Under God's Wings - March 13, 2022

Luke 13:31-35, Psalm 27To view, this service you can follow the link to our Facebook page: Worship Service for Sunday, March 13.

Of the three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the stories of Jesus’ life and the recording of his teachings weave in and out. Some stories are in all three gospels, others are only in 2 and just a few are only in one of the three. This year, in the lectionary, the gospel we read from is Luke. And of the three gospel accounts, Luke does something fairly unique.

The journey to Jerusalem as he moves toward the final conflict, betrayal, and his death begins in Luke 9:51 and continues until 19:28b. Ten

chapters between:

9:51b . . . Jesus resolutely sets out for Jerusalem.

19:28b . . . he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. (Leading into the story we call Palm Sunday.)

He was in and out of Jerusalem and the area in the 10 chapters, but the journey intentionally started and ended in the city where he would meet the opposition of the Pharisees and Sadducees as well as the Roman empire. Time and time again his followers tried to convince him not to head toward or into Jerusalem, but Jesus was determined.

And time and again the Pharisees and Sadducees warned Jesus to stop what he was doing and get out of the region.

No matter what danger might lie ahead, Jesus was determined to head toward Jerusalem and remain in and around there for the rest of his ministry. He was not going to stop or be stopped.

Think back a few moments with me to the prayer of confession. The words come from a prose/poem written for the “Full to the Brim” series based on the gospel reading for today. These are the words of Jesus, not our words.

“I will keep on.”
I will keep on healing.
I will keep on teaching.
I will keep on preaching.
I will keep on flipping the tables of injustice.
I will keep on treating every person like a child of God.
I will keep on believing that this world can change.
I will keep on and keep on

and keep on

until God’s promised day.

It is not until the last line of the confession that the words become ours:
Forgive us, God, for the times when we stop.

Determined until the end to live his life and to change the way others would live. That is how Jesus lived his last months and days. The gospel for today says in Luke 13:31-33:

“31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”

32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

Yet I think there is an inherent danger in the way we as Christians view these types of stories about Jesus. Sometimes it is tempting to remove his humanity from his divinity and make him less human and more divine. If we take seriously the humanity of Jesus we must try to believe that all of the emotions that we experience as humans were also available to Jesus: happiness, sadness, anger, joy, even fear. Certainly, it was not bravado that carried Jesus forward -- rather an understanding of how God meets us in our times of fear.

One reason I preach a lot from the Old Testament is that that is the law Jesus knew, the covenant with God and with others. Those are the stories that Jesus knew. They are the teachings he heard in the synagogue and the temple and they are the stories that were told around the campfires and the dinner tables.

The teachings of Jesus often reveal an understanding of the Torah, the Prophets, and the Psalms. The Psalm for today is Psalm 27 and it speaks about fear and about God.

Psalm 27 (NIV)

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When the wicked advance against me
to devour[a] me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
3 Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.
4 One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.
6 Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the Lord.
7 Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
be merciful to me and answer me.
8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, I will seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
God my Savior.
10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, Lord;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
spouting malicious accusations.
13 I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

These are in many ways fear-filled times. Can you imagine living in Ukraine? Can you imagine being promised that civilians would be safe only to find shelling and gunshots all around you in a period of ceasefire for evacuation of the city?

Can you imagine watching rent and gas costs rising without a matching pay increase? The shelf that was 95% empty the other day in Rosaurers was the Ramen noodle shelf – the noodles with high sodium content and almost no protein. But they are affordable.

Everyone has lived through these kinds of tough times, these fearful times before. But not at the end of a tiresome, at times frightening pandemic. No one expected things to become globally so desperate when the threads we are clinging to were already frayed.

God is our stronghold. Our defense. God does not let us down or disappointment. If we knew and understood the psalms the same way Jesus did, as companion words on our journeys, we will find the assurance of a God who cares.

The gospel text pairs well with this imagery of God. I read the first part earlier. Verse 34 of Chapter 13 says:

34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.

Now I admit that I know very little about chickens. I went to the coop once with my great-grandfather when I was probably four and I got pecked over and over. So, I rely on the wisdom of others.

Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopal Priest tells a story about the chickens and hens in her coop. (Christian Century, March 13, 2022)

She had an orphaned chick that needed a mother. She took a Silkie hen and placed it just outside of the cage with the chick to let them get acquainted. After a bit, she placed the hen in with the chick but she herself stayed close in case the hen started to peck at the chick. Barbara said both the hen and the chick froze in place as they sized each other up. The baby cheeped and the hen did nothing. Not a feather moved. The chick took a few steps forward, stopped, and cheeped again. Not a feather moved on the hen. A few more steps from the chick and a few more cheeps and the hen gentle raised her wings and the chick quickly entered then protection of those wings. It was a match made in heaven.

Isn’t it just like Jesus to use the image of a mother hen and a baby chick?

“I wanted so often for you to come close to me so that I could gather you up under my wings. But you, Jerusalem, you were not willing to take that step.”

In this season of Lent where we are talking about God’s extravagant grace and love, God sees the situation of today. God knows the pain of war and homelessness. God knows that people lack food. God knows our pain, the remaining isolation, and separation in these hopefully last days of the pandemic.

All along God has been calling out to us. To respond to God’s love. To receive God’s grace and to extend it to others. What is holding us back? Are we waiting for the perfect day, the perfect worship service? Or are we afraid of fear? The psalmist said:

13 I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.