Sermon Lent 2C 2019 The Rev. John M. Atkins
Gospel of Luke 13:31-35
31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, “Get
away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 Jesus said to them,
“Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and
performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish
my work. 33 Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my
way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of
Jerusalem.’ 34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets
and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to
gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her
wings, and you were not willing! 35 See, your house is left to you.
And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you
say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
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Jesus expressed a deep passion for God’s people. As God’s prophetic, liberating
voice, he would not keep silent. As an instrument of God’s healing touch, Jesus
would never cease.
Jesus’ face had turned southward toward Jerusalem, the heart of political and
religious authority and abuse, as well as home of the Holy Temple, God’s House of Prayer of all nations.
Jesus began his travels away from his home territory of Galilee only to be
warned of the intentions of the Galilean Tetrarch. Herod Antipas feared Jesus’
passion and was out to silence him, as he silenced John-the-Baptist. But Jesus
wouldn’t be stopped. Jesus’ compassion compelled him to move forward
confident in God’s divine plan for his life.
Herod Antipas was a cowardly, yet cruel puppet for the Roman Empire. He
was much more concerned about keeping and expanding his power than caring
about those he ruled.
It was common knowledge that Herod Antipas was part Samaritan and
considered a Gentile by many Jews. It was also well known the he was given only part of his Father’s territory, after trying to poison his Father, Herod-the-Great.
Herod Antipas wanted nothing to impede his rule.
Jesus told those who were warning him to tell the Jackal that nothing would
prevent him from doing God’s work today and tomorrow, until he fulfilled his
passion, his destiny, on the third day.
Jesus expresses God’s compassion in a beautiful and emotional image of
God as a mother-hen searching to collect and protect her chicks from the perils of the world.
Jesus possessed that divine compassion; his heart aching to bring God’s
people into the embrace of God’s benevolent love and care. As Jesus’ disciples
today, we have been given the responsibility to share God’s deep compassion with the world.
When industrial and financial interests threaten our planet’s environment,
Jesus’ followers are not to keep silent, for this is God’s world created for us to
enjoy and care for, not exploit and ruin for future generations.
Can you believe that the Taylor Oil Rig, destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in
2004, 15 years later, still spills out in the Caribbean up to an estimated 96 barrels of oil each day 15 miles off the Louisiana coast? Does the government or the oil industry care? I’m horrified.
I applaud the students in the US and around the world who skipped out of
classes on Friday to protest the very real world crisis of climate change. The
young will lead – and hopefully set the world right.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, figurehead of the Anglican Communion,
disinvited to the Lambeth Conference of world-wide Bishops the spouses of gay
and lesbian Bishops. Do you really think Jesus would disinvite anyone as his
guest? This situation blows my mind.
Some other Christian denominations welcome all with open doors, open minds
and open hearts, that is, all who believe as they believe and live as they live. But, gays, lesbians, transgendered, immigrants and women seeking ordination need not walk through their doors. Their welcome is extended only to ‘their kind’ of people.
That disconnection from God’s grace must be challenged.
The Archbishop and others who consider themselves Christians need to be
reminded that Jesus’ disciples are never given permission to count anyone unworthy of seeking God. On the contrary. We are at all times to offer God’s welcome and grace.
Whether we like the behaviors of others, agree or disagree with them, or
understand them or not, we, as Jesus’ followers, are responsible to generously and ceaselessly give God’s compassion.
When we hear people speak hatred, listen to reports of acts of violence, and
realize that our society continues to support obstacles to freedom and equality, our divine passion must fight for the sake of God’s beloved, little chicks.
Friday of this past week, again my heart sunk into my stomach. 51 people are
now counted among the dead of innocent Muslims faithfully worshipping God that day in Christ Church, New Zealand.
The continued growth of white supremacy and nationalism, treatment of
immigrants as subhuman, and all attitudes and acts of hatred can never be tolerated. Whether national authorities choose or refuse to speak out about heinous attitudes and actions, Jesus’ followers must speak.
Blatant injustice by wealthy parents buying their children’s way into college is
finally being exposed for what it is, unacceptable privilege at the expense of those more qualified and deserving.
Fear of speaking God’s compassion for the marginalized, abuse and oppressed
cannot paralyze us. Fear of harm, fear of being called a radical and fear of being
ostracized by friends conforming to a society preferring not to speak of such
unpleasantness must no longer prevent us from being prophetic voices and divine channels of God’s immeasurable compassion.
There’s a lot of work to be done in this world. It sounds overwhelming, yet the
good news is Jesus gave us his examples and the tools necessary for accomplishing God’s purpose for humanity.
As followers of Jesus, we are given God’s Holy Spirit for empowering us
with confidence in sharing the gifts of God’s boundless welcome, love, grace and compassion. We must put these gifts entrusted to us into action.
On this St. Patrick’s Day, I’m reminded of a man of God with deep compassion.
Patrick was born in 385 AD in Roman occupied Britannia. St. Patrick’s
Confession opens with these lines:
My name is Patrick. I am a sinner,
a simple country person, and the least of all believers. I am looked down
upon by many. My father was Calpornius. He was a deacon; his father was
Potitus, a priest… I was taken prisoner…about (age)sixteen…
Patrick was captured by pirates who sold him into slavery long the coast of
Ireland. He sold as a farmer and shepherd.
For six years Patrick served a family as their farm slave. They treated him well,
however, Patrick longed for home. Patrick escaped after 6 years.
During his time in captivity his Christian faith became important to him. When
finally back in Britannia, Patrick studied to become priest.
He had a burning compassion for his captors. Patrick wanted to go back to
Ireland to introduce the Irish people to the Christian God revealed in Jesus.
Finally, Patrick was ordained a Bishop and allowed to go on a mission to pagan
Ireland. He spent most of his adult life in Ireland preaching and teaching Christianity, never fearing for his life. Patrick was confident in his purpose of sharing God’s immense grace, compassion and love for all.
Today, while others celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in ways that would be repulsive
to and unappreciated by Patrick, let us celebrate Saint Patrick as an indelible example of a man who allowed God’s compassion to burn within him and fearlessly flow through him.
May we as followers of Jesus accept our responsibility, like Patrick, as
bearers of God’s limitless love, grace and compassion. Be creative and discover
how God is calling you to share these much needed divine gifts.