Lament over Jerusalem

Luke 13:31-35

The Lament over Jerusalem

31 At 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 away from 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.” ’

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From what I can tell, Jesus and the Pharisees have a mighty complicated relationship. The Pharisees have always been skeptical of Christ, attempting to entrap him in many cases. They certainly want to shut down the attention Christ is getting. From their perspective, Jesus is a trouble maker who draws crowds and attention away from their idea of proper religious behavior. The Pharisees respond with dubious questions meant to entrap Jesus in embarrassment, to discredit him. When those trick questions never seem to go very well for the Pharisees, they certainly watch carefully. They keep up with the attention he is getting; they stay aware of what he is teaching and doing in general. Their distrust of Christ is pervasive. So why would these Pharisees want to warn Jesus that Herod wants to kill him? I think it’s too simple to just say they want to run him out of town. I think their interest is much more complicated. The idea that Herod is after Jesus is certainly nothing new. That has been the case for Jesus’ whole life. This is the same Herod who ordered all the baby boys killed when he heard the Messiah was born. Perhaps with the mistrust the Pharisees have for Jesus, there is also some intrigue and a spirit of keeping the closet watch on those most suspicious to you.

Throughout this passage, Christ puts an end to the games of sorts the Pharisees are playing. He sends a message back to Herod through the Pharisees. One has to love how Christ starts with, “Go tell that fox….” Right away, Jesus demonstrates the model of being completely open and direct! Christ sends the message that he is busy with his mission—casting out demons and performing cures. He doesn’t intend to leave until that work is done. That is certainly a real lesson for me. Christ knows he is in the midst of a difficult and even perhaps dangerous group. But Christ does not intent to let the Pharisees or Herod stop him from completing his work in Jerusalem. He does not let them shake his confidence or his resolve.

Then Christ takes a moment to lament how Jerusalem has become the city that kills profits and stones those who are sent to help. Jesus speaks in images of longing to care for Jerusalem “as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…” in the spirit of most loving protection. I personally happen to connect deeply with this feminine, motherly image. To me, the hen gathering her brood under her wings is the unconditional and complete care Jesus longs to give Jerusalem and ultimately the whole world. And in the end, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”

What I Believe the Sabbath Means

Luke 13:10-17

10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ 13When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.’ 15But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?’ 17When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.


For most of my childhood, I recall being confused about the concept of the Sabbath.  So we are supposed to take a day off of work because God took a day off of work?  I remember hearing several priests over the years try to explain to their parishioners that Sabbath time should be devoted to God.  So it’s not really a day off, then.  It’s more of a religious day.  When I grew up and went to college, I listened to various sermons on religious radio stations while driving to classes.  These sermons basically stressed using the Sabbath day to focus on one’s family.  So the Sabbath is more like a family day?  

The commonality between the different Christian ideas of the Sabbath is that it must be followed.  Ignoring the Sabbath day creates an unhealthy separation between a person and God.  That is where the agreement ends, however.

I have always rebelled against the parts of Christian tradition that are ambiguous or contradictory.  At one point during my time in college, I remember deciding that the priests and radio evangelists were all just full of it.  Surely it didn’t matter if you went to church or devoted a day to prayer every week, and I doubted it mattered which day of the week I treated as the Sabbath.  A person should pray every day.  Families should spend time together on a regular basis, not just on a particular day.  And I knew in my heart that rest was extremely important for one’s health.  There was no way I was going to limit my rest time to one day per week.

I pretty much have these same views today.  What I understand now that I couldn’t grasp back then is the dire need for a community to spend time together.  Now I believe that the Sabbath day should be more of a community day of rest: a time for a community to get together and celebrate its many blessings.  The term “rest” doesn’t adequately describe such a day.  Instead, I think God means for it to be a day of joy and love.  A day to recognize that we are here to support each other.

Don’t Worry about what to Say

Matthew 10:16-22

Coming Persecutions

16 ‘See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.17Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues;18and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles.19When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time;20for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.21Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death;22and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

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This semester has certainly been a trying time for me in the sense that I’m teaching a new course—one I’ve never taught before. That is the case for many of my colleagues as well. We began a new combined reading and writing course this semester. I’m familiar enough with teaching writing, but now we are combing what we previously presented as separate reading and writing courses. I feel completely out of my element and forced to move faster than ever with my students. Then there is always the part of my job that involves supervising tutor with all kinds of backgrounds and experiences. Most of the time I feel like I have no idea what in the world I’m doing. But this passage gives me hope in a strange kind of way.

