Friday, June 14, 2013

Ordinary Time - Is Jesus still weeping?

As [Jesus] came near and saw the city, he wept over it . . . (Luke 19:41)

One of the things that evangelical Protestants lack is geographical specificity. Other religious groups have centers: Roman Catholics have Rome; Orthodox Catholics have Constantinople; Muslims have Mecca; Jews have Jerusalem. Evangelical Protestants are, by and large, decentered. We have no holy city, no particular place of pilgrimage. Some might say, in a theological sense, that we are, as a scattered people, God’s own dwelling, and we need no earthly city to give us an identity.

So, it’s possible that Jesus occasionally stops and weeps over Rome, Constantinople, Mecca, and Jerusalem. It could be that those cities are occasionally washed in his tears.

And maybe he pauses now and again to weep over us.

In Luke’s story, right after Jesus’ time of weeping, he went into the Temple and chased out the moneychangers and sellers of animals intended for sacrifice. Yes, these people had turned the Temple courts into a religious strip mall, but they had also wiped out the purpose of those courts: To allow non-Jews to come close to the Temple and engage in worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

In effect, the people of God were eliminating their witness to the world. They had closed their doors to those who should have drawn close to the light that Israel was created to be. They had divorced themselves from their very destiny.

I worry about this. Protestants emerged a few hundred years ago as ones seeking to reform a broken church. Evangelicals emerged later to give their lives to bearing witness to the good news of Jesus Christ.

Now we’re seen by others as more about what we’re against than what we’re for. And I think that Jesus might be weeping.

Our so-called studies in apologetics (the tradition of defending the faith) is more combative than clarifying. Our relationships with people of other religious traditions involves much more accusation than it does mutual understanding. Our response to the surrounding culture, when it seems to offend us, is too often to hunker down and heighten our walls rather than to engage and try to see what God is doing.

I think I would rather have Jesus weeping over a holy city far, far away rather than weeping on me. But I suspect that we are drenched in his tears and don’t even know it. As painful as it might be, maybe Jesus will come along and clear out the rubbish and the drama from our Temple courts and remind us who we were meant to be as the people of God—a people who exist, not for themselves, but for the sake of the world.

If Jesus does that, will we repent and respond? Or will we haul him up on charges of heresy and nail him to a cross again? I don’t want to think too long on the answer to that question.

Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on us.

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