There are only two places in the Bible where Jesus wept. The first (as every Sunday School kid who was ever given a prize for memorizing a verse, any verse, knows) is “Jesus wept” in John 11:35. It’s the shortest verse in the Bible. Lazarus, the friend of Jesus, had died. Jesus goes to the cemetery with Lazarus’ sisters and before raising his friend back to life, Jesus wept.
The only other place where Jesus weeps in in Luke 19. It’s the day we call Palm Sunday. Jesus is riding into Jerusalem. People are shouting “Hosanna, Hosanna.” Everyone (sans Pharisees) is excited in this tickertape parade-like atmosphere and Jesus weeps. These are not tears of joy, because everyone is praising him. Far from it. Luke describes the event this way:
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on thisday what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” Luke 19:41-44
The people of Jerusalem don’t get it. Jesus sees Jerusalem’s future without Him. It’s not pretty. In fact, Jerusalem is facing utter destruction and, as these things usually happen, the children will suffer the most. It’s heartbreaking. In that moment, while everyone is happy, Jesus weeps.
Like Jesus we’ve all wept in a cemetery when a family member or friend has died, but when was the last time you looked over our city and wept? When have you imagined the future, and thought, “without God’s intervention, my city is in deep trouble?”
The church I’m privileged to pastor is in Flint, Michigan. When people from Flint talk to folks not from Flint, invariably the first question asked is, “Can you drink the water?” Everyone knows, Flint has had its share of troubles. We also know our city’s kids have been the most negatively affected by these ills. When one lives, works or loves Flint, it’s easy to be like Jesus on that first Palm Sunday, and with deep anguish see our city’s enemies circling (poverty, drug abuse, unjust systems, crime, violence, lack of educational and employment opportunities) and weep. At times, it may feel like these negative forces have us hemmed in on all sides. The pandemic has only made the enemies stronger and more formidable. There are plenty of reasons to cry.
But there are more reasons to hope! Jesus is at work in the Flint.
Central church’s moto is “In Flint…” We have bumper stickers and T-Shirts with those simple words. We hope people ask us, “What does “In Flint…” mean?” So we can tell them that Jesus taught us to pray that his Kingdom would come and His will would be done in earth as it is in heaven. We can’t work in the entire planet, but we can in Flint. Hence, we long to see God’s work and will accomplished in Flint as it is in Heaven.
Sometimes the Bible refers to heaven as a banquet. I think that means that in heaven no one is hungry. We’ve done our best to end hunger here too. In fact, since our food distribution program began in July every Tuesday and Friday we’ve distributed tons of food. How much? Hold on to your hat this will blow you away, 120 tons (240,000 pounds) of food. Additionally, we partner with the food pantry next door (HIS Ministry) to end hunger in Genesee county. The Bible talks about mansions. I think that means, there won’t be homelessness or drug abuse in heaven. We partner with Carriage Town Ministries and the East Side Mission to stamp it out here too. A lack of education won’t be a problem in heaven, so we partner with Dillon Elementary School and the Boys and Girls Club of Flint. Racism won’t be allowed in heaven, so our mostly white church partners with our mostly black brothers and sisters at Joy Tabernacle for joint projects. In heaven, there will be convicted but restored-by-Jesus felons. We partner with Re-Connections that has a 90% success rate in keeping released felons in Genesee County from going back into prison. Since, there won’t be sickness or death in heaven, we figure there won’t be medical debt either. We’ve partnered with RIP Medical Debt and have (hold on to your hat again) eliminated 10 million dollars in medical debt in seven counties (SEVEN!!!). Do you see what all of this means? It’s happening. In a pandemic, it’s happening! God’s Kingdom work is happening in Flint!
Our city still has problems. But God is at work and He is not done! We aren’t done either. I hope you are at Central church this Sunday (or on-line) as we celebrate what God is doing in our city. God’s Kingdom (slow but sure) is coming in Flint! Praise the Lord! Please consider partnering with us in prayer, in service and financially (fill out a pledge card in church or fill out an on line pledge card here ), so that we will continue to see God’s will done and His Kingdom Come in Flint (and other places like in Panama too) as it is in heaven!