“Reign & Restore” Let’s pray… Rev. Stuart C. Buisch
Are you watching me now? Words from a song when I was growing up. These words are echoed in Lamentations 5. This chapter is filled with a new normal that is neither normal, new or pleasant at all. As you read through the chapter and the recitation of all that is occurring to the Israelites, what unfolds is a list of what has been happening to the wrong people for a long time. Property acquired, homes taken, parents killed, free things now cost money, our neighbors have nothing to share or sell to us, our slaves are our rulers. The list goes on.
Spread your bread on the waters… Who you are comes back to you. But Lent, pandemic, long term illness can also be a time to reflect on what is happening. To reflect on what I am doing. Everything that I deem normal, that I expect to come my way may not be what is normal or that which can be expected. How I behave will come back to me. Sometimes bad things happen creating tragedy around us for which there is no association to us but it still can be a place to see God new.
Most of the last few weeks we have looked at the gospels for extra explanation of this difficult poem. Remember this poem is read in its fullness once a year in the Jewish community. I honestly have found it long to read one chapter at a time. One of my family noted the length of time I canted a chapter. Getting what we have served to others can be long, tedious and mostly unpleasant unless we are always serving up kindness, sharing, looking out for others. Receiving that which we can not see a connection to anything we have done can be even harder to swallow.
Jacob is about to meet up with his older brother, from whom he cheated out the birthright, and the inheritance. Jacob has then learned the truth about cheating, it is greatly disappointing and a total loss of control. When someone cheats you, you have no recourse, unless revenge is your desire. Jacob had run off to his uncle and was now returning having cheated/been blessed while he was with him. I am unable to sort out that distinction. In preparation for seeing Esau, Jacob divides his wives and their children and some of his herds into groups and gifts for his brother. Even the messenger scares Jacob, ‘Your brother is coming with 400 men.’
Genesis 33:10 drops a profound piece of wisdom, ‘do me this kindness of accepting my gift.’ When we are able to give away, we receive a kindness, we are liberated, albeit only to the degree of the gift, from the power of possession. A power that can be most debilitating and destructive. Read Lamentations. It is so powerful to connect the reconciliation between Esau and Jacob to the destruction of Jerusalem. Reconciliation can be frightening but it is the place that we see the face of God v10. Those looking around the destruction of Jerusalem had the possibility to see God’s face. A face that they had ignored in their self-consumption. In the hurry scurry of life we can be so busy with matters of great consequence that we have no time to look at God’s face or to see it around us. Joseph’s brothers too, who understandably were upset with their spoiled brother took the matter into their own hands thinking that we as humans run the plot line of life. WE DO NOT. When Jacob is dead they finally get frightened that Joseph will see the reasonable revenge that he could have. Especially with all his power in Egypt. Joseph has always been concerned for others, captured by the meaning behind dreams not simply the narrative of the dream. Weeping he tells his brothers you intended evil but God made good of it.
This same good is able to make good of the destruction of Jerusalem and indeed the temple. God, liberated the people from their power games and let them see what the recipients of their power had been looking at for a long time. By placing them in the exact same situations that others around had endured at their hands they could finally understand that what they needed was to return to God vs 21. So also whether it is pandemic, relational disruptions, illness, weather chaos, whatever, God can help us be free of our models of living and teach us again to trust in all things. With God’s help we can see what we are doing and pair it up with God’s will to see if they are the same. The Israeli’s in Jerusalem weren’t watching themselves. They weren’t paying attention to God. They were students of their own interests, their own plans, their own apparent well being and assets.
As destructive as the exile was, the removal of the temple and all its contents, the end of sacrifice, the apparent end of a focal point of prayer, all of these lead a people who could listen to return to God. More to the point to ask God to return to them. Now they were ready.
Vs 22, recalls the ones who are not really sure who God is and especially who God is for them. Some who saw Jerusalem destroyed had a moment of realization and were brought back to God. Lamentations suggests that God will go at great lengths to get our attention and draw us back. In the name of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, amen.
Lord of Hosts, we long to not simply hear about your glory but to experience it…
Christ, our brother and savior, draw us close to your reality….
Wind of God, blow the chaff our of our lives and fill us with your passion…