3/17/2019 Second Sunday in Lent The text is Luke 13:31-35.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The pain of imminent suffering…the gut-wrenching agony of rejection…the shuttering of death – these come together with the words of a lament, a mourning cry, to the holy city – “Jerusalem, Jerusalem.” The prophets, those sent to this holy city – these are the ones who are killed, stoned to death, by those who will not or cannot accept the word of God and the call to faithful living. Yet, the emotion-packed words of Jesus as he cries, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” are not tearful words over what will happen to him. In this lament, Jesus cries for the people. He cries over us, like a parent grieving for a child who tosses life away or throws love back in the parent’s face. God grieves, for we fail to come to him when he calls. We do not seek the safety of God, nor do we sense the peril of our unresponsiveness. So, God grieves. He cries over what we could have been. He cries over what we have rejected, knowing that we are like lost chicks in a den of hungry fox.
As a hen gathering her chicks, Jesus wishes to gather the children of Jerusalem under his protective wings. If you have ever watched a chicken expend all its energy to fly up to its roost, then you know that a chicken’s wings are useless in flight. But a mother hen’s wings serve a very practical and important function. For, whenever danger approaches, either from an overhead hawk or a menacing noise from the brush, the mother hen clucks, spreads her wings and her chicks run under them for cover. She is willing to sacrifice her own life to protect her offspring.
A cute little riddle from the Canadian Sunday School Mission sums this up nicely:
There’s a queer little house that stands in the sun.
When the mother calls, the children all run,
And under the roof it is cozy and warm,
Though the cold winds may whistle and bluster and storm.
This queer little house has no windows or doors.
The roof has no chimney, the rooms have no floors.
No fireplace, no furnace, no stove can you see.
Yet the children are cozy and warm as can be.
A place that is cozy and warm, a place that is safe and secure, that is what Jesus wants us to have all the days of our lives. Jesus laments because he wishes to protect and provide and care for us, and yet he knows that we will not allow him to do so. We are simply too independent, too proud, too self-reliant to keep our ears turned in the direction of God’s word so that we can respond to its warning instantly and run to Jesus.
This behavior and the lack of response had been a major issue for Jerusalem for years. Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish world, was a city filled with independent, proud, self-reliant people. Within its city limits were the most devoted and rigorous followers, the best teachers, the most learned leaders. The temple, the focal point of all faithful Jews, was in Jerusalem. And, within Jerusalem, the people were so convinced that they were right and on target, that they could not hear or accept a call to repent, a call to return to the center which is God. They could not accept the idea that they had, perhaps, placed faith in themselves and what they could do and what they had accomplished rather than in the One in whom they professed faith.
And now, Jesus is heading to that city. Jesus is heading to Jerusalem, where he will become one more messenger, one more prophetic voice, speaking the truth to people with deaf ears, who want to be left alone under a veil of self-righteousness. So, Jesus laments. He cries over the choices that will be made by a stiff-necked people who will kill one more messenger and ignore God’s great gifts of life and salvation.
God’s choice is clear in Jesus Christ. God chooses to save. And yet, the people do not flock to him. God’s choice for us is clear in Jesus Christ. God chooses to save. And yet, people stay away. The churches should be bursting at the seams rather than closing doors as people flock to them in order to rejoice in the gift of God’s grace. But this doesn’t happen as the message falls on deaf ears and the messenger is ignored. So, Jesus’ lament is not confined to an ancient people. Jesus grieves for us.
Jesus grieves even though we are basically good people who are doing the best we feel that we can. We may want to believe that the best that we can is good enough for God. After all, God loves us just as we are – warts and all. But our best isn’t good enough if we have patted ourselves on the back and left God out of the picture. A life without God at the center is a life out of focus. And being a member of a church is not going to do much for you if that membership is little more than a piece of paper.
There are many today who are convinced that they and they alone are right. There are few nations, few cities, few people, willing to admit the fact that the world’s self-righteous ways just don’t cut it and we need a care-taking God who will gather us under his wings, forgive us our wrongs and place us on the right track once again. Instead of repenting and turning back to God, we, who are obsessed with economic growth and the ability to purchase our hearts’ desire, want to be left alone. We don’t want to hear the truth of God’s word which calls us to change. So, like the people of Jerusalem, we try to block out God’s call and by so doing we kill ourselves in a blind search for security in all the wrong places. This is not God’s will. God’s choice in Jesus is clear – God chooses to save. So, God wants us to come to him and find a place of peace and security under the shadow of the cross.
Whenever we are not willing to listen to God’s call to come to him, Jesus laments. Whenever we scatter as baby chicks leaving their mother’s side when they feel safe and confident on their own, Jesus laments. Jesus laments, because Jesus wants us all to be saved from the danger of our ways. Jesus cried over “Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” and Jesus cried over us who wander off, away from his protective care. He cries over us who ignore the message and in so doing, estrange ourselves from our Lord and our God.
So, today, we have a choice. God has chosen to offer us safety and life under his wings. We can choose to live in that safety and accept what he offers us, or we can choose to wander off and do our own thing. God’s choice is clear. God wants us to find life in him. May our choice be just as clear. And may the peace to God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.