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Luke 19.41-44 (Good News Bible)
Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem
He came closer to the city, and when he saw it, he wept over it, saying, “If you only knew today what is needed for peace! But now you cannot see it! The time will come when your enemies will surround you with barricades, blockade you, and close in on you from every side. They will completely destroy you and the people within your walls; not a single stone will they leave in its place, because you did not recognize the time when God came to save you!”
Today is the feast day of St Hilda, born in Northumbria in the year 614. She was 33 when she decided to be a nun and two years later found herself abbess of a convent at Hartlepool. Some years later she founded a double monastery – monks and nuns living in adjoining quarters – at Whitby and in that grand conference of Whitby in 664 she voted for the Celtic side. Here I will show my heretical leanings, for I often wonder how different things might have been had the Celtic Pelagius prevailed over the establishment figure of Augustine!
We have seen other people in tears, but now we find it is the turn of Jesus to cry. It is the core of the Gospel, not a sign of weakness but a reaching out in love.
‘Your enemies will surround you with barricades, blockade you, and close you in on every side’. Just recently Robert Rinder has been discovering the story of his family and a few others in the time of the holocaust. Travelling to Germany he and a few friends learnt of events that had only been hinted at before. We saw one standing in a basement, being told that his family were among a thousand crammed into the small space, while above the food market carried on as normal. Few survived. It was a terrible time in history.
For us, it capped a few days when we had also watched a film on the First World War when 700,000 died as German soldiers advanced a few hundred yards, only for another 1m to die as the ground was re-taken a couple of months later.
‘[Your enemies] will completely destroy you and the people within your walls’. Jesus sobs as he gives this final warning to the city that has chosen to ignore the moment when God was coming. There is no sense of ‘I told you so’, or ‘it serves you right’, just sobs and weeping of sorrow from a terrible judgement. And there will be more tears before long, this time for Jesus himself.
The sadness today is that despite those horrors in wartime, atrocities continue. Man’s inhumanity to man is not abated despite all our experiences. Jesus accuses the people of not knowing the moment when God was visiting them. The church today needs to concern itself with the important concerns for our world – to relieve poverty, counter injustice, bring salvation to the oppressed and tend the sick. There are many other things that can be argued about, but they distract us from the real work in hand. We can play our part by showing compassion to all, to love as He loves us, and not get caught up in meaningless side issues when there is so much at stake in our world today.
Heavenly Lord, you long for the world’s salvation:
stir us from apathy, restrain us from excess
and revive in us new hope that all creation
will one day be healed in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.