Karen Murray-Hopf
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With quotes from "Connections" Commentary book---

“Today’s reading puts us on the road with Jesus, headed to Jerusalem. On our journey so far we have watched Jesus as he collects new followers, commissions seventy people to carry his message to others, visits old friends, and performs exorcisms and healings. Throughout his journey and travel, Jesus has also provided teachings and instruction through parables, directives, warnings and now lament. These few verses of Lament in today’s reading are full of metaphors; comparing Herod to a fox, connecting Jesus care for Jerusalem to a mother hen, and Jerusalem to a house. These metaphors and images brings one of the tasks for this Lenten season into focus. Lent isn’t just about mourning loss, injustice and error, it’s also about using the imagery and symbols of our everyday world to communicate our frustrations, fears and hopes. Lent is a time for us to exercise our theological imaginations, and making connections that draw us closer to the prophetic work that shakes people out of their everyday potential apathy. Lent should strengthen believers commitment to God’s justice and mercy in the world and also make them aware of opposition against this kind of action. In the Old Testament, there are four major types of lament: funeral, city, individual and communal. Laments, regardless of their type include statements that reaffirm trust in God’s actions, confessions of violations against God or declaring innocence. So..lament is a liturgical and communal means of coming to to terms with grief, disappointment, and need… through expressions of complaint and petition. Now Jesus, was likely familiar with the role of lament in Israel’s liturgical life, because Luke portrays Jesus as an observant Jew who is practiced in teachings, traditions, etc. Jesus speech in today’s reading represents a city of lament, discussing how he desires to draw closer to the city and its people as a “hen gathers her brood under her wings”. Jesus desire to protect Jerusalem from itself, is similar to the words of Isaiah in chapter 31 which express God’s eagerness to deliver Jerusalem from its attackers (Jesus quoted Isaiah the most, and it’s believed Isaiah was his favourite prophet).

Jesus hostile response to the pharisees and lament over Jerusalem represent a critique of Roman authority In terms of Lent, today’s reading suggests another task this season. People of faith should seek opportunities to challenge the parts of society that harm innocent people who lobby for the justice and wellness of everyone. “What interesting timing that this reading should take place the same week of the horrific mass shooting in New Zealand at the Mosque, taking the lives of now 50 people (with more in critical condition). In response to this heinous act, our Moderator the right Reverand Richard Bott offered these words:Forty-nine people murdered.More than forty others wounded.In Christchurch.At worship. At prayer.Forty-nine people murdered.More than forty others wounded.For one reason:because they were Muslim.Forty-nine people murdered.More than forty others wounded.Hundreds grieving the death of family and friends.Thousands even more afraidfor their loved ones and for themselves.Forty-nine people murdered.More than forty others wounded.Because of fear, turned into rhetoric,turned into anger, turned intowhite supremacist hatred.It is time to pray.It is time to act.It is time to stand, together,to counter acts of hatred, large or small,with acts of love;to counter acts of hatred, wherever we encounter them,with all that we have and all that we are;to counter terrorwith God's peace.Grieve. Pray. Act.Love.And my prayer, this day?God... help us to do so.Perhaps the imagery of a hen gathering her brood under her wings is the image we can dwell on. Perhaps we can be the hen that spreads her wings over other brothers and sisters who are in fear, who are weeping and devastated. Perhaps we can join in vigils honouring the lives of those affected. We can sign letters, and be a voice of love and inclusion in the world. In times of tragedy the words of Mr.Rogers often come to mind: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world." 

May we not only look for the helpers, but also be the helpers. These words shared by our partnering church in the US: The United Church of Christ, with which we are in full communion, are powerful and important:“We condemn this atrocious act of hate and terror and pray for the safety in worship for all communities of faith, especially Muslims today, and that they are free to do so without fear.

We reject the ideology of white supremacy, and any Christian justification of it, that remains prevalent in our country and in other places, an attitude that was cited in the manifesto of the arrested suspected shooter.

 We strive to demonstrate our understanding of God’s love for all of God’s children by actively engaging with interfaith partners, including U.S. Muslims and globally, to know each other and to seek God’s justice based on shared principles of love of God and love of neighbor.

 We offer our support for American Muslims and urge our members to find ways to express their solidarity with Muslim neighbors in their local communities across the country.

 We strive to demonstrate a generous welcome to new immigrants, especially as they often experience rhetoric and acts of hate in many forms, unfortunately including fatal violence.

 “We commit to continue to work to overcome anti-Islamic sentiment through engagement and education in our churches. We remain vigilant in countering all forms of bigotry based on religion, race or any other category of identity, consistent with the statement of Dr. Mathews George Chunakara, the General Secretary of our partner, the Christian Council of Asia who said, “No matter what faith we adhere or ethnicity we belong to, everybody should be able to live in an atmosphere where peace and security is prevailed and sustained; any act of violence must be prevented with all possible efforts."

 And as we mourn with the victims today, we offer this prayer of care and support:

 Holy One, called by many names, our hearts are once again touched and broken by events in our communities. You created us from love and call us to love you and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Once again we find ourselves facing the reality that fear is among us instead of love.

 We pray for the families and friends of those murdered and injured in Christchurch, New Zealand today. We pray for Muslim communities globally and extend love, peace and comfort in the midst of yet another tragic moment. We pray for healing for the injured and for lives that are torn apart today. We stand boldly as Christians believing that the love that comes from you is greater than the fear that destroys lives and communities.  Amen.”I wish I had more of a prophetic, wise sermon for you all today. But in the wake of such heinous violence and devastation, I simply wanted to talk about it, and remind us all to be beacons of hope, as we dwell upon our foundation and our commitment to seek justice, to be church in the world, and walk with, weep with, pray with, act with our brothers and sisters. May we find the strength and the will to do so.