Sermon – 03-17-19 – Lent II – Cycle C
Scriptures – Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35
Sermon Title – “Those Holy Wings”
Jesus must proceed into Jerusalem. That is where the prophets are killed, so it says in Luke 13:33. We know that Jesus seems like a prophet to the people of the Holy Land. But we know that Jesus was and is so much more. Jesus is our Savior.
Other prophets of God did what they were told and then their lives were ended, often in the city of Jerusalem, and they were taken to heaven one way or another to be regular dwellers of heaven.
But this death that is drawing near is super important to The Plan of God. Jesus knows the importance. He must continue, one foot after the other, one teaching and healing after the other, all leading to Jerusalem. But not too soon. The time must be just right.
So here is Jesus, standing at a spot elevated from Jerusalem. The Pharisees come to him and direct Jesus to leave the area so he does not get killed by the Herod who is in power at that time. It is Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great. At first glance, it seems that the Pharisees want to protect Jesus, which is odd because Jesus was always berating them. The first impression is not accurate. The Pharisees just wanted to get Jesus away from the area.
Next, Jesus replies that Herod Antipas is a “fox.” Foxes have a reputation of being tricky. Jesus is not going to be rushed anywhere. He has work to do and a deadline in which to get it done. Jesus has an unusual way of explaining the timing. He is saying, “today and tomorrow and on the third day I must be on my way.” Doesn’t that sound like Good Friday to Easter Sunday? But according to a reference book I used, that was a common expression – “today and tomorrow” could mean an indefinite time.
When he is alone at that spot, Jesus laments as he addresses the city, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” he says. “You stoned the prophets.” “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Jesus continues talking to the city, “Your house is desolate,” or Your house is left to you,” or “Your temple will be deserted,” depending which version of the Bible we are using. Actually, the temple was destroyed around 70 AD. by the Romans.
Then Jesus says, “You will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’” And we say, “Yes, that is Palm Sunday when Jesus rides into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey with the demeanor of humility.” It fits. However, the reference sources I studied took me to later times after Jesus had ascended in his return to the Father. This reading from Philippians 2 reminds us of the “humility” aspect and the “blessed” aspect.
I quote from the Contemporary English Version of the Bible. Paul writes, “Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God (the Father). He gave up everything and became a slave, like one of us. Christ was humble. He obeyed God (the Father) and even died on a cross. Then God (the Father) gave Christ the highest place and honored his name above all others. So at the name of Jesus everyone will bow down, those in heaven, on earth. And to the glory of God the Father everyone will openly agree, “Jesus Christ is Lord!”
As Jesus stands above Jerusalem, he knows his ultimate place as God the Son. He knows that once people accept the salvation of the cross, we will want to bow down before this humble person and declare to the world that Jesus is great; that Jesus is Lord.
He knows that, but he feels this intense sorrow and pity for Jerusalem because it does not seem that the people who walk and talk and exist in that city are going to be the ones to bow down before our Jesus. He wants to take them under his wing and pass his love to them to transform them, to offer them this freedom called salvation.
It is often not an easy freedom. The prophets before Jesus were usually killed. The prophets who came after Jesus were often killed. Think of contemporary missionaries who are killed in their line of work. Oh my! We do need the wings of a loving mother hen where we can feel safe and be renewed.
How about Abram and Paul? Did they feel the comfort and protection of a mother hen’s soft but strong wings? Or did they wish they might feel this mothering? Abram is still waiting for a legitimate heir. God seems to keep dangling this carrot in front of Abram. Now God is demanding that Abram bring specific sacrifices to him in a certain way, leading to the forming of a covenant between Abram and God. This is the section of their on-going dialogue where God takes Abram out to view the bountiful stars in the sky. This is how many children Abram and Sarai will have. Did Abram and Sarai feel any soft wings assuring them that this promise will be fulfilled?
Then we have Paul, writing after Jesus returned to God the Father. Paul started his adult life hurting Christians. Now Paul is suffering greatly himself as he is spreading Christianity. Would his writings have been less full of pain had he been offered some soft wings under which to crawl like a warm, living, protecting, electric blanket? Paul is sharing with the church in Philippi that no matter what happens to us on earth, our citizenship on earth is only temporary. We shall do what we can here and now to make it a better place but really our goal is heaven where we will really settle in; where we will really belong; where our loved ones are already settled in under those soft, downy, full-of-love wings. We can imagine them now.
While we are here, we are charged with making things better. In two weeks we will be invited to give generously to the “One Great Hour of Sharing” offering which is a nation-wide effort to make a comforting impact with the people of this world who are suffering as we speak. This year the theme is “More Than We Can Imagine.” You have received a brochure in your bulletin this morning. Our dollars could be the supporting, comforting wings that will be instrumental in transforming someone’s life.
Our mission trip team is using their carpenter and painting tools as soft, downy wings to change a run-down dwelling into a sturdy place to dwell. They will return with aching bodies but blessed spirits. We thank God for these ambassadors from our flock. May we find our own mission fields around us and serve as God’s protective and transforming wings.