YEAR C, LENT 2

 

Luke 13:31-35             (Sermon 1: “The Fox and the Mother Hen”)

                                                            (Sermon 2: “Noble or Pig-headed?”)

 

Phil. 3: 17 to 4:1

Genesis 15:1-12 & 17-18

Psalm 27

 

PREPARATION

 

The encompassing grace of Jesus Christ be with you all.

And also with you.

 

God is our light and our healing, what reason is there to be anxious?

God is our rock-solid Friend, of whom then need we be afraid?

We will offer in God’s Presence, the sacrifice of joy!

We will sing our best melodies to our God!

 

OR¾

 

Sisters and brothers, your who much-loved

and a joy to those who first taught you the way of Christ,

I say to you: Stand firm in the Lord.

God is our light and salvation,

of whom shall we be afraid,

 

Wait for the Lord, be strong and fill your hearts with courage.

Yes indeed, we wait for the Lord.

 

God has said: “Seek my face.”

Our hearts say, “Your face Lord, we do seek.”

 

PRAYER OF APPROACH

 

Loving God, you have asked us to seek your face. We come together gladly to seek your face. You are the goal of our living and the source of our loving, the Holy Friend whose glory exceeds our understanding. Because of your invitation, we worship you without fear, we praise you with thankful lips, we adore you with loving hearts. Through Christ Jesus, your Son and our Brother.

Amen!

 

CONFESSION AND ASSURANCE

 

Let us confess our failures, and renounce or sins.

Let us pray.

 

Please hear us, loving God, when we cry to you, be gracious to us and answer our prayer.

 

If we have slid away from new opportunities, or failed to give our best effort to long familiar duties, forgive us and restore us merciful Friend.

Christ Jesus is our light and salvation, of whom shall we be afraid?

 

If we have become weary, and slipped into mirroring the prejudices and dissatisfactions of a greedy and unjust world, forgive us and heal us merciful Friend.

Christ Jesus is our light and salvation, of whom shall we be afraid?

 

If we have performed well in public, smoothly keeping up appearances, while our personal faith has grown shabby and weak, forgive us and rehabilitate us, merciful Friend.

Christ Jesus is our light and salvation, of whom shall we be afraid?

 

Wait for the Lord. Be strong and allow your heart to take courage.

Wait;  yes my soul, wait on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ..

 

Loving God, you are not impatient and tight fisted like us, your generosity flows freely to all your creatures. We praise you that our sins are forgiven, and that the future has again become an open door.

Thanks be to you, God of grace and glory!

Through Christ Jesus our Saviour.

Amen!

 

PRAYER FOR CHILDREN

 

            To Be Like Jesus

 

Thank you, God,

            for sending us Jesus.

 

We may not be able

            to be as brave

            and as friendly,

            and as thoughtful,

            and as honest

            and as loving

as Jesus was.

 

But if you will help us,

            we can try.

Amen!

                                                Ó B D Prewer 2003

 

PSALM 27 :1-4 & 13-14

 

God is my light and my good health,

            what evil can intimidate me?

God is the steel in my life,

            what can overwhelm me?

 

When scumbags make a move on me,

            like crocodiles to eat me up,

it is these ruthless enemies

            that shall stumble and fall.

 

Though a mob pitch in against me,

            my heart will not fear.

Though they make war on me

            my confidence will not be shaken.

 

I ask God for one thing,

            that thing I really crave:

to live in the household of God

            every day of my life,

to delight in God’s beauty

            and search in his temple.

 

This much I truly believe,

            that I shall see God’s goodness.

In the land of the ever-living.

            I shall be strong

and pin my hopes on God.

            Yes my brave heart, hope in God!

 

                                                            ©  B.D. Prewer 2000

 

TELL THAT FOX

 

The fox-men on this stage

            think they pull the strings

and make the puppets dance

            at the whim of kings.

But the foxes are the fools

            trapped in their dis-ease,

they do an anxious dance

            as their ego decrees.

 

The dove-souls of this age

            who lust not for the strings,

the meek, the poor, the pure

            are real movers of things;

freeholders in a realm

            which no fox-man can own,

where grace is on the wind

            and no one walks alone.

                                                            ©  B.D. Prewer 1993

 

COLLECT

 

Holy God, loving Friend, keep us eager in the things of Christ. May we learn the ways of loving discipline, without anxiety or reluctance, rejoicing in small victories and rising up from defeats with the confidence of those who know they have a sure Saviour. To your honour and praise.