The Disciples are warned about people who will turn them in to be flogged in the synagogues. They are told family members will betray each other to the death. Yet even in those horrific experiences, they are told not to worry about what they will say and that the one who endures to the end will be saved. So on those days when I go before my students or my colleagues and feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, I can trust God will give me the words to speak. If the Disciples are promised the Holy Spirit will speak through them when needed, surely I can trust the Holy Spirit will speak through me in the classroom. Of course I’m going to give the very best of myself to prepare, but I can also trust that what I am to say will be given to me at that time. And the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Is it wrong to love things?

Luke 12:13-21

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ 14But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ 15And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ 16Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” 18Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” 20But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’


I am an American.  I love my house and all of the comforts it provides (especially the air conditioning during the hot summer months).  I love my car: it is not anything fancy, but I think of it as an extension of myself.  It is more than transportation; the way it drives is a direct reflection of my personality.  I know I am not the only one who feels this way.  In the United States, we have a deep love for our possessions.

When does love become greed?  My heart fills with dread as I ask this question because the answer is pretty clear.  If an object is nothing more than a tool, a thing that serves a clear purpose but does nothing else, then it should be appreciated–and so should the people who design and make the tool–but feeling love for a tool is a waste of emotion and time.  How much love would we give each other if we stopped loving objects?

This topic is complicated, however.  Just about anything having to do with humans is complicated.

There are objects, and then there are man-made items created to express human emotion.  People should feel profound love for a painting, for example, because a painting is much more than a tool.  It is, of course, an object–it is a canvas with paint brushed on it–but a painting is created to move people’s emotions.  The same can be said for a car.  Driving enthusiasts rave about the sensations they feel through the steering wheel, the gear shifter, and even the driver’s seat as the vehicle is in motion.  A car is a lifeless machine, but when such a machine is designed and built to evoke human emotions, it becomes far more valuable.

When Jesus says, “‘one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions,’” He does not mean we should throw out Monet’s paintings or sell the car that you keep in the garage.  If we threw out everything that fills us with joy and all of the other essential emotions, what sort of life would we lead?  What Jesus discourages, however, is the coveting of objects.  A landowner who stores more grain than he could ever consume is ignoring the hungry people around him.  The person who keeps an art piece in his own home and never shares it with the world is depriving others of a fulfilling experience.  Even cars are meant to be shared.  I am surprised how often driving enthusiasts drive their vehicles alone when nearly every car sold today has at least one passenger seat.

Many think Jesus demands us to give, and yes, there are causes that need donations.  What He seems to demand in today’s passage, however, is for us to share what we have with others.

I wonder how fewer things I would own if I regularly asked myself, “With whom am I going to share this object?”  A person who has much should share his wealth with his community.

Testify Because you Have Been with Me

John 15:20-27,16:1

20Remember the word that I said to you, “Servants* are not greater than their master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.21But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.23Whoever hates me hates my Father also.24If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.25It was to fulfil the word that is written in their law, “They hated me without a cause.”

26 ‘When the Advocate* comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.27You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.

16‘I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling.

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This reading from John reminds us all that people who interact closely reflect on each other. Christ tells the Disciples that they will be judged by their association with Him. And those people to whom Christ has spoken are now responsible for their own actions regarding the teaching they have heard. Those to whom Christ spoke can no longer say they didn’t know. And, as His followers, Christ reminds the Disciples that as his followers, they will be treated according to how people respond to Christ.

As an educator, I am always reminded of the idea that with new knowledge comes responsibility. That association is not always easy. Once people have heard a message, they are responsible for their responses to that message. Those transitions mean changing, sometimes in minor ways, and other times at the deepest core levels. We are judged by the beliefs we choose to follow. We become servants of those beliefs, and we reflect those beliefs. Once we make individual decisions to live as Christians, of course we aren’t going to be perfect, but we can’t not try to live into those Christian values with our best efforts. We aren’t going to be perfect by any means, but we are accountable for our actions as followers of Christ.

Opening My Heart For the Truth (and Accepting Change)

Luke 11:29-32

29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, ‘This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation. 31The queen of the South will rise at the judgement with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! 32The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!


People have a terrible weakness.  We like to think of ourselves as the most intelligent life forms on this planet, and we too often believe that we are infallible because of our intelligence. Sometimes what our minds perceive is simply wrong.

