Toorak Uniting Church

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Jerusalem, Jerusalem

Psalm 27     Luke 13: 31 – 35
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
7 March 2004, 8.00am

Let us, for a moment, reflect on the world we live in......
Did you watch the news this week? Read the papers?
Were there moments where you felt you could cry for people or situations that were presented to you through the media? Or were there perhaps things, in the life of your friends or family, in the life of neighbours, or people at work, things that happened that filled you with sadness or dismay?

Perhaps it was sadness at the hopeless situation in the Middle East where violence breeds violence and a whole region seems to be moving away from a peaceful solution rather than to be growing towards it. Or reports on situations of injustice and oppression perhaps that made you feel helpless, hopeless and frustrated? Were you or somebody you know treated unfairly perhaps, or were there people you know or maybe you yourself struggling with difficulty?

Let us take some time to contemplate on these, the things in our world and our lives that make us sad, hopeless and helpless. On the things that stand in sharp contrast with what we know God would want the world and the life of people to be like.

And let us take some time also to reflect on those things that make life good, those moments and situations where our lives fill with wholeness and joy and we feel that all is well with the world and with ourselves......

We find Jesus this morning somewhere between these two I think. Sadness about the state the world is in and the vision of well-being and joy standing in sharp contrast with that.

He is facing rejection from the place and the people he loves: Jerusalem, capital city of his homeland, centre of the world, a city that played a major part in his and his people’s spirituality and faith.
He is not wanted. And what is worse, for centuries now they have not wanted the message he is bringing.
A message calling for the practice of justice, peace and love, a message about a different order, a new heaven and a new earth God is seeking to establish in the world.
When we listen to Jesus’ words we can hear the frustration, the heart break, the sadness and we can imagine only too well how he must have felt.

Because it is not only Jerusalem where God’s prophets and God’s message is silenced, where justice and peace is often not at the top of the agenda, where there is but little space for Jesus and the good news of the gospel because there are other things taking over.

The fox Herod (it is quite an abusive term Jesus uses here) built a beautiful temple for the Lord, and he built a couple of beautiful palaces for himself as well. He brought wealth and prosperity and relative safety for at least a group of his people and he was well educated and cultivated in the eyes of people of his time. He didn’t get on with Pilate very well, and he did kill people that seemed to get in his way or tended to disagree with him on some issues, like John the Baptist. He even killed his sons for fear of them overthrowing them, but in the end he wasn’t such a bad King. He did a lot for the development and culture of his people!
And the pharisees, well they just tried to keep the peace, and their common sense told them that if Jesus were to go back to where he came from and shut up there would be less trouble than when he continued on his way to Jerusalem!

Jesus is overcome by a deep sadness and frustration thinking about the city. He weeps, tears the only way to express the deep sorrow and care he feels towards this place.
Could I only gather you in as a hen her chicks he sighs, I’ve tried so many times. Why don’t you just come and listen to the Words God has given to take you in the direction of his Kingdom. Why?

Why don’t we? Why doesn’t our world let itself be gathered under God’s wings and follow the direction he is pointing us towards? Why don’t we move more in the direction of the wholeness, healing and joy God offers us if we but follow his ways? Why is it so difficult to listen to the words of his messengers, follow the example of his Son and journey through the world, build communities ruled by love, running over with justice and peace? Why is it so difficult to hold on to each other and make life good?

Jesus sees the hopelessness of the situation and weeps.

But he doesn’t leave it at that. God does not leave it at that. Although he is with us when we look at the world and feel we could weep for all the brokenness and despair that is crying out to us from it, God in Jesus does not stop at that. He moves on and into the city. He travels into the middle of it, the place where the prophets are killed and the message gets silenced and gives his life to save the people that are in it. He stretches his arms out on the cross and welcomes all who want to follow him, taking them through hopeless helplessness to the other side of despair, to new life.
Life doesn’t stop where Herod gets his way, where the fox kills the hen and devours her chicks. Life doesn’t run itself into the ground where war and pain reign. God calls from the other side and brings life, righteousness, love and peace into even the most desperate of situations.
Suicide bombers in Israel, civil war in Iraq, hunger and Aids in Africa, it’s not the last word, it’s not where life finds its destiny. It is in love and people practising justice and peace, in people giving themselves to each other and sharing of what they’ve received, in people walking in the footsteps of Jesus with their eyes firmly on the light that life finds it’s purpose and God sows the seeds of the new heaven and the new earth. Where it starts to happen, on the cross and in the grave, new life, new possibilities, horizons opening up. The foxes will not win, nor will common sense be able to extinguish this hope: That God is stronger than death, stronger than any of this, calling us to life, and joy and community.

Amen.

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2004


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