Preached on the Second Sunday of Lent at St. Matthew & St. Timothy, New York
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35
“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!”
Oh, how Jesus laments for God’s chosen people. He cries out in both frustration and love. Ah! Jerusalem! I love you! I want to care for you! But you make it so hard!
For several weeks now, Mother Carla has been asking us to consider where we picture ourselves years from now—what we will be doing, who we will be with, how we will be spending our time and our talents…and then to consider where Jesus desires us to be. Is it the same place? Do my desires for myself and God’s desires for me coincide? Or is there tension between how I want to spend my time and how God might be calling me to spend my time.
Is Jesus calling out my name in frustration and love? Is he calling out yours?
I have a confession to make. I am a very stubborn person. And I’m also someone who worries about what others think of me. I want to be liked, to earn the approval of others. Several years ago, I was living in Benin, West Africa as a missionary. I had intended to live there two years, but it soon became clear that I just couldn’t cut it. I had to go home.
And with that realization came the fear of how others would perceive my decision. Would they think I was weak? A quitter? A wimp? Would they think my faith wasn’t strong enough? At some point, I knew in my heart that going home was the right thing to do, that God would care for me despite the many unknowns, and who cares what people think?
After figuring out this whole—you’re going to be ok, God will care for you, don’t worry about what others think—revelation, I got a little perturbed with God. I said to God, “Really? Did you have to bring me all the way to Africa to figure this out?” And in my heart, I could hear God’s response plain as day: “Yes, Lauren, you’re just that stubborn.”
It’s true. I’m stubborn. And sometimes God has to go to great lengths to teach me something.
Like Jerusalem, we are God’s people. During baptism we are “marked and sealed as Christ’s own forever.” We use Christ’s name to identify ourselves as Christians. And Like Jerusalem, we too can cause God to call out in lament and frustration.
Are you familiar with the term “face-palm?” It’s when one smacks their palm to their forehead—like so:
Here are some Jesus face-palm moments I can imagine:
When Westboro Baptist Church holds up signs reading, “God hates Gays” at the funeral of a fallen soldier. Face-palm.
When a priest apologizes for participating in an interfaith memorial service for the children of Newtown. Face-palm.
When a church tries to cover up clergy pedophilia. Face-palm.
When I am too self-absorbed to make eye contact with the homeless man sitting outside the seminary gate.
When I gossip about a peer because it makes me feel more secure.
When I ignore a call from a friend or family member because I’ve got more important things to do.
Face-palm, face-palm, face-palm.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem! Christians, Christians! You! Me! Us!
And even in his exasperation, Jesus longs to care for us. “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.” It’s as if he’s shouting, “HEY! Let me love you!”
Gosh, we can be stubborn. The good news is: Jesus is stubborn too.
Jesus is traveling in much of Luke’s Gospel. From chapter 9 to chapter 19, Jesus is making his way from the region of Galilee to the city of Jerusalem. I imagine it takes him as long as it does because he is so busy healing people. When the Pharisees tell Jesus he needs to get a move on because Herod is coming to kill him, Jesus says, “Tell that fox I’m busy healing people and casting out demons!” And then he reminds us that he’s on a journey to Jerusalem. Jesus knows what to expect in Jerusalem. He knows he’s journeying toward death. But dying is just as much a part of Jesus’ ministry as healing people and casting out demons. Indeed dying is integral to Jesus’ ministry—he’s got to die if he’s going to conquer death. And so he keeps journeying, keeps healing, keeps fighting evil despite Herod’s threats and Jesus’ impending death. This is a stubborn Jesus.
Here’s why I’m talking about stubbornness and journeying. Because we too are on a journey to Jerusalem. And we too know what to expect—a dying savior. During this season of Lent we think about the sacrifice Christ made in love for us—He stretched out his arms of love on the hard wood of the cross. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.”
We are preparing ourselves to accept God’s love for us. We are preparing ourselves for the life that Love calls us to lead. We are on a journey.
And this preparation, it takes time. Habits are hard to break and make. 30 days remain in Lent. Is God calling out to you? Do you hear frustration? Do you hear love? Perhaps both?
What will it take for us to let God’s love rule our lives. What will it take for us to live risky, messy, Christ-like lives. What will it take for me to align my plans with God’s plans as Mother Carla has challenged us to imagine. You may be stubborn like me. But Jesus is stubborn too. And we’ve still got 30 days.
Lets make them count. Amen.