Vanity: it is a deficiency that might not doom the human race, but it sure can slow down progress.  It is the reason why Americans have resisted changes to civil rights laws, and it is one of the reasons why American citizens panic whenever an influx of immigrants try to cross the nation’s borders.  People believe the world has already reached its apex, that they have already achieved the perfect society and that any changes would corrupt it.  They are, of course, wrong.

When Jesus tells the crowd that He is the Son of Man, He is doing more than claiming His place as the leader of a new age.  He is tearing apart the illusion that our society is as good as it can be.  This is not as good as life gets.  There is a new and better way to live.

The moment when we believe that the rules of our world are set, a new discovery is made that changes everything.  We think that the world is flat, then scientists and explorers prove that the world is round.  We think that the emptiness between heavenly bodies in space is truly empty, then it is discovered that energy in fact exists within the nothingness.  Once humans decide they know something, they are set to be proven wrong.

This truth can lead to paranoia.  What if the garden in my backyard is not really a garden?  What if I do not really exist?  How can I be certain of anything?

When I sit still and reflect on today’s Gospel reading, however, I do not feel an ounce of anxiety.  There is no way I can know everything, and that is fine.  The truth will eventually become apparent, and I will try to open my heart and mind enough to accept it.

Perseverance in Prayer

Luke 11:5-13

Perseverance in Prayer

5 And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread;6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.”7And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.”8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

9 ‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for* a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish?12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit* to those who ask him!’

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The Bible is filled with stories about persistence paying off. There is the story of the woman who kept approaching the judge seeking justice for her situation. The judge grants her request because of her persistence. In today’s reading, a man is awakened in the middle of the night by a neighbor seeking food for his unexpected guests. The request is granted not particularly out of kindness or charity, but because of the persistence. In that same spirit of persistence, Christ urges us to ask, search, and knock. Christ even presents the image of parents giving their children good and needed gifts in the greatest joy as the way God wants to honor our requests for what is good and needed. So we are to ask with persistence, and God takes great delight in meeting those requests according to our needs.

With my learning disabilities, I have felt like the persistent individuals in these stories knocking on doors and asking for help continuously. In retrospect, I believe God delighted in providing wonderful, compassionate professors and the best situations for me to complete my undergraduate and graduate degrees. I try to pass on to my own students that idea of persistence. I have the great privilege now of interacting with students in all kinds of settings and situations. Many of them need a great deal of extra guidance because of their backgrounds. I try to have extra patience in guiding them, and it is a great joy when I am able to honor their requests. Sometimes, one does find a request honored with great delight.

Mercy is Love in Action

Luke 10:25-37

25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’ 28And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’

29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ 30Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ 37He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’


In the end, what matters most to Jesus is the kind of undying love that exists within mercy.  Help those who are suffering, and you will inherit eternal life.

I am not sure what “eternal life” is, but most people assume that it is a state of existence that we should all strive for.  Most Christians think of it as heaven.  What stands out in the story that Jesus tells in today’s reading, however, is not the concept of heaven but the individuals who do not show mercy.  It seems like very little to ask of a human being: take some time out of your day to help someone collapsed on the street.  Reality often startles people out of the realm of common sense, however.  It is in truth frightening to help someone, especially a stranger.

I can think of all the logical excuses I have used to not help someone who appeared in need.  There is always the chance that the apparent victim is in fact no victim at all but a deranged rapist or a thief hoping to snatch a good samaritan’s belongings when he tries to help.  The local news is full of horrifying stories about thieves disguising themselves to trick their unsuspecting victims.

There is also the fear of not knowing the best way to help the suffering person.  The poor person may need medical attention, and I lack the expertise to help.  I might make his wounds worse.  Better leave the situation to an expert.

Our tendency to not help people in need is probably based on fear, but once we understand what gets in the way of helping others, we are pretty much out of excuses.  If we witness a terrible car accident, the least we can do is call for help.  If we see a woman crying, we can at least talk to her and try to find out what sort of help she needs.

I think it is also important to note that Jesus does not describe the Samaritan as a wealthy individual who merely offers money at the situation.  He tended to the suffering man’s wounds, lifted him up and put him on his own animal, took him to an inn . . . sometimes the situation calls for action, and if you are there and physically able, you must act.  Mercy is not the same thing as empathy.  Mercy is not feeling sorry for someone in need and wishing for some kind of magic to fix everything.  Mercy requires more than prayer, more than wishing for better days.

These thoughts make me feel guilty–God knows I have failed to be that good Samaritan many, many times–but I know that I am not alone.  There does not have to be only one good Samaritan in this world.  If we all choose to actively help those in need, that much more healing can take place.  Love is always worth the effort.