How often I have desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you are not willing.
– Jesus, Luke 13:34
Jesus spoke these words as a lament over the spiritual and religious confusion that had overtaken so many in Jerusalem. When we dig further into the story, we find a growing distrust of Jesus in the minds of both his own people and also those in power. Just a few verses earlier we find a few Pharisees telling Jesus to leave town because Herod “wants to kill you.” (Luke 13:31)
Though he knows this is his destiny, Jesus still laments the situation as it is. He is injured by the rejection from his own people. His hope and prayer was that his people would have seen what God was doing in and through him, but many did not. In a matter of days they would collude with the power structures to have him arrested and put on trial, and ultimately sentenced to death.
Lord, have mercy.
This familiar phrase anchors many of the call-and-response prayers that we work through on Sunday mornings. “Lord, have mercy” is spoken when we pray about things that feel too big and daunting, like war and disease and suffering. It is not an “amen” but a request for God to step into those spaces where we are confused and scared and helpless. It is also an acknowledgement that we need God’s mercy. “Lord, have mercy” is an admission of need, of guilt, even.
What’s remarkable about Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem is that his words are infused with mercy. Though he knows the outcome of his life, he still speaks words of hope. He desires to “gather” his people and to protect them and shepherd them, even if they don’t know it.
How often is our struggle to see the need for mercy in our lives. It is easier to judge others for their failings and missteps than it is to recognize the cracks that line our lives. Self-justification and self-righteousness are effective smokescreens for the realities of our own struggles. We must be mindful.
Lord, have mercy.
May you hear and see the call to receive the mercy of God today. May you find the courage to “cease striving” (Psalm 46:10) and allow God’s merciful presence to overtake you. And may you know that even if you go your own way, Jesus remains merciful.
Grace and peace.
O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
– Collect for the Second Sunday in Lent