin, let us hear God's promises--we will be given the Kingdom, we will be gathered up and comforted. What more could we ask for?