The Journey to Jerusalem

This sermon was presented at Resurrection on February 24, 2013, the Second Sunday in Lent.  Pastor Jim Kniseley chose Luke 13:34 as the text, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”


Dear Friends in Christ,


Yesterday many of us received a picture and message by e-mail from our stewardship team.  The picture is of our altar hanging.  We see people on a journey and Eric Carlson writes, “We are invited to walk with Jesus.”  This is a wonderful invitation for the Season of Lent.


This walk with Jesus is intensified today in our gospel reading.  Did you hear Jesus declare  that now he must go to Jerusalem and to the cross?   He needs to fulfill his mission and purpose.


“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under wings, and you were not willing!”


Did you hear the temptation that came to Jesus in our reading?  At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”  These Pharisees didn’t care about the safety of Jesus.  They wanted to scare him, to shut him up, to convince him that his safety depended on his running away. 


This is the temptation that comes to followers of Jesus through the centuries and even today.  “Think more about your security and safety, give in to the forces of this world, and don’t accept God’s mission and purpose for your life.”


In this 2013 Season of Lent at Resurrection, we have selected a particular theme for our Sunday  book-study and our mid-week worship.  The theme is “Making Sense of the Cross.”  Pastor Carol and Carrie Maliszewski have already shared with us some real challenges in their lives and how their faith in Christ has made all the difference.  Lutheran Pastor and Seminary Professor David Lose wrote our study book and gave it the title Making Sense of the Cross.  He shares something in the first chapter that really jumps out at me.  He writes that Martin Luther was once asked what he personally had in his mind as his description or image of God.  Lose says Luther could have chosen descriptions like Creator or Omnipotent.  Here was Luther’s answer: In my mind, when I picture God, I see a man hanging on a tree.


Jesus, hanging on a tree, as the best image for God?    As Lose would say, not all Christians emphasize this image.  But what this image and understanding of God presents is this: This God, the one revealed on the cross, is vulnerable rather than powerful, approachable rather than distant, and is someone you can count on for receiving mercy and grace  rather than judgment.  Ultimately, Luther observes, this God is the one who understands everything we go through because, in Jesus, God went through is all too, even death.


I have come to really appreciate the Season of Lent and the call to engage in practices that bring us closer to God and our Christian faith.  The image of God as a mother hen drawing her brood of chicks to herself for safety and warmth is a good image for this season.  I pray that you will heed the call and allow God to draw closer and closer.


The Old Testament for today is a good one for thinking about faith.  God came to Abram in a vision and gave him promises that seemed too good to be true, seemed to be unrealistic.  Abram, though you are 100 and your wife is 90, you will have a son, and your descendants will be as many as the stars you can see in the sky.  I would love to tell you that Abram and Sara immediately embraced this grand promise and immediately believed it to be true.  A close reading of this passage and others tell me that Abram and Sara at first questioned whether this could be true, and seemed at first to disbelieve. 


Our reading today ends with where they ended up: And be believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.


The writer of Hebrews remembers the story of Abram and Sara and gives us this wonderful definition of faith:  Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.  By faith, we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that were not visible. (11:1-3).


Dear Friends in Christ, Christian faith is not easy.  It doesn’t often doesn’t make sense to the world, and there are times when it doesn’t seem to make sense to us.  We’re called to be vulnerable and weak and care for others who are vulnerable and weak?  The best image for God is a man hanging on a tree?  The strength of our church is not in our hands, but in God’s hands?

The Body of Christ and we as Christians are strongest when we are the weakest?


And so we hear the words of scripture again: (the first lesson) Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward will be great….(the second lesson) Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…(the gospel) How often I have desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…


May God grant us the gift of faith in our lives.  Amen!