The Lament over Jerusalem
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to [Jesus], “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He 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. 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.’ 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! 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.’”
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our strength & our redeemer (Psalm 19:14)
We live in fearful times. Television, print media, and electronic news sources report grim reminders that our world is a dangerous and unpredictable place. Natural disaster, systemic violence, domestic abuse, war, famine, and all manner of atrocities take place each day. Tales of economic and social worries fueled by pundits on both sides of the political fence raise anxiety levels. Finally, marketers incite fear and insecurity to encourage us to spend and buy material possessions which we really do not need and which cannot possibly heal our emotional wounds.
Fear is a perfectly natural emotion designed to help us recognize danger and respond appropriately, but this healthy emotion can turn into an unhealthy or even pathological response that leads to aggressive and inappropriate behaviors.
The antidote to fear is faith. For followers of Christ, faith is much more powerful than fear because, as Paul reminds the church at Philippi, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” Yes, we live in this world, but this world does not have the final say over our lives and ultimate end. We do not, or at least we should not, find our meaning in material cravings, petty excesses, or worldly gain and fame. Because of Jesus Christ and the never-ceasing love and grace of God, we have a future no one can rip away from or deprive us of.
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
It’s hard to trust God…harder than it seems like it ought to be. I mean, after all, this is God we’re talking about, right? The Creator of heaven and earth, the Father of the Lord Jesus, our Savior and our Lord. We use such lofty language in our worship and prayer; yet, when it gets down to the rubber meeting the road, there may still be that little bit of doubt or discomfort. Abram is more than a little worried about God’s promise to make him a father of great nations. He’s getting on up there in terms of age and physical “capacity.” So, he calls God to account for God’s promise. In one of the stranger signs of assurance given in the Bible, Abram receives an indelible remembrance of God’s promise to make good on God’s word. In effect, God says, “May it be to me as it is to these animals if I do not keep my promise to you.” Alrighty, then Abram thinks; guess that’ll do!
In today’s gospel lesson, it is up to Jesus to illustrate what it means when the rubber meets the road. Herod is hot after Jesus’ head; Jesus is being warned by the Pharisees (get the irony?) to get out of town. Flee in fright, or stand and fight?
What will Jesus’ choice be? Neither, of course.
Jesus will mosey on out of town for a time, until it really is time for him to put the nail in the coffin (or the cross, so to speak) of God’s mission. In the meantime, Jesus will do what he apparently did each and every day—trust God with the details and keep his mind on his Father’s business.
In this week’s gospel lesson, Pharisees come to warn Jesus of Herod’s intent to kill him. Motivated by fear, these good people desired to help Jesus, yet the Son of God is focused on his mission and on God’s timetable rather than humankind’s illusion of mastery and control. Even though it may have been difficult for him to bear the rejection of so many beloved people, Jesus is on a mission and will not be deterred by any earthly forces.
So maybe, just maybe, this week we need to address fear head on.
- Maybe they are political or economic, personal financial woes or health concerns.
- Perhaps we are fearful about the state of Christianity–the decline of the Mainline and the rise of that new buzzword demographic the “nones.”
Whatever the issue(s) on the table or lurking elephant in the corner, we can be sure fear is pervasive, as well.
There is good news though in any fear we are faced with. The good news is that we belong to God. We are citizens of various earthly nations, but our real home is found in the reign of God. Best of all, we don’t have to wait for that reign and look for some pie-in-the-sky rapture of this earth and its principalities because the reign of God is happening right now before our eyes. And we are called to be part of ushering in this reign, to put aside our fears, push through the wilderness of fear, and to turn our faces toward whatever Jerusalem lies ahead, and get on with mission and ministry as people of faith and disciples of Christ.
No matter what fears tries to convince us of the truth is that God has loved us all along thew journey, all of us, from the very beginning, from the time of creation, from the time of Noah and the flood, from the time of Abram and Sari and the Promise, from the time of Moses and Miriam and the Exodus, from the time of Deborah and the other judges of Israel, from the time of the kings and queens and from the time of prophets and the writers of the Psalms. God has long loved the world and has long sent us signs and wonders and messages of that love.
- And all too often though, we have failed to understand or respond to that love.
- All too often, we have turned God’s Word of love into a life of hate.
- All too often, we have turned God’s call to repentance into the of pointing fingers and a call to arms.
The sly fox of the world turns us away from that which is good and eternal and pulls us in the direction of those things which satisfy now but do not linger and live with us for an eternity with God.
- If you have ever loved someone you could not protect, then you understand the sadness in Jesus’ voice here.
- If you’ve ever watched someone waste their life away on drugs or booze or bad relationships or chasing after material possessions or honors or notoriety or celebrity, or something.
Something undefined but just around the corner that will, they hope, make them whole and complete and healed, but which is never there; then you know the pain Jesus feels.
For you cannot save them, you cannot make them change, you cannot make anyone give up the things that are ruining them. All you can do is open your arms, you cannot make anyone walk into them. And, it is the most vulnerable posture in the world, arms spread, chest exposed.
It is interesting that this turns out to be the way Jesus died in Jerusalem, arms spread, chest exposed. Jesus was able to face down Herod the fox because he had faith in the God of promise, the God who promises and follows through. Jesus had faith in the God who promised Abram and Sarai that they would have a Son and that they would be the parents of a people who filled the earth.
Jesus was able to go to the cross because he believed the Psalmist when he said, “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?”
In the middle of the night, when the fox is loose in the henhouse of our lives, we grow fearful and often wonder, “Where is God? Will God come?” Jesus is the promise that “Yes! God will come; indeed God has come in Christ.”
Yes, God comes, that is the promise Jesus made and that is the promise Jesus kept upon the cross, where he sheltered us from the devil’s wrath and saved us from ourselves so that we might live forever in God’s love.