March 17, 2019

Second Sunday in Lent                

Luke 13:31-35, Psalm  27,  Phillipians 3:17-4:1, Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

Beth Woodson, Seminarian 

Christ be with us, Christ within us, Christ before us, Christ beside us, Christ to win us, Christ to comfort and restore us, Christ beneath us, Christ above us, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love us, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.   St. Patrick  5th century  Ireland

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.  In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, in remembrance of St. Patrick and all the many saints, Capital and lower case “S” that have gone before.    Though it has become quite the cultural holiday for merriment, imbibing and wearing green, Patrick too was a follower of Jesus. He was the Bishop of Ireland, but was in fact not a true Irishman.   He was a fifth century Roman Britain who left his home country to go to the far reaches of the British Isles to bring the gospel to Ireland.  He took with him people of skill and craft, old and young, religious and families to go live and be the gospel in words and deeds, long before they ever spoke an Irish tongue.

I am sure that Patrick knew of this story that we read today in Luke.  It is a passage that contains unique verses that are found only here in the Gospel of Luke.  This story really begins a few verses prior in verse 22. It tells of Jesus traveling, going through one town and village after another, teaching, healing some and making his way to Jerusalem.  Luke is reminding us that Jesus, prophet in that day is making an exodus journey, prophetically teaching along the way, leading God’s people to ultimate deliverance from the bondage of sin.  This is part of the mosaic theme of this particular Gospel.

As Jesus goes about his daily work of healing and deliverance, he is also keenly aware of his destination. There are two senses here. He knows he is headed to Jerusalem and to his death. While Herod (the same ruler who had John the Baptist beheaded) wants to kill Jesus, it is clear that Jesus is in charge of his own timetable. Today and tomorrow Jesus will continue his daily work, and Jesus is the one who will complete that work. It will be completed on the third day. The third day is an allusion to Jesus’ resurrection (Luke 9:22; 18:33; 24:7).

Jesus’ work of healing and deliverance does not end with his crucifixion. No. It is made perfect and complete by his resurrection. Although Jesus is aware that he is traveling towards Jerusalem -- a city with a hostile record towards prophets -- his work will not be undone by death. Rather, it will be completed by resurrection. As we contemplate Jesus’ passion during Lent, let us also remember that Jesus’ death was only one part of the process by which Jesus completes his work of deliverance and healing among his people. Attention to his death should not exclude reflection on his resurrection during this season.

Jesus is headed towards the historic seat of Jewish power where both kings and priests have their home. Prophetic ministry in the face of power is a dangerous activity that jeopardizes the lives of those who would speak the truth of God’s kingdom to the powers that be. Jesus is no exception.

But what is surprising is Jesus’ reaction. He characterizes the city as killing prophets and apostles (“those who are sent,” Luke 13:34), but his response is the compassion of a mother. Jesus longs to gather Jerusalem under his wings (v. 34). Jesus longs to comfort those who would reject him. He envisions Jerusalem as a brood of vulnerable chicks in need of their mother’s protection and longs to offer the same protection, salvation, to the very city where he will die.  

Nancy Rockwell shares,  "Part of the way in which Jesus spreads his wings over us is that in our work we, too, find our courage to stay and face ugly challenges, to let life bite deeply into our flesh and shelter those in our care even while Herod is menacing."
"That Fox," Nancy Rockwell, Bite in the Apple, 2013.

Unfortunately, Jerusalem also has a longing. The city does not want to be gathered under the salvation of Jesus.  They want to be rid of this prophet who threatens their power and way of life.

In this passage, we see three examples of longing. First, the Pharisees report that Herod wants to kill Jesus (v. 31). Next, Jesus tells us that he wanted to gather Jerusalem under his wings (v. 34). Finally, Jerusalem is described as a city that did not want to be gathered (v. 34). During this season of Lent, we might ask ourselves what it is that we long for and desire. Do we want to experience the ministry of Jesus even if it is uncomfortable or challenging? Or, are we tempted to respond with destructive anger (Herod) or perhaps rejection (Jerusalem)? Do we long to be like Jesus, to be able to find compassion for our enemies, even those who want to put us to death? In this world of religious and political violence, what does it mean to long for our enemies to experience Jesus’ compassion even as we ourselves have?

Jerusalem’s refusal to be gathered by Jesus is not without consequences. The city is described as abandoned and unable to see Jesus until the day when they receive “the one who comes in the name of the Lord” (Psalm 118:26).

In this season of Lent, as we contemplate the ministry and passion of Jesus, we must also remember that rejection of his ministry comes with consequences of our own choosing. Jesus’ longing is to have compassion, but his longing must be met by our own longing for salvation, deliverance, and healing.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians reminds us that  "Faith enables us to move out of the essential hopelessness of our world and to step into the 'glorious liberty' that God is bringing to the whole creation through Jesus. It is a different path, a whole new way of life that sees the possibility of new life in every death, sees the light shining in the deepest darkness, and sees hope in the midst of despair."                                 "Crossing Over," Alan Brehm, The Waking Dreamer, 201

+++Faith for the Christian, in Paul's way of thinking, is not a passport - a ticket - into the kingdom of God.  Faith is the indwelling of Christ's spirit in the heart of the believer.  Faith is the growing principle and quality that believers have.  It affects us.  And, it is the faith which grows in us as we continually try and lead a life worthy of Jesus’ gift.

When we hold fast to what has been given by Jesus, we are formed.  Between our faith and our human will, there is a rub and that rub itself is what forms us.  For the Christian it is the work of living this faith that creates our return again and again to God.  

It is as if like a lump of clay being formed by the potter we push against his hands.  It is in this friction that the we as Christians live - between human life lived in a world of human law and then a life lived in the hands of a loving God.  

THIS is the work that we address during this time of Lenten reflection.
Here at St. Andrews, it is this work of living faithfully that binds us into community with others trying to do the same thing.  We are joined together trying to imitate the apostles and Jesus.  Our citizenship is in a heavenly bond of faith, bound by the saving grace of God.    Much like Patrick and his band of followers that moved to Ireland to bring the gospel and share the liberating love of Christ in that land, so we are called to do the same.

In the spirit of bringing life and grace to those outside our walls last Wed, Father Jimmy and your own fellow parishioners offered ashes and hot coffee and a warm breakfast on a chilly 37 degree morning in our parking lot and on the street corner. It was a reminder that need, humility and healing are not to be confined to a church building. They brought grace where it was most needed, in the middle of the daily business of life.

The ashes we received last week are to remind us of our need for God in our lives, and of God’s call to us. God meets us not just in worship, but in the midst of life, giving us courage to live into the authentic self he created us to be.

In the process of being changed day by day—Jesus doesn’t require a perfect heart, only a heart that is willing to be taught, and a will to follow him.  “I do not understand this mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”  (quote from Contemplative Monk.)

So, I invite you to join me this Lent-- to yield your hearts to be molded, made new, to be recreated and infused with His love and grace.  I invite you to shelter under the wings of Almighty God when you are so moved. And when you see someone doing kingdom work well, like Patrick, imitate them.  The world is changed by example, not by opinion.

Patricks word’s echo in this famous hymn, “St Patrick’s Breastplate” written in the 19th century. I encourage you to find it and read all the verses this Lenten season.

Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to guide me, Christ to comfort and restore me;

Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.