Amen!

 

SERMON 1: THE FOX AND THE MOTHER HEN

 

Luke 13:32

 

Go and tell that fox [Herod]: Look, I will continue to cast out demons and heal today and tomorrow; and on the third day I will finish the job.

 

Luke 13:34

 

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem........How often I wanted to gather your children like a hen gathering her chickens under her wing, but you would not have it.

 

 

Most of us are a lot more complex than others think we are.. We are neither the waste of space that our opponents claim, nor the extremely virtuous people our friends might like to imagine.

 

There are some observers of life who boast that they can sum up a person in a few minutes. I think not. That kind of quick judgement reveals more about the judge than the judged.  We are complex creatures; not easily classified and labelled.

 

Jesus shared our complexity, and developed depths and heights of his own.  His contemporaries were baffled by him. After 2,000 years of Christian discipleship, devotion, prayer, preaching, and endless writing of books, we still remain deficient in our understanding.

 

We have embroidered him or undersold him, clung feverishly to the things we like about him or turned our backs on aspects of Jesus which we don’t want to know. Many varieties of Jesus are in the religious market.

 

WHICH JESUS?

 

Hans Kung, in his book “On Being  Christian” raises the question as to which Jesus should we should believe in. Kung offers a number of alternatives that have been popular. Here I offer you some of his versions mixed with a few of mine:

 

* The sweet Jesus, surrounded by roses, red robins and a Bible text.

* The Revolutionary Jesus, loved by the oppressed peoples of Latin America.

* The Hero Jesus, admired by teenagers and writers of romantic poems.

* The Christ of the Sacred Heart, still popular in some Roman Catholic devotion.

* The God-on-earth Jesus; all halos and lightning powers, scarcely human.

* The holy son of the beloved Virgin. Lourdes, Fatima and all that.

* Jesus the Great Example; popular with “pull-yourself-up with-your-shoe-strings” moralists.

* The Super Star Jesus of the 1960’s.

* The beardless Shepherd of the Roman catacombs.

* The transfigured Christ, resplendent also in catacombs.

* The  5th century enthroned Christ, wearing the insignia of a Roman Emperor.

* The Beggar Christ of St Francis and St Claire.

* The Kingly Christ once extolled by European Royalty.

* The Teacher, popular with those who think the right words can cure a sick world.

* Jesus the Wonder Worker, honoured by charismatics.

* The Man of Prayer, fashionable among the mystics.

* The Divine Lover, sought by St. Augustine and Bernard of Clairvaux.

* The Blood-of-the-Lamb Jesus,  popular among American evangelists.

* The Omega-point-of-history Jesus, adored by Teilhard de Chardin.

* The Doctrinally- precise Jesus, admired by many Lutherans.

* The Social Justice Jesus, popular within the Uniting Church.

* The Happy Dipper Jesus, essential in Baptist churches.

* The elegant Bestower-of-blessings, renowned in the Anglican Church.

 

That enough? You will be relieved to know I have cut out many more stereotypes that came to mind.

 

Which Jesus?

 

TWO FACETS FROM ST LUKE

 

From today’s reading from Luke,  I hope to underline two facets of this remarkable, complex Jesus of Nazareth. Both are firmly rooted, not in the latter biases of the diverse Christian church, but in the Gospels.

 

1/ The tough Jesus.

 

Some Pharisees came to Jesus with a warning:  “Herod is looking for you. You had better get out.” 

 

This was the same Herod who ordered John the Baptist’s head lopped.  A tyrant not to be toyed with.

 

He was a son of the notorious “Herod the Great”, the killer of the infants at Bethlehem.. Like his father he was cruel and ambitious. He ruled, on behalf of Rome, the region around Galilee. His marriage to the insidious Herodias, made his reign even more notorious.

 

We don’t know whether the Pharisees who came with the warning were friendly or hostile. On one hand, Luke usually deals kindly with Pharisees. On the other hand, some Gospels mention Herod’s men and the Pharisees being in cahoots.

 

So maybe they came to Jesus with the best of intentions, or maybe they were Herod’s stooges, “putting the frighteners” on Jesus (as they might say in TV’s “Blue Heelers”).

 

The response of Jesus was tough and direct:  “You go and tell that fox, Herod, that I continue to do my thing today and tomorrow, and on the third day I’ll complete what I’ve started.”

