john davies
notes from a small curate

    Weep for yourselves

    Holy Trinity Holy Week Evening Communion 15/4/03

    Luke 23.26-34

    If you've been following the news this week then you will have been invited to spare a few thoughts, shed a few tears, for young Ali Ismaeel Abbas, an Iraqi boy who lost both arms and suffered 60% burns when an Allied bomb destroyed his home, killing the rest of his family. We've been encouraged to hope that he will get the specialist treatment he needs to save his life.

    And we do sincerely hope for him, for we see Ali as one of us, a fellow member of the human race, some mother's twelve-year-old son.

    Those who manage information during our modern wars always provide us with stories like Ali's. Recall the little baby airlifted to safety during the Kosovo conflict. Cast your mind back further to the Vietnam war and that picture of Kim Phuc, a nine-year-old girl, burned, crying, naked, arms outstretched, her village, destroyed by napalm, in smoke on the road behind her. How we wept at seeing her.

    Weeping for the victim is nothing new. It goes back to Jesus' last week, when, having been in the crowds condemning him to death the previous day, the women of Jerusalem were now lining the streets, mourning and wailing for him as he stumbled towards his execution.
      And Jesus turned and said to them, "Do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children."
    Jesus knew then what he knows today. That these weeping women weren't crying crocodile tears. They were genuinely moved by his plight, and yet they were also implicated in his death. They were part of the system which opposed him. Subservient to the leaders who condemned him to die.

    "Weep for yourselves and for your children." - Jesus said. Because he could see that they were trapped in this world of violence and that they would be the victims of it someday.

    His words weren't meant to condemn them. He knew that they could no more influence Herod than we can Tony Blair, he knew that they were as hopelessly tangled up in Rome as we are in Washington D.C.

    He said what he said because he loved them. He loved the city of Jerusalem - his city, a holy place, a place of memories and loved ones, a place where young couples dreamt dreams for the future, a place whose elders had invested all their hopes, all their lives. Inside, it was Jesus who was weeping, because he knew that soon it would all come falling down.

    It's perhaps a banal comparison to make, but Jesus' words are echoed by Eva Peron, who, in the musical Evita famously sings:
      Don't cry for me Argentina: the truth is I never left you
      All through my wild days, my mad existence
      I kept my promise; don't keep your distance
    Jesus was clear that the women of Jerusalem who wept for him also put him on the cross. But he cared for them deeply. The truth was, he never left them. And when they crucified him, criminals hanging beside him, brutal soldiers, baying crowds and weeping women, all culpable, below him, he didn't distance himself from them.

    Rather, he hung there seeing them tangled up in the forces of destruction which would kill him and soon lead on to their own downfall. And at this point his heart exploded with love for them, and all he could say, hanging there, was "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."


    Let us offer Almighty God
    Our prayers for a world tangled up in violence, riven by war,
    demeaned by those devoted only to
    expanding their empires,
    protecting their interests,
    maintaining their borders.
    Let us pray for leaders who will put God and others first.
    Let us pray for ourselves that we will put God and others first.
      Gracious Father
      We do not know what we are doing:
      Forgive us.
      Lord hear us
      Lord graciously hear us
    Let us ask Gods Spirit
    to be with all those suffering in the world today;
    Emotionally and physically blown apart by war,
    Those denied safety by the barriers others put up,
    All victims of crime and violence
    And those who love them, and long for peace and don't know how to respond
      Holy Spirit
      We need your comfort in these difficult days:
      Do not leave us.
      Lord hear us
      Lord graciously hear us

    Finally, as Jesus prayed for the city of Jerusalem
    let us offer him our city,
    a place of memories and loved ones,
    of people dreaming dreams
    and investing all their hopes.
    Let us thank God for all that it means to us.
    Let us ask God to hold it in his hands.
      Loving Lord
      We trust that you will keep your graceful promises:
      Save us and help us.
      Lord hear us
      Lord graciously hear us