Our Hope Is With Jesus: Lent 2

Our Hope Is With Jesus: Lent 2

SEcond Sunday in Lent: March 17, 2019

Year C, Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18;  Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35

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On this second Sunday in Lent, we hear in our gospel about Christ’s journey to Jerusalem is about as far apart in terms of time as you can get at least in the Gospel of Luke. We’ve jumped more than nine chapters in the Gospel of Luke, taking us from the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry to near the end of his public ministry.

Previous to our passage in Luke, Jesus told his disciples three times that he must travel to Jerusalem where he would stand trial by the religious leaders and be sentenced to death.  Today, we read that Jesus is going to Jerusalem, the “city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it.”[1]

The irony is heavy here. Jerusalem, after all, is “the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes as his habitation to put his name there.”[2] That the city of God’s habitation becomes the seat of such violent opposition to God is part of the ironic tragedy of Israel’s story, including Jesus’ story.

Our passage begins with, “At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”  Pharisees?  We usually associate Pharisees with plotting against Jesus, with wanting to kill Jesus, or at very least wanting Jesus to just go away. But, we know from Gospel accounts that Jesus shared meals with and instructed some of the Pharisees, the ones who were receptive to his teachings. These are the Pharisees who were warning Jesus that Herod wanted to kill him.

They were right, Herod did want to kill Jesus, but Jesus was not concerned about this threat when, “He said to them, ‘Go out and tell that fox for me.” So, Jesus called Herod a fox.  In today’s usage, calling someone a fox implies that he or she is sly, cunning and kind of cool. In Jesus’ day calling a person a fox was a great insult, meaning that he or she was destructive and at the same time worthless, insignificant and ineffective. Therefore, by calling Herod a fox Jesus was saying that he is incapable of harming him. And Jesus underscores that by saying “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow and on the third day I finish my work.”[3]

Neither Herod nor the Pharisees will keep Jesus from doing his work. Jesus will not let up in casting out demons, curing the sick and teaching right up to his death in Jerusalem.

Jesus further reveals why he is unconcerned about his safety on that time and place by saying, “it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.”  Jesus, as God’s obedient son, knows that his death will not happen anywhere other than in Jerusalem.

In linking his fate with the prophets, Jesus laments, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets.”  Since the Temple, the center of the Jewish world was located in Jerusalem, it was the ultimate destination for a prophet to have the greatest influence.  Being a prophet was dangerous.  In speaking in behalf of God’s will they had to criticize the policies of kings and religious rulers who had gone astray.  As a result, many of them were accused of being traitors.  In addition, prophets were not popular with non-ruling or secular people of wealth because of prophets’ preaching against their idolatrous lifestyles and their lack of justice and mercy to the poor.

Further, we read Jerusalem, “stones those who are sent to it.”  Stoning was the traditional method of execution by the Jews.  Unfortunately, this would continue.  Shortly after Jesus’ time on earth, Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was stoned to death, in Jerusalem.

We know that Jesus was born fully human and fully divine.  He revealed as much of God’s nature to us that we could understand.  Jesus taught us how to live in this world and with each other.

Many of us understand Jesus as the only perfect person in history, thus making him the model for all of us to follow.

Each of us has God-given missions, unique to the time and place when and where we were born and as to the talents bestowed upon us. It is up to each of us through prayer to ascertain what they are and to expend all of our efforts in their fulfillment. Like Jesus, they could be multifaceted and can change over time. Jesus, while on earth was a teacher, a healer, an exorcist, a preacher, an interpreter of the law, a friend and a leader. 

At different times in our lives, we may be called upon, to act our different roles, but it is up to us to fulfill them to the best of our abilities. Sometimes because of resistance, such as discrimination and hatred, people act in ways completely anathema to Jesus Christ and the world.

How many of us are willing to do what God calls us to do? Isn’t it true that we often reinterpret the will of God so that it fits more comfortably with our own nature to avoid confrontation? We, not unlike the Pharisees, squirm at the very thought of facing opposition or rejection. So, we define for ourselves a notion of faithfulness that will not seriously put us at odds with the mainstream of our cultures.

Jesus expects better of us.

Today, I grieve, I hope we all grieve, for the victims of a white supremacist terror attack on the Muslim community in Christchurch, New Zealand and, by extension, the Muslim community I have come to know in a variety of places.

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

White supremacy is terrorism. It must be fully understood and resisted in our world and in our churches. We must resist violence and intentionally build communities where alienation, extremism, and hatred have no room to grow.

Anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-Christian and racist terrorist acts must never be accepted as normal. Those who follow in the way of Jesus Christ must pray and organize compassionately to resist the scourge of racism and violence, doing our part to be light in the darkness.

Why? Because God not only inspires us, assures us, and loves us. God also nurtures and protects us like a mother hen.

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to suffer and die for us, to pay a ransom for our sins and to conquer death with the strength and determination of his love.

It is Lent and in Lent, we are invited to focus on the meaning of Jesus’ life and death on the role we play in Christ’s continued mission.

I invite you to focus on how our lives are filled with the love and blessing of God, and how we can live into God’s love. The psalm today is a psalm of hope: “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom then shall I fear?” Our hope is with Jesus, who takes us with him, healing the sick, casting out demons and winding his way toward Jerusalem, standing against racism and hatred in any form.

[1] Luke 13:34, New Revised Standard Version (“NRSV”)

[2] Deuteronomy 12:5

[3] Luke 13:32


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