Lent V: Rejoice, O Jerusalem

Today is Laetare Sunday–rejoice, be refreshed, take nourishment–the weight of Lent is lifted briefly in a foretaste of the joy of Easter.

“Judah mourns,
    and her gates languish;
her people lament on the ground,
    and the cry of Jerusalem goes up…”

20 We acknowledge our wickedness, O Lord,
    and the iniquity of our fathers,
    for we have sinned against you.
21 Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake;
    do not dishonor your glorious throne;
    remember and do not break your covenant with us.
22 Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain?
    Or can the heavens give showers?
Are you not he, O Lord our God?
    We set our hope on you,
    for you do all these things.

~ Jeremiah 14:2, 20-22

The whole of Jeremiah 14 is a lament, God’s lament about the wickedness of his people and Jeremiah’s lament on behalf of the Israelites. When read devotionally, this chapter is a solemn call to confession, a reminder that every one of us must acknowledge our own sinfulness, the generational burdens we may be bearing, the offenses we have carried out against others and against God. But it ends on those beautiful, crucial words: “Are you not he, O Lord our God?/ We set our hope on you….”

In the historical context, Jeremiah is hoping in the Lord for an end to drought and its effects of famine and disease, as well as protection from the enemies who are striking the Israelites down in their weakness. But God is our hope for more than our immediate needs–although he cares for those as well–he is our hope for freedom from sin and its dreadful effects on us and the world.

…the present Jerusalem, … she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

~ Galatians 4:25b-26, 5:1

If you have read many posts on my blog yet, you know that one theme I cannot help but return to is the hope we have in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ; the kingdom is here, freedom is ours, we are the ambassadors of Christ, who is God with Us. The Incarnation and Resurrection are the foretaste of the unveiling of the Holy Jerusalem, when God will be in the midst of us. This is the great hope and confidence of Easter, to which we look forward today.

Storm in Rockies

A Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie, Albert Bierstadt (1866)
God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. 
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

~ Psalm 46:1-7

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An Advent Hymn

As we near the end of Advent and face the present darkness of the world – especially in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy, the prayer expressed in this song becomes ever more urgent to my heart. We do not merely remember the first coming of our Savior in its unexpected humility; we also long for his return, when all things will be made new.

candlelight

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny.
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times did’st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.