 

Now that is a tough response to a tyrant.  “That fox” Not exactly an answer Herod would hear with kindliness. Jesus was a strong person, resilient in character, hard as nails when the occasion was right.

 

This is no pretty-boy Jesus, no sentimental dreamer. Jesus knew the score. He mourned the bloody death of cousin John. But he was not going to be intimidated. He was a man in charge if his own destiny. A tough Jesus.

 

Go tell that fox I will move on when I am ready. Not before.”

 

 

2/ The compassionate Jesus.

 

Placed beside this picture of Jesus, is another scene depicting the compassionate Christ. A graphic juxtaposition.

 

Luke immediately shows Jesus lamenting over the fate Jerusalem. In fact, the word “Jerusalem” is the only connection between the Herod incident and Christ’s heart-tearing lament for the holy city.

            O Jerusalem, Jerusalem........How often I wanted to gather your children like a hen

            gathering her chickens under her wing, but you would not have it.

 

There is hardly a more feminine picture of Jesus available in the Gospel. The vivid picture of a clucky hen rounding up her chickens and fluffing her feathers protectively over them, shows the compassion of the Jesus whom we name Lord and Saviour.

 

You and I can never appreciate the depth of feeling a Jew like Jesus had for Jerusalem. Idealised as the city of God, Jerusalem was woven into their prayers and conversation, into their hopes and their worst fears. No earthly place was more precious to Jesus the Jew.

 

But it rejected him, spurned his compassion, and at the conclusion, would hound him outside its walls to a rocky hill called “The Skull”.

 

Luke shows us Jesus lamenting at the coming destruction. Jerusalem had been destroyed before, hundreds of years before in the time of the prophets. The city had been reduced to rubble, the holy temple vessels taken off to a foreign palace to be used in drunken orgies. The ruins had become a desolation, a nesting place for owls and a lair for wolves.

 

It was to be destroyed again. Luke was writing after Roman patience ran out. In 70 AD the holy city was besieged starved and conquered, its people slaughtered, crucified and scattered.

 

            O Jerusalem, Jerusalem........How often I wanted to gather your children like a hen gathering her chickens under her wing, but you would not have it.

 

The heart of Jesus was almost broken. Compassion; profound human compassion, elemental divine compassion!

 

Here you have it. Jesus the tough character who would not give an inch to the bullying of Herod,  is also Jesus the compassionate person. He is the man who longed to mother the lost people of Jerusalem, and who would at the last willingly give his life “as a ransom for many”.

 

Their rejection of Jesus was the rejection of the greatest compassion this world has known.

 

LEARN FROM JESUS

 

Today is the second Sunday of Lent. Last Sunday I offered you a penance: to work hard during Lent at knowing yourself better; being aware of both your strengths and your weaknesses.

 

This Sunday I direct your gaze towards the toughness of Jesus.

Go and tell that fox [Herod]: Look, I will continue to cast out demons and heal today and tomorrow; and on the third day I will finish the job.

 

Learn from him; lean on him, don’t be diverted in your quest. Christianity offers the blessing of a brave and resilient spirit.

 

I also direct you eyes towards the compassion of Jesus.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem........How often I wanted to gather your children like a hen gathering her chickens under her wing, but you would not have it.

 

Care with him share with him. His compassion for you, and yours for others. A journey without compassion is not a Christian journey. A toughness without gentleness is not from God.

 

 

SERMON 2: NOBLE OR PIG-HEADED?

 

Luke 13: 31-35

 

Lent calls for renewed commitment. For sharpening up our footwork in the cause of following Christ.

 

Question: When are we showing admirable courage and commitment,

or when are we simply pig-headed? When is our single-mindedness for the glory of God, and when it is just silly human pride standing on its pretentious little dignity?

 

JESUS WAS SINGLE MINDED

 

In today’s Gospel reading from Luke 13,  we hear about Jesus resolutely walking, day after day, in the direction of Jerusalem.

 

Nevertheless, he still had time for others. Single mindedness with Jesus was not tunnel vision. On the last journey he was still teaching the common people, telling fecund parables, healing the physically and mentally ill, and making time for dining out with disreputable characters.  But his course was set for Jerusalem and inevitable suffering and death.

 

            Some Pharisees came and said to him: “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”

            Jesus said to them: “Go and tell that fox: Look, I cast out demons and heal people today

             and tomorrow, and the third day I must finish my course. I must keep on the way I am going,

            for it is not right for a prophet to perish away from Jerusalem.”

