Station VIII: Lament

"The Women:  Veronical Wipes Jesus' Face and Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem, St. Mary's Church, Barton-on-Humber, April 4, 2007
“The Women: Veronical Wipes Jesus’ Face and Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem, St. Mary’s Church, Barton-on-Humber, April 4, 2007

Scripture Passage: Luke 23: 27-31

27A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him.28But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.29For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’30Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’31For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

The eighth station on this holy walk is marked by a stone with a Latin cross on the wall of a Greek Orthodox church.  Near the cross, an inscription reads, “Christ the Victor.”  Tradition has designated this as the place where Jesus encounters the women of Jerusalem.  The women were convinced of his holiness.  I don’t think they understood it completely.  After all, who did?  (After all, who does?)  But they knew that he was something special.  After all, he had paid attention to them, these women, these ones who were given no place in society other than to birth babies.  He saw them as something more.  And they were grateful.  And today they grieved.

As Jesus and the crowd moved closer to the end, the wailing got louder and louder.  Jesus, covered in dirt and sweat and near death, lifted his head and looked into their eyes.  “Do not weep for me,” he said, “but weep for the world.”  Weep for the world; cry for the world; grieve for the world. In other words, those that suffer in the world, those parts of the world that are not life-giving, those part of people’s lives that are not the vision that God holds–those things should bother you.  Those are the things for which you should weep.

Weeping is hard for us.  Our culture is pretty well emotionally controlled, for the most part.  In fact, there are those that grow up thinking that tears and grief and crying are a sign of weakness.  We do not know how to lament.  And, yet, think of all those psalms of lament.  They are prayers.  Laments are prayers.  Weeping is prayer.  These are prayers for what could be and is not, prayers for what should have been that fell short, and prayers for the hurting in our world.  Jesus is telling these women to pray, to wake up, and to work to change the world.  He is acknowledging that they understand this vision and that, now, they have work to do.  It is a way of putting others before self.  It is a way of engaging yourself and your faith in bringing the Kingdom of God in its fullest into being.  It is a way of continuing the life of Jesus Christ.

I saw a feature news story by NBC’s Brian Williams last night on Camden, New Jersey.  A bustling boomtown in the first half of the 20th century, Camden is now America’s poorest city and the one with the highest crime rate.  Surrounded by relatively affluent suburbs, it is the place that we drive by, wondering why no one does anything.  Its residents that fill the inner city row houses seldom venture outside for fear of the safety of themselves and their children.  It is the way we hide poverty and despair in plain sight.

So on this Lenten journey, learn what it means to weep for the world.  Pray for the world and for others who hurt and grieve and bleed, those who fear and cry and need.  Learn to lament, an active lament that will make you part of bringing the world into that vision that God holds.  Open your eyes to see the pain that exists in plain sight.  Our Lenten journey calls us to do something to change the world.

Grace and Peace,


Jerusalem, Jerusalem…

This Week’s Lectionary Passage:  Luke 13: 31-35
31At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”32He 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.33Yet 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.’34Jerusalem, 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!35See, 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.’”

Jesus is in Jerusalem.  It is the holy city, the city of dreams of what God holds for all of the earth, the city of holiness and Presence, the City of God.  This city is supposed to be, for all practical purposes, Ground Zero for the coming of the Kingdom of God into this world.  But Jesus stands and looks out over the crying stones and the suffocating walls.  The life that could have been is being snuffed out as we speak and replaced with the fear of something different, the fear that they might lose what they have gathered and attained, the fear of not being in control.  And so the stones cry out and Jesus laments.  “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, for you knew the plan that I had for you…”  And the clouds gather and the city darkens just a bit.  No one really notices it at that point.  No one sees what is coming.  Jesus laments alone–on his knees, before the city that he loves, lamenting for what could have been, what should have been, what will never be again.

We all know how it ended.  This was only the beginning.  The storm clouds would continue to gather until they hovered over the death of the world and then in that fateful moment, they clashed and broke apart, shaking the earth with rage and despair and plunging it into darkness.  Jerusalem, Jerusalem.  What happened?  Just a short time ago, we had such vision, such hope.  We dared to dream dreams.  There was a star that hovered above us lighting our way.  But now…what happened?

And so we sit here 2,000 years later–21 centuries of dreaming dreams and hoping hopes and imagining that we could make the world different.  Oh, it’s not that bad.  Some things have changed.  Little by little we dare to let go just a bit and give God room to spin the world into something that we can’t even imagine.  Did you see that Mississippi ratified the 13th amendment?  I think things are looking up.  Supposedly inspired by the movie “Lincoln”, Mississippi finally filed the final ratification of the 13th amendment banning slavery that was originally approved 148 years ago.  OK, so it takes time…Jerusalem, Jerusalem….Jesus looks out over the Kidron Valley toward Jerusalem and at the same time looks out over the oceans of the world at our cities, looks out at a world that drags its feet to welcome the stranger and washes its hands of justice and mercy…Jerusalem, Jerusalem…

But Jesus’ lament is not a regret.  It is a challenge.  This lament is a reminder to get our house in order.  That’s all Jesus really wanted.  I don’t think he was under any sort of misconception that this was going to happen overnight or even in a little over 30 years.  The truth is, God calls us and when we do not respond, God does not reject us; instead, God surely laments.  And even through the Sacred Eyes now blurred by Divine Tears, God, with open arms, once again invites us home.  Lent calls us to remember that, to remember that even when we make other plans, even when we lose our focus, and even when we completely reject what God is doing, God is always there, always calling us to return.  But until we realize that, we’ll never find our way. 

Grace and Peace,