Monday, April 18, 2005

A leader's cry of unfulfilled longing

Yesterday I cried while teaching at Plow Creek. I don't cry that often while teaching but once in awhile I hit an issue that resonates deeply.

Yesterday I was talking about Jesus, near the end of his ministry, expressing a deep, unfulfilled longing.

From the beginning of his ministry the religious powers that be found Jesus and his way of doing things offensive. Yet he never backed down--he kept healing on the Sabbath, he kept hanging out with prostitutes, tax collectors, and other undesirables, he never repudiated the rumor that he was the Messiah, a blashphemy to the powers that be who knew that the Messiah was not going to be a carpenter from the wrong side of the tracks.

Yet he loved the very people who were out to get him. After describing their hypocrisy in a series of striking images (often referred to as the seven woes), he ends with this plaintive cry of unfulfilled longing:

O 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, but you were not willing.

As a pastor I've poured myself out to folks at Plow Creek for 24 years. Many people have responded but there have been a couople of people who I was deeply bonded to who, no matter how hard I tried, refused to be "gathered."

And I couldn't back down in order to gather them.

The refusal of some to be "gathered as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings" (isn't that a tender image?) hasn't stopped me from continuing to pour my life out.

I think of the line from Oscar Romero's prayer, Prophets of a Future Not Our Own:

We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.

So even though I fail to gather some, I keep on, liberated in knowing that I am just a little dude doing my small part, leaving plenty of room for God's grace.

More than once lately in my journal when I'm feeling down I've asked Jesus, "Did you ever feel this way?"

I take comfort in his leader's cry of unfulfilled longing.