Sorrow awaits us: a lament over injustice from the church

I was reading in Luke 11 this morning. I was struck by the profound similarities between the Pharisees of Jesus' day and the evangelical church of today. More startling is Jesus' response toward them.

You might know that the Pharisees were the "bad guys" of Jesus' time--at least that's how Bible-readers like to view them, as if we are dissimilar to them in every way.

And yet, they were well-respected and revered, even feared. They were obeyed. They were the experts about what God expected from his people. In modern day vernacular, they were the pastors, the conservative right, the non-profit leaders, the worship leaders, the televangelists, the Christian authors. They were the spiritual voice for their culture.

And Jesus censured their religious rules, pointing out instead their lack of compassion and justice. Read Luke 11:37-53 to get the full effect of Jesus' words (they're harsh!).

Here is a prayer of lament crafted from Jesus' rebuke:

Lord God,

Forgive us for caring more about what people think of us than caring what we believe and how we act!
We have not given to the poor because we are too busy giving to ourselves and our friends.
What sorrow awaits us!

We have tithed to the church and ignored the injustice of systematic race and poverty all around us.
We are arrogant enough to think the poor are responsible for their own problems, rather than realize that our system of power (that we benefit from) has created this problem.
What sorrow awaits us!

We sit in seats of power and influence--we are loved and honored by our peers--
but we hide our selfish motives behind our good deeds.
Sorrow awaits us!

We demand justice through the law for the things we care about and harsh punishments for the people we don't care about.
We judge sinners while overlooking our own sins.
We expect people to come to church and be transformed, but we make church an unwelcoming place, even while we avoid transforming neighborhoods and cities.
Sorrow awaits us!

We build monuments and memorials for ancestors who committed crimes, and we excuse the murders of men and women who have challenged systemic bigotry and supremacy.
We point out their failings in order to lessen their influence, even while we cover up the failings of supremacists who have maintained power. and passed it on to others like them
We point the finger at trouble-makers and look the other way when someone kills them.
Sorrow awaits us!

We are responsible for these crimes!
The guilt of our actions and our fathers' actions are held against us if we do not rectify the evils done while we were busy singing hymns and forming small groups.
We are accountable for the spiritual knowledge we have that we have never applied in our lives.
Sorrow awaits us!

We prevent people from entering the kingdom of God because we decide who should enter and who should pay for their sins,
as if we are judge and jury, instead of the God who died for everyone.
Sorrow awaits us in this life. (And maybe the next.)
By our fruits we are known.
The judgment seat awaits.

In the powerful name of Jesus,
Amen.

Luke 11:53--"As Jesus was leaving, the teacher of religious law and the Pharisees became hostile and tried to provoke him with many questions. They wanted to trap him into saying something they could use against him."

Revelation 2:29--"Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches."



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