Luke 13:31-35 (NRSV)
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.' "
Friday morning we all awoke to the news that 49 people were killed and 20 seriously injured in mass shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. As of this morning the death toll has risen to 50. “The attack was unleashed at lunchtime local time Friday, when mosques were full of worshippers. Footage of the massacre was streamed live online, and a rambling manifesto laced with white supremacist references was published just before the shootings unfolded.”*
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a press conference, “This is and will be one of New Zealand’s darkest days.” I would add, it is one of the darkest days for all the nations of the earth.
Five months ago I preached on the Sunday following the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pennsylvania in which 11 worshippers lost their lives. In that message I condemned the violence as well as the sinful motivations of the man who was charged with these hate crimes. You may also recall that I invited you to sign you name to letters that would be mailed to Hebrew synagogues throughout the Indianapolis area. These letters amounted to a confession of the Lutheran Church’s history intwined with anti-Semitism and a pledge to stand up against the forces of anti-Semitism as we encounter them in the world.
What I haven’t yet told you is that we received letters in return. I would like to read you the responses from the rabbis who received our letters….
Additionally, I was honored to receive a phone call and have a wonderful conversation with another rabbi who wanted to tell me how much he and his congregation appreciated our gesture.
This morning, unfortunately, it’s time to do it all over again. Once again, God beckons us to condemn the acts violence and intentional taking of life, this time as it occurred in New Zealand. I once again condemn the sinful motivations of the man who has been charged with these acts of terrorism. And I ask you to sign your name to letters that will be mailed to various mosques and Muslim centers in Indianapolis indicating our pledge to stand up against the anti-Muslim forces of hate as we encounter them in the world.
We cannot imagine what it must be like to be a Muslim today. We cannot imagine how much heartache would go into a Muslim man or woman’s decision whether or not to not go to prayers because they feared that they could be targeted next.
It is hard to know how to respond. By signing your name to these letters you are expressing solidarity with people who feel vulnerable, targeted, and vilified. Let the responses of the Hebrew congregations remind you that this is a very meaningful gesture.
It is also important to lament. I’m sure I could have easily found a more eloquent definition of lament, but I think it’s suffice to define lament as “telling God about all the crap that’s going on and insisting it shouldn’t be this way.” Over one-third of all the psalms in the Hebrew scripture are laments. Even Jesus was prone to lament, as we see in the conclusion of today’s gospel selection.
Jesus’ lament is wrapped up in beautiful feminine imagery, identifying his motherly, nurturing and protective inclination towards the people who inhabit the holy city of Jerusalem – the same people who will reject him and have a hand in his death.
Notice, however, that Jesus’ lament is not about his own destiny. He is not lamenting the fact that his life is going to end in Jerusalem. Rather, his lament is for the people who cannot hear the good news and will not accept the love and grace of God. And his lament is not bound by our ideas of time and space. In the same way that Jesus’ laments the hardened hearts of the people in his own time; he also laments the hardened hearts that continue to reject God’s love and grace today.
We walk a well-worn path when we lament how many people, Christians included, effortlessly replace the truths of God’s love and the oneness of creation with the low hanging fruit of hatred, jealousy, fear of, and violence toward people who do not look like us, pray like us, talk like us. Jesus demonstrates what it means to have a heart that is consumed with God’s love. No other ideology, -ism, or affiliation should ever take priority over the truth that all people are beloved image-bearers of the divine. Nothing else is good news.
This morning take the time in prayer to examine how much of your heart is consumed with God. What else is occupying your heart space? What do you believe that incompatible with the good news of God’s love for you and for all people? My list is long, I assure you; and I ask for your prayers in that regard.
One of the most effective things we can do to reduce the amount of violence in our world is to dwell in our belovedness. I can say with absolute certainty that the New Zealand shooter had no idea what it meant that God had claimed his life, loved him wholly and completely, and invited him to share that good news with the world. May our faith guide us to realizations that honor the truth of our belovedness and that will shape the world into a place that honors the good God of all creation. Amen.