At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." He 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. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.' Jerusalem, 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! See, 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.'" Luke 13:31-35
Jerusalem, 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!
It's impossible to look over Jerusalem and not lament over her divisions. Has there ever been a time when this was not so? But Jerusalem is also the holy city. Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote,“Even those who believe that God is everywhere set aside a place for a sanctuary. For the sacred to be sensed at all moments everywhere, it must also at this moment be somewhere.”
In Christian symbolism Jerusalem is everyplace and the ultimate place. Jerusalem is the conflicted city within our hearts and the hoped for heavenly city of promise. Jerusalem is Earth herself. We lament over the world and our continual warfare and our ongoing destruction of land and seas and air. We are the holy place that kills prophets, healers, sages and innocents in the complex chaos of our passions.
In this week's meditation, poets yearn for Jerusalem from exile (meditation one). A modern lament calls Jerusalem to rise to the challenge of her prophetic power (meditation two). Finally, we enter Jesus' own response, opening his arms in love and self-sacrifice (meditation three).
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you. -Psalm 122:6
Let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem, -Suzanne
Meditation One (Introit) Would That I Had Wings, O Jerusalem Would that I have wings that I could wend my way to Thee, O Jerusalem, from afar! I will make my own broken heart find its way amidst your broken ruins. I will fall upon my face to the ground, for I take much delight in your stones and show favor to your very dust. The air of your land is the very life of our soul. -Yehudah Halevi c1075-1141
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill. let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my hightest joy. Psalm 137:5-6
Medieval Map of the World with Jerusalem at its center, c.1250
Suzanne's Meditation Part 1
Part 1 Lament over Jerusalem
Jerusalem, 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! -Luke 13:34
Jerusalem is both a city and a concept. A place to leave from and return to.
During the exile to Babylon, Jeremiah laments
How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become,
she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the cities has become a vassal. -Lamentations 1:1
Meanwhile the exiles bitterly complain,
By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the wills there we hung up our lyres.
for there our captors required of us sons,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the sons of Zion!”
How shall we sing the lord's song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither! Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you,
If I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy! -Psalm 137 1-6
And when they returned they sang,
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad. Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the water courses of the Negev! May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy! He that goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him. - Psalm 126
From ancient times Jerusalem became a metaphor for exile, longing, pilgrimage, return, and fulfillment. Throughout the world, in Diasporas ever since, prophets, saints, mystics, and communities could say with Rabbi Nachman of Braslav, “Wherever I go, I go to Jerusalem.”
“Begin from Jerusalem,” said Jesus to the Apostles (Luke 24:47), as he sent them to the “ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) on the mission to spread the the Good News of liberation throughout the world. Jerusalem would be for every missionary, a place for the heart to dwell, even while facing martyrdom. How fraught this image, then, of Jerusalem. No mere city can live up to these layers of metaphor, meaning, memory, and emotion. Jerusalem becomes something other than Jerusalem. Jerusalem becomes heaven itself.
Mosaic, Dominus Flavet Church, Mount of Olives,
Meditation Two (Insight) Key To Jerusalem
Who will fan and force the fire of truth to spread across the world, insisting that we are all one, that mankind is not an animal species but a fellowship of care, a covenant of brotherhood?
There is cursing in the world, scheming, and very little praying. Let Jerusalem inspire praying: an end to rage, an end to violence.
Let Jerusalem be a seat of mercy for all men. Wherever a sigh is uttered, it will evoke active compassion in Jerusalem.
Let there be no waste of history. This must be instilled in those who might be walking in the streets of Jerusalem like God's butlers in the sacred palace. Here no one is more than a guest.
Jerusalem must not be lost to pride or to vanity.
All of Jerusalem is a gate, but the key is lost in the darkness of God's silence. Let us light all the lights, let us call all the names, to find the key.
-Abraham Joshua Heschel 1907-1972 Israel: An Echo of Eternity
Meditation Three (Integration) Fox and Hen If you have ever loved someone you could not protect, then you understand the depth of Jesus' lament. All you can do is open your arms. You cannot make anyone walk into them. Meanwhile, this is the most vulnerable posture in the world --wings spread, breast exposed --but if you mean what you say, then this is how you stand. ...
… Jesus won't be king of the jungle in this or any other story. What he will be is a mother hen, who stands between the chicks and those who mean to do them harm. She has no fangs, no claws, no rippling muscles. All she has is her willingness to shield her babies with her own body. If the fox wants them, he will have to kill her first; which he does, as it turns out. He slides up on her one night in the yard while all the babies are asleep. When her cry wakens them, they scatter.