 

Jesus refuses to be diverted from his destiny.

 

He would not be deflected from going to confront his critics in the Holy City, although he expected that such confrontation would certainly result in his being crushed. That word “perish  is a conclusive one. It leaves us in no doubt about the outcome.

 

Was that being stubborn?

 

Maybe there were some among his followers who thought Jesus was just being merely stubborn. From their view point, it was both unwise and unnecessary for him to walk to Jerusalem where the power-brokers were waiting for him, rubbing their lily-whites in expectation. Why couldn’t he stay in Galilee? There were thousands there who needed him. In the cities of that region were wonderful opportunities for his continued teaching, and almost endless sufferers who wanted to receive his healing touch. It would have seemed to such followers that Jesus was being quite pig-headed by insisting on making it to Jerusalem.

 

In hindsight, we know that he was not just being stubborn. In fact Jesus was being loyal to the cause of his God, understanding that no matter how much the prospect of crucifixion appalled him, it was nevertheless the right thing to risk it. He believed that doing the will of God mattered more than popularity or even life itself. He realised that by being willing to lose life something far larger can be accomplished.

 

That does not mean his decision to confront his foes in Jerusalem was easy. You and I can never adequately understand the prayer and self discipline that braced his will, and kept his feet moving towards Mt Zion.

I must keep on the way I am going, for it is not right for a prophet to perish away from Jerusalem.

 

A CLOUD OF WITNESSES

 

What Jesus did has been an example to all followers.

 

Many have put their faith in him and his way. The single-mindedness of Stephen saw him stoned to death outside Jerusalem. James was beheaded, Paul and Peter were martyred in Rome, Thomas in far away India.

 

It did not end with the apostles. There continued to be notable examples throughout the Christian story. The witness of those who stuck to their belief at the cost of their well being, their health, their freedom or their life.

 

Many of them, though not a majority, became official “saints. “ In sermons fifty years ago you would have heard some of these names often. Regrettably, in this generation, especially in Protestant churches,  we rarely seem to mention some of the remarkable, historical figures.

 

Like the aged Polycarp in the 2nd C. AD.

A much loved pastor who, when asked to curse Christ and worship Caesar as Lord or face death by burning at the stake, replied: “Eighty and six years  I have served Christ, and he has done me no wrong. How can I then curse my Lord and my Saviour. 

Was he just plain pig-headed?

 

Or the young mother Perpetua.

She walked boldly into the arena to be killed for her faith, then loosed her hair and declared: “This is my day of coronation!”

Pig-headed or one of Christ’s true servants?

 

Francis of Assisi and his disciple Claire.

For much of their lives they were misunderstood and hassled by church authorities. Yet they persisted in their way of Christ’s love, welcoming poverty and hardship for the cause of Christ.

Pig-headed or a genuine followers of Jesus of Nazareth?

 

Many more of them.

Hildegard of Bingen, John Wycliffe- Oxford scholar and English Bible translator, John Huss the Bohemian preacher, Martin Luther the harried but determined German reformer: These did not find comfort and prosperity for their single-minded devotion to God (no! suffering and in some cases death!) but they refused to compromise the light they has been given.

Pig-headed or people of the highest principle?

 

The list goes on.

Ann Hutchison in Boston,  John Bunyan of Bedford,  the Hugenots in France, Elizabeth Fry and her social work in Newgate Prison, George Whitfield refusing to keep the Gospel confined to a church setting, the Methodist Tolpuddle Martyrs- sentenced to transportation  to remote Van Diemen’s Land [Tasmania} for forming the first trade union, William Booth creating the Salvation Army, Caroline Chisholm and Mary McKillop of Australia, Martin Luther King of USA, Oscar Romero of San Salvador: All of them at some time rebuked and abused, and some of them like Romero paying the ultimate sacrifice.

 

What are they? Pig-headed fools? Or those simply committed to Christ and self-disciplined to the glory of God?

 

HINDSIGHT OR FORETHOUGHT

 

What about you and me?  Are we keen to emulate them in forethought?  Are we ready in mind and spirit not to fail Christ?

 

It is difficult in the heat of life’s struggles to sift Christian valour from pigheadedness. It is not always easy to be sure of the right path when we are suddenly faced with a conflict between apparent truth and error, integrity and compromise?  We need to have fortified ourselves in advance by “dwelling in Christ.” Forethought is not anxiety; it is calm preparedness.

