March 17, 2019

The Second Sunday in Lent

Scripture Reading: Luke 13:31-35

Jesus’ Sorrow for Jerusalem

31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”

32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’[a]

Footnotes:

  1. Luke 13:35 Psalm 118:26

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

Footnotes:

  1. Luke 5:1 That is, the Sea of Galilee


Sermon: “Today and Tomorrow and the Next Day

I am in no way, shape, or form a golfer. I know that many of you are, so I thought a quick admission of total ignorance would be a good place to start.

That said, as I understand it, there are two kinds of hazards in golf: water hazards, like lakes and rivers, and manufactured hazards, like sand traps.

Occasionally, though, other nonofficial hazards make their way onto the course. That’s when things get interesting, as this clip shows.

Video

There’s absolutely nothing funny about the hazards golfers faced during the nineteen forties at Richmond Golf Club just outside of London.

In July 1940 the Nazi Luftwaffe began a campaign to control the airspace above Britain using thousands of planes to bomb locations in and around London.

The Royal Air Force fought back until Hitler ended the bombing, saying he would restart it the following spring. He never did.

The Richmond Golf Club was close enough to London for the attacks to affect it. It was likely that a round of bombs would interrupt a round of golf.

The golfers played on, using these special wartime rules:

  1. Players are asked to collect bomb and shrapnel splinters to save these causing damage to the mowing machines.
  2. In competitions, during gunfire, or while bombs are falling, players may take cover without penalty for ceasing play.
  3. The positions of known delayed-action bombs are marked by red flags placed at reasonably, but not guaranteed, safe distance therefrom.
  4. Shrapnel and/or bomb splinters on the Fairways, or in Bunkers within a club’s length of a ball may be moved without penalty, and no penalty shall be incurred if a ball is thereby caused to move accidentally.
  5. A ball moved by enemy action may be replaced, or if lost or destroyed, a ball may be dropped not nearer the hole without penalty.
  6. A ball lying in a crater may be lifted and dropped not nearer the hole, preserving the line to the hole without penalty.
  7. A player whose stroke is affected by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb may play another ball from the same place. Penalty, one stroke.

We need that kind of courageous persistence in more places than just the golf course, as this morning’s gospel lesson shows.

Just then, some Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “You need to get out of town, and fast. Herod is trying to kill you.” Jesus replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘Today and tomorrow, I’ll be casting out devils and healing people, and on the third day I’ll reach my goal.’”

Jesus knew that he was in Herod’s crosshairs. He said, in effect, “Bring it on! Nothing you do or say will derail my ministry, or stop my death from occurring at the time and in the place it’s supposed to happen.”

Jesus’ quiet, determined courage signaled that he would play through to the end, to Jerusalem, whatever the hazards.

He had an interesting way of putting it, though, first comparing Herod to a fox and then himself to a mother hen, gathering her chicks under her wings.

Herod as fox we can understand. Though it’s wrong to read human emotions into any animal, foxes have a reputation for being crafty as well as cruel. That was Herod, all right.

But chickens? Chickens come across not only as a bit dim, but also easily frightened. Jesus chooses the image of a hen gathering her chicks to show what his love and concern for God’s people is like.

Like a mother hen protecting her brood, he’s willing to become vulnerable for the sake of others, facing challenge and suffering head on.

Men in Jesus’ culture didn’t think of themselves like that. Many still don’t today. Men aren’t hens. They’re roosters—strutting, crowing, knocking the heck out of whatever or whoever gets in their way. That’s the way of the world. Big boys don’t cry. Wall off your feelings.

Judging from the way the world looks today, I’d have to say that this strutting, crowing, emotional wall-building way of life hasn’t worked out so well.

Still, tearing those walls down can be scary, for men and women alike. It takes trust and faith to walk away from the values of a culture that sees vulnerability as a sign of weakness, rather than of courage and strength.

Social worker and author Brené Brown wrote a number one New York Times best-selling book titled, Daring Greatly: How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms The Way We Live, Love, Parent, And Lead.

Vulnerability, Brown says, “is basically uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” We spend a lot of time trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability. We want to make things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad.

Brown says it’s even affected our faith. “Religion,” she says, “has gone from a belief in faith and mystery to certainty. ‘I’m right, you’re wrong. Shut up.’”

Without vulnerability, Brown says, we close ourselves off from all those important experiences in life that bring uncertainty with them, including love, belonging, joy, gratitude, and trust.

Of course, that leaves us miserable, looking for purpose and meaning. That makes us feel even more vulnerable. So, Brown says, “We have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin,” and the cycle starts all over again.

The title of Brown’s book came from a speech that Theodore Roosevelt gave at the Sorbonne in Paris on April 23, 1910.

It’s not the critic who counts; not those who point out how the strong stumble or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to those actually in the arena, with faces marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strive valiantly . . . who at best know the triumph of high achievement and who, at the worst, if they fail, at least fail while daring greatly.

Vulnerability isn’t about knowing either victory or defeat, Brown says. It’s about being willing to face both. It means getting into the arena. Vulnerability is being all in.

Jesus was all in. That’s what made him dangerous. The abundance of life, the healing and the wholeness that Jesus offered, intimidated Herod in a way that no threat of violence or political power play ever could.

The current college admissions scandal is just one more sign of how the cunning lies of foxes like Herod are still with us. Those lies tell us that safety, prosperity, and health belong only to those “worthy” of them.

As Jesus sees it, life belongs to everyone, but especially to those crushed by the powerful, who zealously protect what they have even at the expense of others.

“Go tell that fox, ‘Today and tomorrow, I’ll be casting out devils and healing people, and on the third day I’ll reach my goal.’

Sometimes being true to our faith will grate on the nerves of the foxes of this world, leaving us criticized and maligned, abused and abandoned.

 That’s when our Savior gathers us under wings of love. He does so not to hide us, but to protect us and to nurture in us the vulnerability and faith we need to play through the course of our lives as Christians, whatever hazards we face.

With courageous, faithful, persistence, Jesus calls us to witness when it’s hard, to proclaim the Word even if we know rejection may follow, and to live into who God calls us to be, not what others say we should be.

That will mean setting our faces toward Jerusalem with Jesus, making ourselves vulnerable to heartache, betrayal, loss, and pain, but also opening our lives to love, belonging, trust, thankfulness, and joy we’ll find nowhere else.