Second Sunday in Lent – March 13 2022

Posted on March 14, 2022, Pastor: Pastor Lara Forbes

Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service. 

March 13 2022

Second Sunday in Lent 

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
Luke 13:31-35

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A prayer from John Bell: “God, give us peace, and more than this show us the path where justice is and never let us be remiss working for peace that lasts.” Amen.

I read the news daily as part of my sermon prep. And as I prepared for today, not surprisingly, the war in Ukraine and the global ripple effect it’s having dominated the headlines almost all week. We know that more than two million people are seeking refuge in neighboring countries, and that this situation goes beyond the borders of Ukraine and Russia.

We know, too, that this isn’t the world that God intended for anyone. And as people of faith, we have to imagine that God loves us deeply enough that God’s heart also breaks when we hurt each other the way we so often do.

There are countless images in the Bible that illustrate God’s love for us. And most of them portray great strength – like eagles’ wings or a rock that cannot be moved. And those images offer us comfort and protection in even the most disturbing circumstances.

But in today’s gospel, Jesus describes God’s love in a way the doesn’t quite seem to make sense at first.

The story begins with another conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees. Only instead of arguing, the Pharisees seem to be warning Jesus to watch his back. Nobody really knows why that is.

The Herod in this story is the son of Herod the Great, the one that wanted Jesus dead right after he was born. This one was appointed ruler of Galilee by the Roman government to keep watch over the Israelites. And he was afraid that he would lose that appointment because he could be overthrown or replaced at any time.

And his fear showed in the way he ruled – he was just as tyrannical and paranoid as his father. He had John the Baptist beheaded and then thought Jesus was his ghost. And his fear made him dangerous, especially to Jesus. But Jesus refused to live in fear of him.

He basically told the Pharisees, “Look, Herod can say whatever he wants. But I’m gonna do what I came here to do.” And he did. Even knowing that he would be rejected in Jerusalem, the city of God. And as Jesus lamented that, he described his love – God’s love – as that of a mother hen. And, as I said, that doesn’t seem to make sense.

When we see chickens, we tend to characterize them as weak. Think about all the times we’ve said that someone has “chickened out” of doing something because they’re afraid. Chickens are small animals, especially the hens, and they’re defenseless and they seem stupid because they react to a threat without thinking.

But a mother hen is focused on her devotion to her chicks, which are even more defenseless than she is. She doesn’t have any defenses against foxes or other predators except her courage and commitment. She is vulnerable, but her chicks are even more vulnerable.

So like any other mother animal, she does what it takes to protect her babies when they’re threatened. She covers their bodies with her own, extending her wings over them – running as she scoops them together to keep them safe when they try to scatter. She doesn’t run from her fears even if it means she’ll die in the process of saving her children.

Those aren’t the actions of a coward. They’re the actions of love and sacrifice over power, and the will to stand against something that threatens to destroy someone who’s weak and powerless. They’re the actions of a God that deeply loves us. A God that will keep working until we’ve all been gathered together.

This determination – this deep, persistent love – is what kept Jesus focused on what he knew he needed to do. It’s what got him through his time in the wilderness. It kept him moving forward on his way to Jerusalem. And it’s what empowers us to go out and do the work of love that he calls us to do.

[1]Yesterday, Lutheran World Relief released a story on their blog about St. Martin’s church in Krakow, Poland – which is about 3 hours from the border with Ukraine. To prepare to receive refugees, the congregation rapidly remodeled the church basement to shelter several families.

Within a week, the bathrooms were fitted with showers, beds were brought in, and workers redid the plumbing and electrical to accommodate more users. Within a week, they’d converted the basement from a meeting space to a safe place for people to sleep and stay warm.

Receiving refugees is something that St Martin’s church has done in the past, but they recognize that this situation is different. And they know that their building will receive an ongoing stream of people in need of safety.

One of the things that the war over there is doing in us here, however many thousands of miles away we are, is evoking a sense of compassion. And at its core, compassion means to suffer with a person or a group of people that is suffering. To move through their trauma and grief with them.

And compassion isn’t something we’re only called to feel for people who are half a world away.  The senselessness of this war is what makes it particularly heart-wrenching, but it’s important for us to remember the people who are experiencing trauma in our own neighborhood and broader community. And that they’re in just as much need of refuge and safety.

Doing the work of God’s love means being present in the ongoing tragedies like homelessness and poverty; it means being in conversation about things like racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, and climate damage – and calling them out for the sins that they are so that we can call people into relationship, and bridge the gap caused by the fear that divides us.

It doesn’t always mean remodeling the church basement in record time. But it does mean actively seeking solutions that are sustainable and equitable and just for as long as it takes.

The work of God’s love that needs to be done is nearly endless. And we won’t always do it perfectly, but we can do it faithfully. And as we do it, we build a community that loves faithfully beyond our campus. And the persistent love of Jesus reminds us that as we do this work, more is possible – that we can imagine and build a future where it isn’t fear or greed that drives our decisions, but rather God’s love.

If you’re worshiping with us in-person today, you were invited to take a pompom out of the basket on your way in. If you’re at home, and you happen to be coming by the church sometime in the next couple of weeks, we have extra if you’d like one. But in here, if you picked one up, please hold it in your hand.

In many of the Biblical stories, it’s possible for us to identify with more than one character in them depending on what’s going on in our lives. But in this one, we’re always the chicks. Even as we do the hard work of God’s love, we’re always the chicks – we’re always the little balls of fluff that need God’s protection and love.

And it’s when we believe the love that we receive under God’s wings that we can go out and do the work of love that God calls us to. Because God’s love is a love that will keep working until we have all been gathered together. Thanks be to God! Amen.