Posted on Mar 17, 2019 by Pastor Dave Whetter
Last week I spoke about how we ought to love who we are. After all, we are children of God. We are created in God’s image and we are those God has commanded to care for and nurture all of God’s creation. So if we are to love who we are, it only makes sense to me that we ought to also love what we do. That is, if we love who we are and the gifts God has given each of us individually, and communally, then we ought to find joy and comfort in doing what God has called us to do and we ought to stay focused on doing that.
So what does our text have to say about this today? First of all, we have to figure out again where are we in the story. Well, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem; back in Chapter 9, Luke said, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). Jesus was now ready to head to Jerusalem, where he would be arrested, where he would be persecuted, where he would be sentenced to death, and where he would die. It was time for him to be taken up. In other words, he was about done with his work and it was about time for him to fulfill what he and Moses and Elijah spoke about on that mountain that we read about on Transfiguration Sunday, which was shortly before what we read about today. “They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem” (9:31). Elijah and Moses apparently were talking with Jesus about what was about to happen, and shortly after that, Jesus sets his face to Jerusalem, for he knows that his departure, or exodus, which is what the literal translation of “departure” means, is near.
So knowing he must now head to Jerusalem, he is set on getting there; nothing will stop him. I know that feeling. As I have shared with you before, Jill and I love to take road trips. We both love the long drives, the viewing of the beautiful landscape, taking our time and enjoying everything around us, but there are times when we are on trips that we have plans, we need to be somewhere by a certain time, and then all I want to do is get there. I know just how long I can stop for gas, or a meal, or a bathroom break, and I don’t want anything to get in my way. Jill will see signs for antique stores or local sites and she will want to stop, and if I’m driving I do everything I can to not stop. After all, I have a mission; I know where we need to be and I want to get there.
That is how Jesus is acting in our story today. Shortly before our story began, he came to the realization that he was about done with his work, which meant it was about time his departure, or exodus, and so he sets his face to Jerusalem and he will do whatever it takes to get there. Luke tells us that while heading to Jerusalem he “went through one town and village after another, teaching…” (13:22). And it is while on this portion of his trip to Jerusalem that some of the Pharisees and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you” (13:31).
Although in many stories on the Gospels, the Pharisees seem to be out to get Jesus, here they seem to want to protect him. They warn him that Herod is after him, and if Herod finds him, just like he did to John the Baptist, Herod will kill you. Now, let’s be honest here, if you were working on something or trying to get something done and someone came to you and said, look, you need to get out of here, it isn’t safe for you, I think most of us would thank them for the warning and then get the heck out of there. But Jesus does no such thing, and instead he 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' ” (13:32). What does that mean? What on earth is he talking about?
Well, as people of the Resurrection, we hear in this response the foreshadowing of his persecution, death, and resurrection, right? On the third day, all will be done and he will rise from the dead. We know this story and we will spend time dwelling in this during Holy Week, but for those hearing it for the first time, they didn’t fully understand it, but I do think they got the meaning that he intended. What Jesus was literally saying is, I can’t worry about what some earthly king wants to do. No, I have only one King, God, and he has given me work to do, and I must stay focused on that work, and when I have completed it, then, and only then, will I stop.
As we learned last week, Jesus knew who he was, the Son of God, and he accepted it, and now today we hear him saying, I do what my Father has called me to do and I love doing it, so you, nor Herod, will stop me. I believe with all my heart, Jesus loved bringing good news to the poor. Jesus loved healing the sick. Jesus loved welcoming the stranger into his midst. He loved finding ways to set the oppressed free. For Jesus there was no greater joy than to do what God sent him to do, and he was not about to let anything, or anyone, not even death, stop him.
Now, I would say that we might never be told by someone that we need to stop doing what we are doing because someone wants to literally kill us, but aren’t we challenged all the time to stop doing our work because others don’t like it. People even love to quote scripture to those of us who seek to fully live into the Gospel and truly seek to love and affirm all people, don’t they? I can’t tell you how many times I get quoted scripture texts that people believe condemns the gay and lesbian community. Some have even tried to persuade me that our Pantry Pack program is bad for the poor because it doesn’t really help them; after all, they will say, Jesus said, “For you always have the poor with you…” (Matthew 26:11, Mark 14:7, John 12:8). As if Jesus meant, you don’t need to help the poor because there will always be poor people. Or just this week, on the worldwide stage, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a white supremacist in New Zealand, tried to tried to insist on lifting up one race and faith over another by murdering 50 people as they worshipped in their mosques.
Complaints and threats like these are attempts to distract us and get us to stop fully living out the Gospel and Jesus’ command to love. As I noted in my Staff Trax letter this week, I was asked last Sunday if I was going to respond to the blog that was written that said that those who supported Glitter Ash Wednesday were “subverting” the meaning of Ash Wednesday. And my answer was absolutely not, because I am not about to let someone else’s misuse of scripture distract me from the mission to love as Jesus loved that God has set before me.
I love who I am and I love what I do and I thank God every day for allowing me to serve her. I thank God every day for being like that hen that opens her wings and gathers me in. And I thank God every day for sending his Son, Jesus, who not only lived among us, but, like that mother hen, opened his arms wide on the cross to gather me in and offer me forgiveness, grace, and mercy, and claim me forever as one who has been redeemed and empowered to share his love with ALL the world.
Sisters and brothers, in the waters of your baptism, you were claimed by God and filled with the Holy Spirit. You are a child of God, and as a parent that loves her children unconditionally, like the hen, she has gathered us, gifted us, and called us to share that love with all creation, but as we heard Paul say today, “For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phillippians 3:18). Yes, when we seek to turn to God and God’s ways, we will have many enemies, but we cannot be turned away. Like the Psalmist tells us, we ought to fear nothing, for we are the Lord's, “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?” (Psalm 27:1).
As we continue on this 40-day journey to the cross, we are invited to remember that we are all baptized children of God’s, and there is nothing in this world we need to fear, not even death. Love who you are and love what you do, and may nothing, not even the fear of death, keep you from loving as God has loved us. Amen.