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Sunday message: Oh, Jerusalem

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Second Sunday of Lent – March 17, 2019

Scriptures:

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27 and Luke 13:31-35

When the whole world learned about the Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed six minutes after taking off, many airlines grounded their Boeing 737 Max airplanes. Travellers who learned that they were to board the exact same type of plane, had a lot of reason to feel hugely afraid. Danger could be looming.

Danger was looming for Jesus any moment you mention the name of the city Jerusalem. This is not because Jerusalem is Jesus’ enemy, but because of the way the prophets were treated there.

Today, on the second Sunday of Lent, we find Jesus on a hillside, filled with compassion for the problems of the big city of Jerusalem that has lost its way. Jerusalem has gone awry. Jerusalem represents the oppression of those that prophesy God’s message. He is lamenting the hillsides of crosses that will dot the Jerusalem landscape when the city finally falls to the Romans. He sees the destruction that awaits Jerusalem. He longs as a mother hen to draw in the people and protect them. The mother hen’s wings are extended protectively. Jesus admits that because of the free will granted to all of us by God, there may be some people He cannot help.

There are quite often those who are beyond helping. When people choose a toxic lifestyle, how can we help them redeem the cross they have chosen?

Jesus lamented how little difference He was making at the core problem of those who lived in Jerusalem. God, through Jesus, wants to help the world. We too, lament with Jesus over the problems of our own toxic society. There are so many ills in the life of our own city of Edmonton. Our endeavours are for peace. How is it possible for us to even try striving for the things that make for peace? We get close to giving up because the battle becomes overwhelming. It feels as if we’ll never get anywhere in our good intentions. It’s almost as if compassion fatigue starts setting in. We’ve cared so often and find it frustrating to see those whom we care for simply pushing our compassion aside. The compassion gets trod on. Still, Jesus remains tenderly compassionate about our troubles. There is no end to the softness that is part of God’s care for the world.

Do we want to give up on a society that has lost its rudder? We can, but it is important to look at Jesus’ care for Jerusalem. He never gave up on them. Likewise, we can never set ourselves apart.

It becomes clear for us to remain connected and stay faithful in our connectedness. This is not only with humanity. It surely also includes our relationship with nature. Looking at the parable of the mustard seed we find an image from nature. The tree in the ancient world repre­sented the interconnectedness of all things. The ecology of a tree included the birds, animals, and insects who made it their home, as well as the people who benefit from its fruit, its shade, its pres­ence. In a larger sense the tree stood for the kingdom, or even the king, in biblical imagery. Faith in God’s kingdom, faith in God’s creation, can bind all together in a rapidly growing, transforming and healing relationship.

Compassion fatigue for the whole of creation can dull our memory. It’s easy to forget. Oh, Jerusalem. That’s right. We do have a tendency to forget. It’s human. The plight of our inner-city may attract our attention for a day or a week, but sooner or later that becomes someone else’s problem as our minds are fo­cused on the glut of information that leads away our attention so that we choose to focus for example on celebrity scandals over the true ills that beset us.

This is not supposed to be a dog eat dog world, it’s a life feeding life world. God’s intention for this world is that there is love for our neighbour. Yes, even the neighbour who doesn’t look like you, think like you, speak like you, pray like you, vote like you. We may indeed love our neighbour unconditionally.

So much news travels unbelievably fast nowadays. Sunday we hear of Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max’s crash in Africa. That news hasn’t receded yet when news from Christchurch, New Zealand rocks the world, and in the meantime a boy gets abducted in Edmonton and an Amber alert is sent out. The times we live in are indeed becoming increasingly frightening. I’m not always sure this is a good thing to know everything that happens so quickly.

During Lent it could be helpful to know that Jesus came and stood right in the gap of our human predicament, caring and having compassion with us in the midst of all the tragedies that happen around us.

Oh, Jerusalem. That’s right. This cry from Jesus still goes out to a world full of pain and agony. And if Jesus is filled with compassion for them, we could wholeheartedly follow Jesus’ care and compassion by being concerned about a lost world. 1.)

Once a fierce fire raged through a farm. Scores of people tried to save the farm and the animals. Unfortunately, the fire was so fierce that all the animals perished. Horses, cows, sheep, and chickens all perished in the destructive blaze. The heat was so intense that it took several days before people could go through the farm to examine the destruction. There were burnt animals everywhere. It was a dreadful scene. But then one of the people heard a noise. And they heard it again. Following the sound of the faint noise they came to a hen. Her body was charred and her wings were spread out. She, of course, was dead — burned by the heat of the fire. However, when her feathers were lifted, the people were amazed to find a brood of live chicks under her wings! They were safe and secure. Their mother had given her life so that they might live. 2)   Amen.

1.) Much of of this message is gleaned from a sermon-series by Frank Ramirez, “You Are Here!” on sermons.com(subsription required)

2.) Found on sermoncentral.com, as an illustration to Freddie Fritz’s sermon “Lament over Jerusalem”

 

Copyright 2019 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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