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Lent 2C Sermon
Luke 13: 31-35
March
17, 2019

 

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Luke 13:31-35

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, ‘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 away from 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.” ’

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; Amen.

Sometimes people think that it is not proper to complain to God in prayer. Some even think it is a sign of a lack of faith. But if you look at some passages of scripture, it is evident that God not only puts up with people bringing complaints in prayer, God welcomes it – even encourages it. A prime example is the passage from Genesis 15 that was our first reading this morning. God has called Abram and his wife, Sarai, to leave their homeland of Ur, to travel many miles, and to settle in a new place. They have done all of these things, and God has blessed them in many ways – plenty of flocks, riches, and protection from harm. But there was one promise that God made to them … that they would be the parents of a great nation - and that is a promise that has not been fulfilled. As a matter of fact, in this early age of human life with God’s command to be fruitful and multiply fresh in their ears, Abram and Sarai are the first people recorded in the Bible who are childless … barren. They may not have been the first people in human history to be infertile, but they are the first whose struggles with this issue are openly recorded in the Bible.

So when God comes to Abram in a vision to renew a promise to him with the words, “Don’t be afraid,” they are not only intended to calm fears but to prepare him to receive good news from God – Abram does not waste any time. He raises his complaint – his lament – to God about their lack of children. God’s promise of parenthood has not been fulfilled, so Abram reminds God of that fact. Lament is a powerful tool for God’s people in many ways. When we lament to God, we make our problems God’s problems. Sharing our deepest hurts and unmet hopes implicate God in those hurts and hopes in such a way to align God’s desires with ours, just as we make our problems God’s problems. You may have heard the phrase, “Not my circus … not my monkeys…” spoken by people who don’t want to hear the complaints of others. God never cops that attitude because all of our monkeys are God’s monkeys … and ultimately the entire circus is God’s too!

Making a lament to God also displays a faith that God can and will respond to our cries, our wants, our needs and our desires. Lament is grounded in the belief that God is faithful, and has the power to respond in ways that, while we may not have the vision or ability, will eventually lead to reconciliation, peace and salvation. Not only that, but when we lament to God, we remind God of those yet unmet promises that we expect will be fulfilled through God’s faithfulness. No, lament is not evidence of a lack of faith; lament is evidence of a close, personal relationship with a loving, faithful God even and especially when expectations of blessings in life are unmet.

God’s response to Abram’s lament is not to get defensive or to blame him for not being perfectly faithful in everything. God’s response is to double down on the original promise – to take Abram outside, show him the stars and to repeat the promise that his descendants will out-number them – NOT his descendants through Eliezer of Damascus, but his descendants through his own wife, Sarai. As a matter of fact, God is so committed to Abram that he cuts a covenant with him. Cutting a covenant was a phrase that describes a process whereby one party would cut animals in half and pass through the parts of it, promising that if he didn’t fulfill his promises, the same was to be done to him. God was promising that if he was not to keep his word, he would surrender himself to the knife to be sacrificed. God is serious about this promise!
And so we should be serious about the use of lament in our prayers to God. In our Gospel reading this morning we heard Jesus himself raise a lament to God – Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones whose 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!” In Luke’s Gospel, the city of Jerusalem is almost like a character in the story. Jerusalem is that place which has been established where God and humanity meet together. When David moved the ark to Jerusalem and his son, Solomon built the Temple, the significance of Jerusalem in our relationship with God was set in stone. So, Jesus laments the fact that this place so important to humanity’s connection with God should be a place where so much strife and bloodshed should happen. It is still good for us to pray for Jerusalem for this very reason! We still lament the conflict that happens there today in the name of religion and fear.

If Jesus himself can raise these laments in life then so can we! What would you personally lament? Unmet expectations for family life or employment? The sinfulness and division of political leaders? Innocent suffering that is rampant because of the sinfulness of others when Mosques or schools are attacked? The growing lack of love between people? Your own physical or mental health concerns? As a faithful disciple of God, do not be afraid to raise those things up to God, to make your problems God’s problems with expectation of God’s intervention into the sinfulness of the world in order that our expectations might be realized for peace and joy in our lives and in our world.

On Thursday I attended a public lament at my daughter’s high school. They didn’t call it a public lament … they called it the Poetry Slam. One by one, teenagers who have these concerns went up on stage and shared their laments – about their own suicidal thoughts, drug usage, relationships with boyfriends, girlfriends or parents, loved ones dying of cancer, their sexual orientation, and the challenges of being black in our society. I cannot help but think that as each read or recited the words that they themselves read, they firmly believed in the power of that lament to heal them. I admired each and every one of those young people for baring their souls and sharing those feelings in such a public venue.

If you were to stand up right now and tell God your disappointments in life – to bravely and openly lament the concerns you have – what would you say? What weighs on your mind? Could you take a minute silently to lament those things today? Let’s do it now – tell God your disappointments and pains, unmet expectations and the brokenness of life you see around you that God certainly does not condone – make your concerns God’s concerns and fully expect God to intervene with healing power. (wait one minute). Amen.