Luke 19:41-44 – The Place of Tears

Man of Sorrows by James B. Janknegt, 1990

“As Jesus came to the city and observed it, he wept over it.  He said, ‘If only you knew on this of all days the things that lead to peace. But now they are hidden from your eyes.  The time will come when your enemies will build fortifications around you, encircle you, and attack you from all sides.  They will crush you completely, you and the people within you. They won’t leave one stone on top of another within you, because you didn’t recognize the time of your gracious visit from God.’” (CEB)

There are Christians who believe in as much withdrawal from the world – its earthly political and cultural realm – as is humanly possible this side of heaven. There are yet others who believe in as much accommodation as possible to the world, its structures and society. And there are others who believe that the world and the church are simply two distinct realms which Christians simply move back and forth within, like taking one hat off and doffing another.

Let us leave that all aside for a moment and just observe the pathos of Jesus. He came to the city of Jerusalem, a city which was both deeply religious and very worldly. Jesus stood and looked affectionately and longingly at the city… and he wept. This was not a quiet shedding of a tear. No, the word “wept” means that Jesus openly cried aloud over the city. Think of the kind of crying which takes place when a person is in the throes of grief.  These were great heaves of loud weeping.

The reason Jesus was lamenting with so much feeling was that the city did not recognize they had a gracious visit from God. The Lord looked at the city and saw all the future disaster which was coming. He knew it could be different, and he was emotionally undone by the city’s inability to see God, right in front of their own face.

Now let us return to our view of the world and our involvement in it. Taking some cues from our Lord Jesus, the first and foremost posture we are to take toward the worldly city is not separation, accommodation, or dual citizenship – it is, rather, to grieve and lament.

The longing Jesus had in his heart was to see the city of Jerusalem annexed and incorporated into the kingdom of God. The way of peace, of shalom on this earth, is to bring all things and all the world under the benevolent reign of God. It is as if there are Twin Cities, like Minneapolis and St. Paul, which exist side-by-side but have different municipal structures. 

The kingdom of this world and the kingdom of God exist next to each other. Jesus wanted to bring the earthly kingdom into the peaceful and gracious realm of God’s kingdom. But the people would have nothing to do with it. Both the religious establishment and the secular authorities of the city wanted their own municipal conceptions of how things should go – and they both rejected the Christ who could bring them all true harmony.

We are about to enter the season of Lent. It is a time set aside in the Christian Year for repentance and preparation to receive King Jesus as our rightful benevolent ruler. Let us lament the world full of both religious and secular people who do not recognize the time of God’s visitation. Let it be a time to journey with Jesus and follow him in his Passion for this world and all its inhabitants.

Blessed Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the holy Trinity whom I serve – the world and even sometimes the church is estranged from grace – they have not recognized your gracious coming and presence. I lament such a state of things, and ask you, blessed Spirit may draw all people to the Savior, Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray.  Amen.

Acts 15:36-41 – Imperfect Relations

Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit all the brothers and sisters in every city where we preached the Lord’s word. Let’s see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them. Paul insisted that they should not take him along, since he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. Their argument became so intense that they went their separate ways. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus. Paul chose Silas and left, entrusted by the brothers and sisters to the Lord’s grace. He traveled through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (CEB)

Perfect consensus, complete harmony, and perpetual peace are ideals, not reality, this side of heaven. Oh, it is not as though we ought to give up striving for such things – we just need to understand we will only experience them partially, and not fully, until Christ returns. 

Imagine if Paul and Barnabas, along with their entire coterie of people who traveled with them, decided that they would not go anywhere until there was 100% consensus on every decision to be made. It could be that they would never get anything done at all. It is sad when people cannot come together and be of one mind, but it happens, and will happen again. Sometimes we simply need to go and do what we think is best, whether others agree with us, or not.

“Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.”

Mahatma Gandhi

I am a bit adverse to taking sides on most things, but I admit to having a bent toward going with Barnabas. His name means “Son of Encouragement.” He understands taking someone under his wing and giving them a second chance when they screw up.  Barnabas had a soft spot for John Mark.  Barnabas seems like the kind of guy who knows about grace. This is a guy I could hang out with.

