This week has been hard as stones. Five deaths have occurred and have rocked the worlds of parishioners, and just like that a landslide of unmourned grief has tumbled down from the ledges of accumulated loss.
My cell phone has buzzed and buzzed and buzzed. It buzzes even now as I carve out time to process and reflect. That phone has all but died three times since dawn. My empathetic heart feels numb and blue from loving so many people. And my head says it is time to rest while my heart says it’s too numb to care. Still we all need to rest for us to be any good to self or others, even if our rest is challenged.
This is after all my day off, and self-care mandates that it begin eventually; it might as well begin at 4:31PM Eastern Standard Time—even at this very hour. Sometimes the 24/7 on-call business of ministry can be a killer.
I’ll bet Jesus knows something about all of this:
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.’”
I told my buddy Joyce, way down in Satsuma, FL, that I’d work to get this blog rolling along again. It’s hard to believe that right now it feels more like therapy and less like a blog. But then again, why can’t it be both?
After all—I seek to be like Jesus, and Jesus is a master of doing two things at once. He is being both historian and pithy prophet. He is facing an enemy head-on all the while knowing full well that this place has history—and a rocky one to be sure. It seems ironic that a city, JERUSALEM, whose name means “city of peace,” is called out by Jesus as, “…the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” I think we have to own a reality—Jerusalem is a grand metaphor for people. After all, don’t we so often consider ourselves people of peace?
People of peace—we’d pretty much claim that title for ourselves.
But isn’t it true that our history says that we are grand at slinging stones? And isn’t the truth of the matter that we peaceful people are so adept at stone-slinging because we practice the skill whenever we encounter one who challenges our: thinking, politics, world-view, comfort, behavior, habits, lifestyle, etc.? We’ll gladly do this alone or in groups.
And the truth doesn’t end there does it? For isn’t it true that we peaceful people are really grand at slinging stones at ourselves?
Couldn’t Jesus replace the word “Jerusalem” with our name? Couldn’t the text just as well read,”John David, John David, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” Isn’t is true that Jesus could insert your name there as well?
As I sip this cold water and watch the yellow petals fall from the Valentine roses as my typing shakes this desk, I ask myself this, “In my life, what are stones that I have thrown?”
At others I have hurled:
- stones of resentment—others have it easier than me.
- stones of jealousy—others get more and work less
- stones of smugness—how I know better, best, and get things more quickly.
- stones of gossip—how I’d never tell tantalizing morsels for attention.
- stones of self-righteousness—how I’m more disciplined thus more worthy.
- stones of racism—how those (fill-in-the-blank) get freebies as I earn.
- stones of misunderstanding—homeless equals laziness.
At myself I have hurled:
- stones of identity—you don’t look good.
- stones of regret—you hurt close friends and deserve no friends.
- stones of inadequacy—you don’t measure up.
- stones of belittlement—your gifts are too small to matter.
- stones of despair—give up and die.
- stones of despondency—nothing done through me makes a difference.
Both of those stone lists could continue. I wonder what stone you might have listed. You might want to take time and make those lists. It’s healthy to own who we are—razor-stubbled, achy back, pot-belly and all. This is how we take stock of ourselves—and if we find one who will listen to us—- while perhaps challenging us and not judging us, we grow. But most of us would rather not take the pains of growing so we kill the prophets and stone those sent to us.
And there is the challenge of Jesus in 1st century Jerusalem. Jesus is coming to heal—that’s pretty much what he has been about in the rural regions. Jesus is coming to feed—that’s also what he’s done out in the countryside. Jesus comes to sit on the pebbly ground with those with none to sit with them. And he comes to bring an agenda to bear that offers a new way of seeing and being. And he does this under threat of death. The establishment is not interested in any change of agenda. And it will kill to keep it that way—-even, maybe especially in the city of peace.
Ironic, isn’t it, that we’re little different? Don’t we refuse to be gathered…together as a metaphoric hen gathers us—her brood—under her wings?
Don’t we, more often than not, reject what offers us healing and peace–better things for our hands than all of our stones? Moreover—we reject the One who offers us healing and peace and so much more besides. We could drop so many stones couldn’t we? And freed from their weight, maybe even run out of the metaphoric city gates to receive better things in our hands than the stones we’ve dropped? But that would require something from us wouldn’t it?
Even so—Jesus is coming to our city. Jesus is coming to heal, touch, calm, love, feed. And he won’t be deterred by our establishment or our stones. He is dying to love us even as we hurl at him one more stone. He will step towards us, and he steps towards us still. His stride will not break.
Healing is coming, loving is coming, wholeness is coming—and it is coming in Jesus. It won’t be halted. Grace, and mercy, is stepping over all of our hurled stones. And even a week of 5 deaths and little time off, are going to be redeemed for justice and peace are coming in Jesus. Jesus will not stop coming to us and to our world. Not even Herod, crucifixion, and 21st century stone-tossers stop his stride. So with our stones in hand, and our muscles tight for the toss, we are compelled, perhaps commanded, to cry out, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.