August 28, 2011

Sermon for Tenth Sunday after Trinity

When God Weeps
Luke 19:41
The Tenth Sunday after Trinity

There are no tears in Heaven, but on earth even God weeps. There is something particularly touching about this. The idea that God is moved to sadness and tears for us is something that captures our attention, and our imagination. Numerous works of literature, art, and music draw upon that theme. But why does God weep? What is it about this world that moves the God of all Creation to tears?

Let us make it clear at the start that He does not weep for Himself. Our Gospel Reading finds our Lord in Jerusalem during what He knows are the final days before His crucifixion. He is well aware of what lies ahead of Him. He has come to Jerusalem to die, and die He will. Nothing can turn Him aside from this mission. Yet, it is not the scourge, or the nails, or the cross or the grave that moves Him to tears. He will bear them with all the courage and dignity of the Son of God.

He knows also that His own people will not receive Him. He knows they will reject Him and kill Him. They will curse Him and spit upon Him, and beat Him as He passes them on the way to Golgotha. But He is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. It is not the rejection that moves Him to weep.

He knows that an even greater terror awaits Him; a terror far worse than any suffering mere men can inflict upon Him. He knows that on the cross He will bear all the hurt and anguish, and anger of God, for the sins of His people. I have no way to even imagine what that must be like. I know on one hand it is to bear the active wrath of God, and that is unimaginably horrible in itself. But even worse is the complete severance of His essential fellowship with the Father and Spirit; to be removed from that sweet and pervading Divine Love and cast into the fiery hate of God's consuming wrath. I do not wonder that He cried out on the cross, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" But even this does not move Him to tears. He weeps for none of these things because He weeps not for Himself. He weeps for us.

Christ weeps for Jerusalem, the Holy City; Jerusalem, the city of peace. As He looks down upon the city from the Mount of Olives, He sees the Temple, symbol of faith, symbol of the presence of God, symbol of Christ. Everything about the Temple is a symbol of Christ. He is the Lamb, slain upon the altar. He is the Great High Priest who offers the sacrifice. He is the altar upon which the sacrifice is offered. He is the Temple, the place where God dwells with man. But the Temple and its ministers have failed Him. They are full of pride and corruption. They have left the true faith to follow the vain imaginations of their own hearts. And God weeps.

He looks at the palace where the king rules the city and the country. This too is a symbol of Christ, the Great King and Shepherd of Israel who rules in justice and mercy. But the human king is nothing like the Great Shepherd of Israel. The human king is corrupt and faithless. Justice is just a word and a joke in his court, and the ability to rule Israel has been taken away from him and given into the hands of the Roman, Pilate. What little power the king does possess is not used to promote true religion and virtue. It is used to promote his own security and wealth. And God weeps.

Our Lord sees the wall around the city, strong and massive, designed to defend Israel from her enemies. The wall is a symbol of Christ. He surrounds His people with safety. He stands between them and their enemies. "A Mighty Fortress Is our God." But the people of Jerusalem do not want protection from their real enemies. Their real enemies, which are world, the flesh, and the devil, are far more dangerous to Israel than the Romans could ever hope to be, yet they pass freely into the city by the consent and invitation of the people; and God weeps.

Christ sees the people of Jerusalem "throwing away happiness with both hands," completely ignorant of the things which belong to their peace. He is their peace. He is their joy. He is their prosperity. He is their hope. But they have rejected Him and sought their peace in wealth and worldly pleasures, though in His Name they "bless" their misguided values and the self-destructive means by which they chase their dreams. He sees them as sheep without a Shepherd, and He would gladly gather them to Himself as a hen gathers her chicks, but they "would not" (Mt. 23:37). They won't have it, and God weeps.

From His position on the Mount of Olives, Christ looks over the Jerusalem of that time, but He also sees it forty years in the future. He sees the city in A.D. 70, surrounded by the Roman army, under siege that will last for years. He sees the wall destroyed. He sees unimaginable suffering. He sees millions of Jews dead in the streets of Jerusalem and in other cities of the Roman Empire, and God weeps.

As Christ looks down on Jerusalem He also sees us. He sees billions of people, just like the Jews, but people of every nation and every era rejecting Christ and chasing the rainbows of sin that will never give them anything but a momentary diversion, while He offers everlasting treasure. He sees people ruining their own lives and bringing untold pain and suffering into the lives of others, and, finally, bringing themselves into the eternal sorrows of hell forever. He knows the joy and blessings He offers, and He sees the destruction and suffering they choose, and God weeps.

If only the things we desire were the things God made us to enjoy. If only we would learn to love the things He promises. If only the things that please God would also please us, how much sorrow we would save ourselves. O, let us learn to love what God loves, and to seek what God wants to give.

O, God, "Let thy merciful ears... be open to the prayers of thy humble servants; and that they may obtain their petitions, make them to ask such things as shall please thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

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