The Lament over JerusalemLuke 13:31-35 (NRSVUE)
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 outside of 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.’ ”
Do you ever feel like you’re always busy? You’re always working hard? That people always need you for something, and all that everyone else does is complain and look for problems? Well, in today’s scripture reading, Jesus was working hard. He had been trying to get to Jerusalem because he knew that was the plan. But in every town he passed, he found people that needed him. Now being the loving and compassionate person he was, he was healing the sick and casting out demons on his way. But in the back of his mind, he knew that needed to get to Jerusalem.
It must have been frustrating, don’t you think? Giving all that you got, worrying that you’re not doing enough, and stressing over somewhere else you’re supposed to be, yet people only want more from you? Well then, to top it off, the Pharisees–the religious leaders who often challenged Jesus–actually said to him, “Get away from here because Herod wants to kill you.”
Now in the Pharisees’ defense, they were trying to be nice. They were trying to help Jesus. But Jesus was feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, and he replied, “Listen, I am casting out demons and healing people 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 outside of Jerusalem.’
You see, Jesus knew what was going to happen in Jerusalem, though no one else really did. He knew that he had a destiny to fulfill, and he was not trying to avoid it. Jesus was just trying to control the time he had. He was trying to fix and save everyone and everything, and he was trying to get to Jerusalem on time. But he couldn’t. Folks, Jesus was still human, and he couldn’t control everything. So he did what he could, and he moved on but it broke his heart.
Later we hear him lamenting, “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!” Now it may sound like Jesus was angry, but he was crying. All that Jesus wanted to do was to be like a mother hen caring for all of God’s children and keeping them safe. But there were foxes, like Herod and the Roman Empire, that wanted to do away with him. The good news is, like us, God had given Jesus the ability to be creative, to problem solve, and to be flexible, adapting to different situations and figuring out new ways to do what he needed to do. So, Jesus moved on and continued teaching and healing as he journeyed toward Jerusalem.
Folks, have you ever had a day that didn’t work out the way you wanted it to, a day that was filled with worry, stress, and anxiety? Of course, we all have. I remember the day my brother-in-law and sister-in-law were married. There had been months of preparations. As one of the bridesmaids, we all had our dresses and matching shoes, and my husband and his brothers had their tuxedos ordered.
Now the plan was that they would get married at the chapel on the Navy base in Newport. After the ceremony, we would be taking pictures by the water outside under the Newport Bridge, and then the reception would be at a restaurant in Jamestown, on the other side of the bridge. What an amazing day it would be!
Now there is always a little stress and worry when planning a wedding because you want everything to go well. But their stress and worry were pushed into overdrive when a week before their big day, the weatherman started talking about a possible hurricane. As the big day got closer, so did the hurricane. Stress and worry abound! My sister-in-law was in tears, not knowing what to do. Should they postpone the wedding? Would the hurricane hit, or would it veer off in a different direction? What should they do? Finally, the decision was made: we’re already in, let’s just make the best of it.
Well, the big day arrived, as did the hurricane! The rain was coming down sideways as we arrived at the chapel. Umbrellas blew inside out as people ran from their cars. Our fancy clothes were wet, and our shoes were soaked, but there was a smile on every person’s face. We were “all in” and making the best of it! We all agreed that if the couple could make it through this, they could make it through anything! The minister moved quickly but reverently through the service, telling the couple that, as every good sailor knows, the wetter the rope, the tighter the knot. So, they were going to be in good shape. The vows were shared, the “I dos” were said, and they were married! We obviously opted out of the pictures by the water and headed straight to the reception. Just as we arrived at the restaurant in Jamestown, the Newport Bridge was closed due to high winds. The restaurant had already boarded up its windows and tied down the outdoor furniture, but they agreed to allow the reception to continue. We had the time of our lives that afternoon because we were “all in.” We were making the best of it, and we were learning to dance with the unfolding of that which we could not control. That was twenty-six years ago, and yet it is a day that we still talk about often!
Looking back and remembering the comment “if the couple could make it through this, they could make it through anything,” I realize how true that really was. In the last twenty-six years, they have raised two beautiful sons, they have lost all four of their parents, and they’ve both had serious battles with cancer. But the lessons they learned on their wedding day have helped them to be flexible, to dance with the unfolding of that which they cannot control, and to face whatever the world brings with hope in their hearts and smiles on their faces, not because everything always goes their way, but because they know that are always held in the hands of God.
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, pay attention, and notice how many times you get frustrated because you can’t control other people or things. Remember, you can be compassionate and caring, but it is not your job to make things perfect or to fix or save anyone else. All you can do is take a deep breath and remember that God has given you the ability to be creative, to problem solve, and to be flexible, learning to dance with the unfolding of that which is not yours to control. And hey, maybe like my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, you’ll even learn to dance in the rain!
My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!