She dies the next day where both foxes and chickens can see her -- wings spread, breast exposed -- without a single chick beneath her feathers. It breaks her heart . . . but if you mean what you say, then this is how you stand.
-Barbara Brown Taylor Christian Century 2/25/86
The Last Word
Wherever I go, I go to Jerusalem.
- Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav 1772-1810
Come, let us enter the inner chamber of our soul, offering prayers to the Lord and crying aloud: Our Father, who art in heaven, remit and forgive our debts, for thou alone art compassionate.
Showing joyfulness of soul in the fast, let us not be of a sad countenance; for the change in our way of life during these blessed days will help us to gain holiness.
Giving wings to our soul through abstinence, let us all offer acceptable prayers to the Lord in heaven.
In a spirit of compunction, let us weep for the deliverance of our souls and sing the praises of Christ for ever.
We bless the Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Consubstantial Trinity, uncreated Unity, the God of all, we exalt thee above all for ever.
Matins in Lent, Orthodox (Quoted from The Oxford Book of Prayer, George Appleton, editor)
Suzanne's Meditation Continued
The New Jerusalem
John the Divine from his own exile in Patmos, sees or fore-sees the New Jerusalem:
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away." And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." -Revelation 21:2-5
As the New Jerusalem descends, does the blessing settle like ash over the dwellings and lives of earth's inhabitants? Or does the hovering New Jerusalem draw out the latent holiness already present but not fully realized in her prospective inhabitants?
Many would have the New Jerusalem descend like a spaceship, taking only the 'righteous,' that is, the homogeneous likeness of any given group claiming the New Jerusalem as theirs alone, leaving a despoiled Earth behind. Who will be saved in this Noah's Ark of exclusivity? Is the New Jerusalem a closed community with golden pavement defended by twelve pearl gates? This vision, like poor Noah, is foolish and flawed. Commentators lament ever afterward that while God waited for Noah to beg for mercy for his neighbors, Noah simply built the ark and saved himself. And after the ordeal, Noah planted vineyards and got drunk, not able to bear the guilt and shame of survival. [Zohar Hadash 22c-d, 23a, Midrash ha-Ne'elam]
Such an exclusive New Jerusalem dooms itself to inhabitants weighted with guilt, finding solace in drunkenness, and denial. Sounds like hell to me.
If, instead, the vision of the New Jerusalem reflects the Gospel, the golden city is peopled with the poor, the oppressed, the sick, the possessed, eunuchs, widows, orphans, the insane, the unclean, the masses of broken-hearted people bearing caverns of loneliness. And, sinners- magnificent sinners and slight sinners, subtle and crafty sinners, inept and clumsy sinners. A whole Noah's Ark of beasts of every kind. Plus, one would assume, the aforementioned 'righteous.'
Is such a ship of fools foolish enough to float away without a plan for survival, a strategy for conservation of resources, an acknowledgment of mutual danger aboard this planet-boat? Such foolishness remind me of a famous joke:
A devout man fully trusted God would save him from any danger. When a flood surrounded his house he climbed out onto his roof waiting for God. A neighbor came by with a rowboat, but the man refused to be rescued, waiting for God. Next, the coast guard arrived, ordering him to come aboard, but the man refused again. A police helicopter came and dropped a rope ladder but the man stubbornly clung to the roof, waiting for God. Soon, the flood waters swallowed his house and the man drowned. In heaven, the man met his Maker. “Why did you let me drown?” accused the man, “I trusted you to save me!” “What are you talking about?” said God. “I sent two boats and a helicopter!”
Waiting for New Jerusalem to descend is like the foolish man on the roof refusing rescue. Here is an impasse like the line of thinking in the joke - waiting for God to save us while God waits for us to take responsibility, or like Noah building the ark while God waits for him to make the case for his neighbors. Meanwhile we humans waste our resources hoping the New Jerusalem will descend before we wreck the place, treating our planet like a carelessly broken toy which Papa will replace if we whine hard enough. As resilient as Earth is, she is still unique and vulnerable.
But what if this beautiful planet IS herself the New Jerusalem? And we've destroyed her.
Earth has born and thus has to bear the ultimate ship of fools - humanity. Will we take responsibility? Poor Earth, she carries within herself the seeds of her own destruction. O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, she laments, How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!