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Cultivating & Letting Go  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  16:59
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Please stand as you are able for the reading of the Gospel.

Our Gospel passage this morning comes from Luke chapter 13 verses 31 through 35. "At that time, some Pharisees approached Jesus and said, "Go! Get away from here because Herod wants to kill you." Jesus said to them, "Go tell that fox. 'Look, I'm throwing out demons and healing people today and tomorrow and, on the third day, I will complete my work. However, it's necessary for me to travel today, tomorrow, and the next day because it's impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.' Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who were sent to you! How often I have wanted to gather your people just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you didn't want that. Look, your house is abandoned. I tell you, you won't see me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessings on the one who comes in the Lord's name.'"" This is the Word of God for the People of God.

So, last Sunday we began a sermon series that we will be continuing throughout Lent called "Cultivating and Letting Go." So last Sunday we talked about cultivating faithfulness and letting go of temptation and this morning we will talk about cultivating courage and letting go of fear. But we wanted to invite you to be more specific about what it is that you wish to let go of during this Lenten season because you know better than anyone else what you're struggling with the most. And so I invite you to take some time to just think about it and to reflect and then when you feel that you have your...

...what you want to let go of. I invite you to write it down and then, when you come forward for communion, to place it in the basket. These will be used to fold some origami shapes and there will be a special display throughout the season of Lent. Next Sunday we'll have another opportunity to write down what we wish to cultivate during the season.

So our passage this morning is kind of short. Four verses. It seems maybe a little bit weird. For starters, some Pharisees came and warned Jesus. What? We tend to assume that all of the Pharisees were bad guys. But we we forget that we actually have a couple of Pharisees whose names were given that wanted to to hear more from Christ. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who actually took Christ's body to the tomb to bury him.

So right from the beginning of this passage, we're reminded that sometimes those who we think are enemies aren't. Sometimes we need to remember not to make sweeping generalizations about people and that just because maybe they're a Pharisee they automatically are enemies. This passage comes... So, just to put it into context, at this time, Jesus has already predicted that he will die and be resurrected and he's already decided to set out toward Jerusalem. So that's already happened. He already knows he's going to die. And be raised again. And earlier in this chapter it's interesting kind of what is leading into this particular passage that we read this morning. It starts with a parable of the Fig Tree which I won't go into because we'll talk about it next Sunday. But then Jesus has the audacity to heal someone on a Sabbath. And some Pharisees get mad at him for that and he reminds them that... Look, if you had an ox or donkey that fell into a hole you would get it out. Even if it were on the Sabbath.

So he's telling them you don't value the law so much that you elevate it above human life. If you have the ability to help someone find healing, even though it's a Sabbath day, help them find healing.

And then it goes into a couple of parables, very short ones, that describe the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.

And the passage just before Is a discussion about who will be saved.

Jesus says, "Many will try to enter through the narrow gate...

...and won't be able to."

He says, "Look, those who are last will be first and those who are first will be last." That's a phrase that repeats quite frequently, especially in the Gospel of Luke. Those who are last will be first.

So it seems interesting then that this is where Luke places this narrative of some Pharisees coming to Jesus and saying, "Get away from here. Get out of Galilee. Herod wants to kill you."

Their first assumption Is that Jesus' primary goal is survival.

We think that, you know, we need to live as long as we can so that we can share the message of Christ. But Christ knew that that wasn't his task. He knew that as he was going, getting closer to Jerusalem, he is getting closer to his own death.

Most of the time when we're afraid

we allow our fear to dictate what we do.

And while we can't completely let go of fear

we can decide that our fear will not control how we respond.

You know, the definition of courage, really, is that despite our fear we move forward.

There's a scholar named Brene Brown. She's written a lot of books, best-sellers, and she defines courage as a willingness to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. Which you can put that in another way as courage is a willingness to be vulnerable.

Our culture kind of trains us to think of vulnerability as weakness. Is there anybody who would agree with that? Vulnerability is weak.

But vulnerability is also necessary if we want to love and be loved.

Which is why it's so significant that Jesus describes himself as a hen.

Now, I know we tend to break these things down into masculine or feminine imagery, right? I want to invite us to move past that this morning because God is both masculine and feminine. God is not limited by the same constraints that we are. God just is.

And Jesus intentionally describes himself not as a lion of Judah, not as a warrior, not even as a king.

In this moment, he's describing himself as a hen. And I wanted to share with you a quote from Barbara Brown Taylor, another writer. It's a little long, but it's really good. Barbara Brown Taylor says, "If you have ever loved someone you could not protect, then you understand the depth of Jesus' lament. All you can do is open your arms. You cannot make anyone walk into them. Meanwhile, this is the most vulnerable posture in the world. Wings spread, breast exposed. But if you mean what you say then this is how you stand. Jesus won't be king of the jungle in this or any other story. What he will be is a mother hen who stands between the chicks and those who mean to do them harm. She has no fangs. No claws. No rippling muscles. All she has is her willingness to shield her babies with her own body. If the fox wants them, he will have to kill her first."

That's a pretty powerful metaphor. Right?

Jesus is modeling vulnerability for us.

Cause I don't think it's an accident that this passage comes right after a discussion of who will be saved, that many will try to enter the narrow gate and won't be able to. Why? Because they're too afraid to be vulnerable.

God is calling us to a way of life that goes against what the world says.

Because in the world, you know, empires will benefit from violence and oppression.

Rome became an empire

because they knew how to fight wars.

Because they killed all of their opponents. Of course, it was peaceful. Everyone who didn't like them were dead.

But Jesus stands here and he says, "This is not

how I will rule."

It's remarkable because our ruler is not a conqueror. Our ruler is a savior.

Our ruler is one who will protect us as a hen protects her chicks by offering up his own body on the cross.

A lot of the time, I hear people who seem to think that God needed Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. God needed someone to pay the price.

But I have to wonder whether it was actually God who needed it or whether it was us.

Because we have this sense of justice that, you know, somebody has to pay that price.

And then we get overwhelmed because... how could we ever possibly pay that? We can't do it.

So maybe we begin to devolve into paralysis, or into just ignoring, into being the chick who runs after the fox and tries to live as the fox does.

Because that's what Jesus is lamenting. Jesus is saying, "How I have longed to protect you. But you didn't want that."

Jerusalem.

There's something interesting with Luke. He's very intentional on how he uses geography. I didn't know this until last night, but Luke mentions Jerusalem 90 times.

The entire rest of the New Testament combined mentions Jerusalem 49 times.

Jerusalem for whatever reason is very important to Luke.

Maybe because Jerusalem

is...

I'm an English major, so a personification

of those who are first who will be last.

Because it's interesting how Jesus describes Jerusalem. He describes Jerusalem as "You who kill the prophets and stone those who were sent to you."

And he says that prophets have to be killed in Jerusalem.

So when I read this verse, when I think about what does this verse mean...

Jerusalem represents the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodians, the people who were so convinced that they had a corner on the truth. That they understood the law and were empowered to enforce it. And so yes, they would pick up those stones and they would kill anyone who dared to disagree.

Jerusalem represents

those who have a limited imagination of what God is capable of.

Who maybe limit their understanding of God to the warrior, the one who will overthrow the empire, the one who will bring about the kingdom through force.

Christ is inviting us. I think, more than anything else, Christ is inviting us

to let go of our shield, our armor, our sword,

our helmet, our defenses, because only then will we be able to enter through the narrow gate.

Amen?

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