 

My Confession time

.

I have been on the road with Christ for a long time now, and much of that has been as one of his ordained ministers. Many times I have made what I thought then was a principled stand for my Lord Jesus. 

 

Looking back now, down the fast receding years, and turning over those events in quiet reflection, I see that sometimes it was almost certainly for Christ’s glory (God be praised!) yet at other times I confess it may have been from motives that I now see as mixed, and some as highly dubious ones.

 

Some times I was pig headed.

 

Even with love as the benchmark, it is often difficult. It is hard to audit one’s own motives. Are we being high principled or just pig-headed? That is the tough question.

 

Therefore, I recommend another three ways of trying to sort oneself out-

1/ Pray earnestly about the issue.

2/ Bring the Gospel of Jesus to focus on it.

3/ Seek counsel from a discerning Christian friend or pastor.

 

LENT IS AN OPPORTUNE TIME

 

Lent is a good time to reassess.  

 

We are called to follow Christ, not counting the cost. We are called to go forward as steadfastly as he did when he journeyed towards Jerusalem and death. That kind of courage is needed as desperately today as it ever was!

 

But let us try and minimise the dangers; nor deny the possibility of being led by the nose by some inferior cause or motive. Christ’s way is the only one that matters.

 

Only the cause of Jesus is one worth sticking our neck out and risking “the chop!”

Only his mission is truly altruistic and untainted by perverse pig-headedness.

Only his way will bring fruits that will bless those around us,

as well as keeping our Christian integrity intact and our hearts joy-full.

 

 

THANKSGIVING

 

Most wonderful God, every day and in every place we rise to give you thanks and praise.

 

Thanks for physical life:

            for birth into this lovely world,

            made in your own likeness,

            stewards of the earth and its creatures,

            and pastors of one another.

 

Thanks for abundant life:

            new life made visible in Christ Jesus,

            in his word and his way of loving,

            in his self sacrifice on the cross,

            and through his joyful resurrection.

 

Thanks for shared life:

            present in the body of the church,

            renewed constantly by the Holy Spirit,

            life within us and around us always,

            to the very end of time and space.

 

Thanks and praise are yours; thanks purer than we can utter; thanks that links with all who ever knew you and loved you, today, yesterday and forever.

Amen!

                                                ©  B.D. Prewer 1989

 

INTERCESSIONS

 

Our prayers are a commitment to the love of God.

Let us pray


Most loving God, according to our true needs, please confront and save your earth children. Discipline or soothe, break down or build up, discomfort or comfort us. May all nations, communities, friends, family and church, know both the pain and joy of being in the hands of cathartic Love.

Though father and mother forsake us, God will take us up.

 

Please receive our concern for family or neighbours who are doing it hard today: the confused, depressed, suffering, sad, heartbroken, weary, ashamed, anxious or lonely.

Though father and mother forsake us, God will take us up.

 

Please receive our concern for the Australian nation, our State, city, community, and neighbourhood; That the values of Christ may be embraced, and the love of Christ begin to shape even the doubters and the antagonistic.

Though father and mother forsake us, God will take us up.

 

Please receive our concern for countries overseas: Our Pacific island neighbours, prosperous continents, overcrowded Asian lands, small struggling countries, children in poverty, people at war, free nations, nations in bondage.

Though father and mother forsake us, God will take us up.

 

Please receive our concern for your church throughout the earth; where it is influential or ignored, thriving or struggling, in city or in the outback, divided or united, persecuted or at peace, enthusiastic or dispirited.

Though father and mother forsake us, God will take us up.

 

Loving Friend and Saviour, we rejoice in your liberal resourcefulness and your endless faithfulness. May your name be praised and your will be done.

By us, through us, and with all who adore you.

Amen!

 

 

SENDING OUT

 

Take heart!

You may sometimes get it wrong, you may sometimes do it poorly,

            but doing the will Christ remains your calling and your greatest happiness.

Go your way optimistically, discipline your lives cheerfully

            and know that it is better to try for the heights and not quite get there,

            than to amble along smooth paths that go nowhere.

 

The love of Christ Jesus encourages us.

 

The everlasting peace of the Creator, the saving peace of the Saviour,

and the invigorating peace of the Inspirer, be with you now and always.

Amen!