"Cry of Lament"

Luke 13:31-35

17 March 2019, Lent II

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches

(YouTube Sermon Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0KDC6EMlBY&t=2s)

Luke 13:31-35

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.’”

Prayer.

 

Lent is a time of prayer;

A continuous conversation directly with God.

Throughout salvation history,

The narrative of God’s creation and intervention in the lives of his people,

God expresses a consistent desire to be open and responsive to prayers.

 

Communication goes both ways.

When God does the talking, it is important for us to do the listening.

God speaks through our thoughts, dreams, visions, intuition, imagination, and creative arts.

God speaks through the words of others,

Through the presence of others,

Through the support of others.

God speaks in the movement of worship;

Scripture proclaimed,

Music and silence,

Sacraments tasted and celebrated.

Listen.

Listen carefully.

Listen actively.

Listen attentively to God.

 

Pro tip: Write it down, less we forget.

 

There are times when we are directly connected to God in prayer

That we are the ones called upon to do the talking.

Our Biblical history is full of experiences where God longs to hear from us.

Like a loving parent with an adult child far from home,

God wants us to pick up the phone and hear our voice.

God wants us to take the time to put pen to paper and fill him in on our latest activities.

God wants to remain intimately engaged in every aspect of our lives.

It isn’t that we’re informing God of something he doesn’t already know.

The engagement, communication, and relationship is what God seeks.

 

There are many ways that we can do the talking.

Like a good pitcher,

It’s an advantage to be able to throw a variety of pitches.

Mix it up.

Keep it diverse.

Make it fresh.

First, we can bless and praise the Lord.

Praise and adoration is all about putting into words

Our experience of a powerful, eternal, loving, gracious, forgiving, saving God.

Words come easier for some than for others;

Praise and adoration may be expressed with dance, instrument, ritual, color, or parament.

For others,

It may come simply from awareness

Of being in the presence of the Holy Spirit.   

 

Secondly, we can use prayer to ask God for what we need.

The fancy word for this is a “Prayer of Petition”.

Jesus tells us to ask, seek, knock.

So we should do it.

In need of forgiveness? Ask for it.

In need of help or support to get through a rough time? Ask for it.

In need of strength to ward off temptation. Ask.

God wants to be asked.

Just do it.

 

Thirdly, we can use prayer to ask God to assist others.

This is called a “Prayer of Intercession”.

Our prayers are not so much as an expectation that God

Doesn’t know what’s going on, or,

Isn’t concerned with what’s going on, or,

That God will make our intercessions his top priority

And answer every one of them just as we ask.

 

Intercessions create the greatest change

In the heart of the one doing the praying.

Intercessions soften us up;

Creating a determination to partner with God

To address the needs of the world.

When the entire Body of Christ are praying to God our intercessions,

The heart of every disciple is softened, and

Everyone has the opportunity to become God’s blessing

To someone else,

For someone else.

 

Fourthly, prayer can be used simply to say “thank you” to God

For what God has given and for what God has done.

Attribute the goodness of the world to our God who wants the best for us.

Attribute the victories in life to our God who loves us and works on our behalf.

God’s miraculous work is sometimes obvious, often times not.

Leave nothing up to coincidence or luck.

Give thanks always.

 

Lastly, often overlooked, but highlighted by Genesis 15 and Luke 13

Is recognizing that cries of lament are also an essential means of prayer.

What is a lament?

Simply stated, a lament is making a complaint.

Don’t bother complaining to one another.

Take your every complaint to the Lord in prayer.

Take them straight to the top.

 

When making your lament,

There is no need to ask for anything.

Simply name your pain.

Spell it out in every detail.

Make your pain God’s pain.

Make your problems God’s problems.

Make God complicit in your suffering.

 

Make your lament to God,

Leave it at God’s altar,

And walk away.

Leave the rest up to God.

 

This is exactly what Abram does with God.

God had made covenant with Abram way back in Genesis 12;

He would be given the land,

God would make him great,

Abram would become the progeny of generations of people,

Blessed by God,

Who would populate the earth.

 

Problem was, Sarai, Abram’s wife, was barren;

… and she was 90 years old. (Genesis 17: 17)

 

“Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield;

Your reward shall be very great.” (Genesis 15:1)

Reward? Payment?

Abram didn’t want material things;

He was already wealthy.

What Abram wanted was a son, an heir that God had promised.

 

Abram doesn’t come right out and ask for children;

He just lays it out there.

Abram named his pain,

And made his pain

God’s pain.

 

That’s a lamentation.

The Lord brought Abram outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them … So shall your descendants be.” (Genesis 15:5)

You’ll have so many offspring, you won’t be able to count them all.

God reaffirms the promise,

And takes his promise to the next level.

God expands the promise with unlimited abundance. 

 

God is open to our suffering.

God invites us to share our pain.

This is God’s promise when we cry with lament.

Jesus overlooks the city of Jerusalem

And he cries out in pain.

 

“Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” (13:34)

 

Jerusalem, Jesus laments;

Who’s very meaning is peace.

The suffix -salem comes from the Hebrew Salom, or Shalom.

Jerusalem had become a place of ruthless, destructive violence, stoning, and killing.

 

Jerusalem, Jesus laments;

This lament is a resounding echo of

Jesus being nearly thrown off a cliff and killed

After reading from the Isaiah scroll

In his hometown synagogue of Nazareth.

 

Jerusalem, Jesus laments;

Is located and established by David on top of Mount Zion.

David had the Ark of the Covenant,

The dwelling place of God,

Located in the center of God’s people

On top of the mountain.

God present.

God centered.

God with God’s people.

 

Jerusalem, Jesus laments;

Whose Temple crowned the peak of Zion,

Became the only place where there was a

Constant connection between heaven and earth.

The Holy of Holies was that intersection

Where God passed freely.

 

Jerusalem, Jesus laments;

The location where God engaged in constant warfare

Over the powers of sin and death

With none other than the devil himself,

Fighting with everything at stake,

Even over the life of Jesus.

 

Jerusalem, Jesus laments;

Where belief had waned,

Where faith had become complicit with Rome,

Where organized religion had become drunk with power,

Where Herod Antipas was one of many tyrants the world would know.

 

Jerusalem, Jesus laments;

In this time of Lent,

Jerusalem becomes for us a foreshadowing

Of the Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus, yet to come.

 

Jesus cries with lament;

But this isn’t the final word.

 

Allow God to lead you outside

To gaze into the night sky.

“Look to the heaven and count them …

So shall your descendants be.” (Genesis 15:5)

 

Like with Abram,

God responds to the lament of Jesus

With reaffirmation and an expanded, abundant promise.

Jerusalem would not only become known for crucifixion,

Jerusalem would now become know for an empty tomb.

 

Jerusalem! We will celebrate in a few short weeks

Is become:

Resurrection!

Ascension!

The descent of the Holy Spirit!

The origin for all apostolic missions!

The promised sign for the return of our Messiah, Jesus Christ!

 

That’s good news!

 

……….

 

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When Jesus cries of lament,

You and I are given license to share our complaints with God, too.

There is no point in complaining to one another;

That only stirs up the hornet’s nest for no good reason.

Take your complaint straight to the top;

Straight to God.

Just spell it out.

Lay it out in spades.

Name it.

Invite God into your suffering.

 

Then walk away.

Leave your pain at this altar

Confident in the knowledge, experience, and promise

Of a loving, gracious, and abundant God.

Amen.