Meditation on Luke 13: 31-35
Second Sunday in Lent
Pastor Karen Crawford
March 13, 2022
Link to a recording of our live-streamed service: https://www.facebook.com/100000229089156/videos/514925946927120/
I almost didn’t have a message to share with you this morning. Almost. You see, I met a little boy named Graham at the reception following the celebration of life for Louise Mickelson here yesterday. Graham shared his Legos with me, told me how much he loves THIS church, and how he goes to school in a CHURCH (it’s preschool).
And he shared his Ritz Bits peanut butter crackers with me.
I told him how there’s a lady in our church who dips Ritz Bits peanut butter crackers in chocolate—making delicious candy out of them. His eyes grew wide as he popped another cracker in his mouth and asked me if I wanted some more.
“Thank you,” I said, and helped myself.
“Maybe you want to come back later,” Graham said, taking in the room with a wave of his hand, “and have another one.”
I promised I would—after I visited with other family members at the reception. And I did. But eventually, the time came to say goodbye.
I kneeled down, looked into his eyes, and said, “It’s been wonderful meeting you and your family, Graham. I gotta go now.”
“Why?” he said. I had to think for a minute how to answer. Not just because a 4-year-old didn’t need to know that I was going to write a sermon, but because what he was really saying was that he didn’t want me to go.
I didn’t want to go, either.
Finally, I said, “I have to work. But stay and play as long as you want. Come back and visit, any time. And if you need anything at all, just ask for Karen.”
As I said my goodbyes to the family, they thanked me for being generous with my time with them. It was my pleasure, I assured them. As I packed up my things, I thought about what Jesus would do. Remember that saying from years back? People used to have bracelets with WWJD? I know that he would hang out with the family and eat and drink. They always accused him of eating and drinking with sinners too much! He would visit with the children—remember how angry he got with his disciples when they tried to keep the children away from him? And that he would be present with those grieving the loss of their loved one, just as Jesus is and has always been present with us and wants to comfort us when we are hurting in mind, body or spirit.
The Son of Man, who held children in his lap and touched sick people to heal them, wouldn’t be worrying if he had left himself enough time to compose his Sermon on the Mount.
In today’s gospel lesson in the 13th chapter of Luke, we have the familiar, homey images from his world that Jesus often uses to communicate his messages. We have Herod the fox, Jesus as the hen with her brood of chicks—the children of God—and the Holy City of Jerusalem, which he calls a house.
This Herod is Antipas, whose father was Herod the Great. I promise there won’t be a quiz on this at the end of the service. Did you know there are 6 different Herods in the Bible? And all of them, according to a Bible scholar named James Howell, are “pretty much the same guy: a petty tyrant with a touch of megalomania, paranoid, callous, in cahoots with the Romans, religious but in a conniving way, rich and often cruel.”
As I am reading about Antipas, I can’t help but think of a ruler in this world right now who could be described in similar terms. We watch with horror and helplessness the daily scenes of war on cable news.
I do a doubletake when I read how the Pharisees tell Jesus, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” Why would the Pharisees, who are often cast as enemies of Jesus, be concerned about his well-being and warn him to get away? And then I think, “Oh.” For the mere presence of Jesus, a grave threat to Herod’s rule because of his popularity with the people and his power to heal, would put the Pharisees in danger, if they appear to be associating with him.
The Pharisees are really saying, “Get out of here before you get us all killed!”
I marvel at how Jesus responds to a real threat of danger from this puppet king of the empire. He is saying, essentially, “Don’t bother me. Don’t WASTE my time! I’m busy doing what God has sent me to do.” Beginning at verse 32, Jesus says, “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.’”
What is he talking about with the third day? Yes, he is foreshadowing his resurrection from the dead—when the work of our salvation is complete.
He goes on, “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.’”
It isn’t impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem—but he is referring to himself and his own fate. He knows what is to come, and where it will and won’t take place.
He isn’t angry. He isn’t afraid. And he isn’t playing it safe, looking out for number one—like the Pharisees are. He is focused on what he came to do—heal the sick and cast out demons—put evil in its place.
He is filled with sorrow for Jerusalem—for the corruption and greed of its religious leaders, who are also wealthy puppets of the empire. The Holy City has become, in the words of Jesus, “the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!”
He speaks the name of the city three times in a row, showing increasing emotion for the city that will reject him. Jerusalem. Jerusalem, Jerusalem. “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
With Jesus comparing himself to a bird longing to protect her young, he echoes the psalmist’s description of the Lord God’s love for His children in 91:4: “Like a bird protecting its young, God will cover you with His feathers, will protect you under His great wings; His faithfulness will form a shield around you, a rock-solid wall to protect you.”
“See, your house is left to you,” Jesus continues in his lament for the beloved city. He speaks of his final entry into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey, a passage that we read on Palm Sunday, and will read in a few weeks, when he says, “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.’”
Friends, as we continue our Lenten journey to the cross, I am reminded of my Ash Wednesday message on the importance of our taking time to grow in friendship with God and one another. Taking time to grow in friendship. The two funerals this week—one in New York for Jim’s sister, Mary, and the other here for Louise Mickelson—also remind me of one of the most valuable things we have in our life to use for God’s glory—and that’s our time!
And I have to say this one thing about you. I am so proud of my church! I am so proud of you! Yesterday, a number of you came to the calling hours and service for Louise. The family was moved to tears that the church remembered Bob and Louise—and came to show their love.
Today, on this Second Sunday in Lent, I am stirred to encourage you to be intentional about how you spend your time for the remainder of this holy season. Make plans, but be open to the Spirit to change your plans to fulfill God’s will for your life.
Remember to make the most of these days—seeking to grow in faith, hope, and love.
The time I spent with Louise’s family yesterday, including little Graham and his Ritz Bits at the reception, were as important and healing for the family and me as anything else I could have been doing.
I invite you to follow the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who did what God sent him to do, without fear of the tyrant, Herod Antipas. He came to heal the sick, cast out demons. And on the third day, his work for our salvation was done.
Let us imitate Christ in his lament for the things that break God’s heart—for the cruel tyrants in the ancient world and in our world today. Dear friends, lean into the sadness, outrage, and compassion that God has placed in your heart. Pray for peace, protection, and rescue for the ones whom God so loves, especially the women and children in harm’s way.
Our gathering prayer from yesterday’s celebration of life is my new prayer for us in this Holy Season. May we live courageously as we seek to serve God with all of ourselves and more of our time. May we live as the people of eternity, not just concerned with the things of this world. May we be the people of resurrection, who know that death doesn’t have the final word.
This is the God who longs to draw us to himself in a loving embrace, protecting us from harm.
As a hen gathers her brood under her wings.
Let us pray.
O God, who gave us birth, you are ever more ready to hear than we are to pray. You know our needs before we ask, and our ignorance in asking. Show us now your grace, that as we face the mystery of death we may see the light of eternity. Speak to us once more your solemn message of life and of death. Help us to live as those who are prepared to die. And when our days here are ended, enable us to die as those who go forth to live, so that living or dying, our life may be in Jesus Christ our risen Lord. Amen.