Thursday, March 3, 2016

Lament Jerusalem!

I am way behind with the blog and the sermons,but here is the text of the Lent 2 reflection as I tried to connect the gospel with the baptism.

Lent 2 2016

Readings: Luke 13: 31-35;

Our processional hymn this morning followed the baptism (of Oliver and Jaxon) with the simple words, ‘I want to walk as a child of the light, I want to follow Jesus’.  Those words are a statement of  intention; they are a statement of  where we have set our hearts, a statement about the sort of person we wish to be and how this is all going to happen – ‘I want to follow Jesus’.  The Christian life is ultimately very simple – it is to follow Jesus.  We spend our lives learning that and trying to live it.
Now please look at the refrain of the hymn – it uses the language of poetry – metaphor and symbol to talk about the Jesus we follow.
In him there is no darkness at all;
the night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light of the city of God;
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.

In our Lenten studies a week ago, we were directed to think of God in terms of light; the source of the light of creation; one who is light itself.  We catch echoes of that in this refrain. We also hear of Jesus as ‘the Lamb who is the light of the city of God’ – not meaning the earthly Jerusalem but something beyond the envelope of space and time as we know them – what the writer in the book of Revelation called the New Jerusalem.  Thinking of this great thought the refrain then ends with a prayer, bare and simple, “Shine in my heart Lord Jesus”.

That can be our prayer through this Lent, I can’t think of better: “Shine in my heart Lord Jesus.”

‘The city of God’, Jerusalem: just the name, the word, sets us off thinking, or at least reacting.  I can think of no other city in the world that has such a powerful hold on our imagination.  It has prompted the most unholy wars, feuds, divisions, Blake’s great poem of that name, and Parry’s hymn setting of the poem - sung by Women’s Institutes and at the Last night of the Proms – Jerusalem!

This is the second Sunday of Lent.  You of course know that is the season when we review how we follow Jesus.  In the gospel for today we see Jesus on his way to Jerusalem but notice how he talks about it: just the mention of the city provokes the deepest sadness and lament. This is the city that had such promise and hope; the place that was to be the city of God – but instead it has turned out to be the place “that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it.”  What should have been a place of light has become instead a place of darkness where the messengers of God are killed.

Mosaic, Dominus Flavet Church, Mount of Olives
In this gospel passage we see Jesus as light in the darkness – he exorcises demons, heals the sick.  He has aroused curiosity and stirred up the people about him. But note, his intention is to go to Jerusalem – and the political and religious powers in Jerusalem do not want him anywhere near the place.  Jerusalem is the spiritual centre for all the Jews, if Jesus comes, there will be trouble.

No wonder the Pharisees try to prevent him.  They pretend it is for his welfare (alleging Herod wanted to kill him) – but they are not looking out for Jesus; it makes better sense to read what they say as blatant hypocrisy; they are threatened by Jesus.  What follows when Jesus reaches Jerusalem is at one level a very human story of malice, envy, deceit and cruelty; and, at a far deeper level than we ever grasp, it is also the story of the love of God reaching into our finite time and space to draw us into union with him.

This is the story we follow through this Lent.  To follow this story is also to pray, “Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.”

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