Fourth Sunday of Lent
As the First Reading describes it, the enemies of the Jews smash Jerusalem. The walls of the city are torn down. The Temple of God is burned down, and all its holy things are smashed. And the people are taken captive to Babylon. Their country, their customs, their language, their cult, their Temple – it’s all lost.
In the Psalm, there is a poignant picture of the people’s heartbreak over this destruction of their home. The people who wrecked Jerusalem want the Jews to sing Hebrew songs for them. That request is the final blow. “How can we sing the Lord’s songs in a strange land?”, the captive people say to themselves in their grief.
The Epistle says that God is rich in mercy and great in love. Why doesn’t God protect his people from heartbreak like this, then?
One piece of the solution is in the Gospel Reading. God doesn’t want to destroy people; he doesn’t allow suffering for the sake of hurting them. Rather, God is looking for a remedy, as the First Reading puts it. God is willing to use desperate measures, even the heartbreak of his people, to save them.
And not only that, but God is willing to use his own suffering too. As the Gospel says, God gave his beloved Son to save the world. Christ was betrayed by his friend, put to public shame, officially condemned, tortured, and put to death. Any one of these things is enough for heartbreak, isn’t it? And so, in the incarnate Christ, God uses his own great suffering as the final remedy to bring people from death into life, when all other remedies have been tried and failed.
Heartbreak by us, by Christ, is for life, not for death.
And here is what else we need to see. Jerusalem was rebuilt, and the Temple was restored, as the First Reading explains. Christ’s death was followed by his resurrection. In each of these cases, heartbreak was turned into joy.
And so heartbreak is not the last word. Elsewhere the Psalmist says, “Put your trust in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart”. When the story is God’s, heartbreak is not the end of the story. Joy in finding your heart’s desire in God is.