“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” - Luke 13:34-35 (NIV)
Jesus goes right to the seat of power, in the city of Jerusalem, where authorities over the sacred and secular realms ply their trade. Jesus practically weeps, because it seems that people don’t change, and nothing’s for free. He practically weeps, because in the halls of power, whether government or temple, the prophets’ call to repentance falls on deaf ears.
The Pharisees have just warned Jesus that Herod wants to kill him. Herod stands for any emperor or president, any senator or congressperson, any elected or appointed official who will use power to resist the insurgency of love and grace. Jesus proclaims, “Don’t get in the way of God’s holy domain of shalom: wholeness, harmony, justice, and joy.” Jerusalem stands in for any religion where the spark of a vivid, living relationship with God has become an intricately defended set of rules.
But Jerusalem also stands for the promise of God’s intimate presence with creation and all its creatures. The sparks of holy relationship are still there. Light seeks out light: together each grows brighter, like candles added to a wreath. If we take Jesus at his word, whenever we say that verse in our communion liturgy—“Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Almighty!”—our Messiah comes within sight again.
The stakes are high. Desolation is a possibility. Some days, it appears a certainty. And yet when we speak it with conviction—“Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Almighty!”—the Teacher returns to us again, light and love incarnate, seeking us.
Almighty God, may there be space in us for weeping, when we perceive your prophets spurned or silenced. When we speak your great words of power—“Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Almighty!”— find us ready, we pray, to welcome your transforming grace again. Amen.
The Rev. Dr. John A. Nelson is Pastor and Teacher of the Congregational Church of Salisbury (CT).