Luke 13:31-35 or
by Rev. Ken Gray, Kamloops British Columbia, Canada
SUMMARY OF PREACHING THEME
The Voice of Ecological Complaint – A Characteristic pose for today’s Christian communities
- Creation is a gift of God, from God to God’s people, not just to the people who wandered with Abraham, who received the promise of a blessing, not only of future generations, but of land
- Indigenous wisdom and experience continue to revitalize and deepen our own understanding of the human/land connection
- We not only stand upon the land, but depend upon it, though is so many ways we spoil what we have been given
- Local and global Christians communities are increasingly finding our voice of complaint, though such advocacy is costly. We are assaulted by those who seek to gain wealth from improper stewardship of what we have been given. Both Ps 27 and Paul to the Philippians encourage us to cast aside fear and stand firm.
- There is a place for lament, as Jesus looks across Jerusalem and grieves–for what has been, for what unfolds in his own (and our) time, and we likewise grieve not for the Holy city alone, but for all creation
- The Voice of Ecological Complaint – A Characteristic pose for today’s Christian communities
Old Testament reading / Psalm
“As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.” We can but guess at Abraham’s terror and obliquely compare it with our own. Where I live, uncertainty about forests, rivers, employment and community survival distress many. Some deny and ignore the present challenge; others try to mitigate the effects of climate change and adapt to fast-changing realities. God speaks wonderfully and beautifully to Abraham’s uncertainly. More so God reminds the patriarch of the presence, value and reality of the land beneath his feet. He assures him that his future, though uncertain in detail is secure, not through circumstance but through grace. “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates . . . “
The psalmist (27) understands the challenge of remaining faithful amidst insecurity especially evident through inter-personal conflict. He is however optimistic, defiant, certain of divine blessing and community, despite all threats
When evildoers assail me
to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes
they shall stumble and fall.
And best of all, he is patient:
I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
For myself, patience and resilience are in short supply some days. I turn often to this Psalm for re-assurance, and a way forward. I turn especially to the wonderful setting of this text from the Iona Community (cited below).
New Testament reading
Paul writes beautifully to what must have been a favourite church of his planting the young church at Philippi. He leads not with stick but with carrot; he is the encourager, the motivator. He asks his readers and hearers to make a concrete decision–seek those things which are of God and not of human creation. It is easy to insert ecological concerns and realities into his formula. WE have a choice as Christians: Invest in things here and now, and gain pleasure and wealth, and prestige and security from them now. Or invest (literally) in God and in those things, ideas, and relationships which take us beyond the ordinary:
For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things.
Knowing this is difficult to do, day after day, Paul reminds us also to do as he has done, to remain both faithful and firm in our resolve. With the Psalmist he exhorts us to “stand firm in the Lord.” Such standing may involve standing with indigenous peoples, in protesting the wanton extraction of fossil fuels, of investing our wealth in helpful and impactful ways, of flying less. The list grows daily. The opportunity for our witness is everywhere. And we are not alone; we have each other, and God is with us.
If the other lections assigned for today are feisty in spirit, this Gospel, where Jesus looks painfully across the Jerusalem landscape, is doleful and sad. He laments the history, the current situation, the lost and frustrated potential of Jerusalem of its peoples, of its temple, rituals and religious practices. Possibly he begins to sense the danger which awaits him there. The mood is foreboding, disheartening, and most of all, sad.
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.”’
He longs for a brighter day, as do so many both in church and in global society, who sense how our economies, our industry, our consumer engagement, our relationships, how all of these could function better and could embody, represent and enact true justice, a justice where all are heard and respected, human, non-human, all living beings, earth and all stars (see hymn suggestion below), all hopes and dreams, all in all.
To lament is to stop everything, and simply be sad, to cast aside for a moment all activism, and simply be reminded why we do what we do, sometimes against all odds, not because we see a clear end in sight, but because we can do no other, by virtue of our baptism, or a particular vision of the future, because we have received inspiration, because God has spoken to us (as with my own “second conversion”). Because God is, and God speak, in Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, who takes us to places and persons and situation we cannot predict. As with the seventh day of creation, where God rested, in lament we likewise rest, and recover energy and resilience for that time when we take up the struggle again. Breathe in – breathe out – breathe until breath leaves us and another generation takes up the cause.
Resources / Links:
These are crazy times in 2022, for people, for the church everywhere and for creation. As Jesus looks out over Jerusalem he recognizes a history, a tradition, a proactive of systemic evil amidst sacred shrines and prophetic traditions. He names violence. In our own day we increasingly discover systemic injustice; we name it and resist it, alone and together. To this end I recommend:
Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological-Economic Vocation, by Cynthia Moe-Lobeda https://resistingstructuralevil.com/
I also commend her listing of resources for both community and engagement. There is how, and so much work to be done for the faithful.
WORSHIP / LITURGICAL RESOURCES
Carrie Newcomer – Help in Hard Times – A song of hope and resilience (lyrics in video) https://youtu.be/BFebLK0T7w4
And an old favourite, from our friends at the Iona Community The Lord is my light
Response to the Word: Intercessions
Confession and Lament for Creation, Rev. Allyson Sawtell, Denver, Colorado; in the public domain
Hymns & Songs
Earth and all stars
The Lord is my light, Iona Community
Stand Firm Iona Community
by Rev. Ken Gray, Kamloops, British Columbia