Paul, on the other hand, had much more of a Type A personality. I can just imagine Paul saying, “There are things to do, goals to reach, areas to conquer. I don’t have time for this whining and cry baby stuff.”  Paul did not want someone in the group slowing them down with fear or lack of courage. For all that I appreciate about the great Apostle Paul in the New Testament, sometimes he strikes me as being too driven and difficult to work with.

Yet, in the end, taking sides is not really the issue. It is about God working a divine, sovereign, and good will through stubborn and stupid people like me, and maybe like you, who sometimes get lost in winning an argument. 

When all is said and done, nothing is going to thwart God’s providential plans and purposes in this world.  So, rather than taking sides, I think I will rely solely on God’s grace and mercy in my life to work through me, despite my oft short-sightedness.

Holy God, you work your good purposes in and through your people, no matter what.  I want my life and work to be a joy to you and with others, and not a burden.  Create in me a clean heart.  See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting, through Jesus Christ, my Lord, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Psalm 147:1-11 – Awaiting Divine Love

Praise the Lord!
    Because it is good to sing praise to our God!
    Because it is a pleasure to make beautiful praise!

The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem, gathering up Israel’s exiles.
God heals the brokenhearted
    and bandages their wounds.
God counts the stars by number,
    giving each one a name.
Our Lord is great and so strong!
    God’s knowledge cannot be grasped!
The Lord helps the poor,
    but throws the wicked down on the dirt!

Sing to the Lord with thanks;
    sing praises to our God with a lyre!
God covers the skies with clouds;
    God makes rain for the earth;
God makes the mountains sprout green grass.
    God gives food to the animals—
    even to the baby ravens when they cry out.
God does not prize the strength of a horse;
    God does not treasure the legs of a runner.
No. The Lord treasures the people
who honor him,
    the people who wait for his faithful love. (CEB)

Early each morning I rise, take the dog for a short walk, make a cup of coffee, then open the life-giving message from the God of the Bible. I read out loud – slowly, mindfully, carefully – allowing the words to seep and make their way down into my soul. 

The Holy Spirit of God gently nudges, sometimes forcefully hurls, me toward a verse, phrase, or word from the text. Contemplating, ruminating, thinking about the Holy Scripture begins to set the trajectory of my day. God is throughout the hours, as I move from one to the next. Sometimes the Lord and Scripture are very much at the forefront of my thinking, other times in the background shaping how I speak and act, and always on my heart enlarging it and filling it with his grace.

Most of life is lived in the mundane. The banality of life is the norm, even in times of change. While others run from prayer to prayer looking for miracles and the next big spiritual high, the one who is patient… waits… and honors God… has a treasure within which transcends language or outward fanfare. The settled conviction of the person in continual communion with the God of the universe peacefully waits for faithful, steadfast, committed, divine love.

There is no description for such a divine/human spiritual relation which exists, giving patience to the penitent and joy to the heart of God.  Such love exists beyond the plane of daily news crises and the continual hum of the crowd. Indeed, the Lord God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, has stooped to cup his hands and treasure the creature formed in the divine image. 

“Prayer is an act of love; words are not needed. Even if sickness distracts from thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love.” 

Teresa of Ávila

Patience is not a bore. To wait is to be at peace. Because God is there. And it is good to be full of God.

O God of peace, you are the one who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: By the might of your gentle Spirit, lift us, we pray, to your loving presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Luke 1:68-79 – All I Want for Christmas Is Peace

Welcome, friends! In a move of incredible mercy, God leaped down and came to live with us, giving us the peace of divine presence. The Word is present and lives among us. Click the videos below and let us worship the Lord for the indescribable gift of peace…

Luke 1:68-79
Zechariah’s Song | Official Music Video (WCC Worship)
May the Peace of God – Kristyn Getty, Margaret Becker, Joanne Hogg

“I leave you peace. It is my own peace I give you. I give you peace in a different way than the world does. So don’t be troubled. Don’t be afraid.” -Jesus (John 14:27, ERV)