Second Sunday in Lent
READINGS FOR THE COMING WEEK
- First reading
- Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
- Psalm 27
- Second reading
- Philippians 3:17-4:1
- Luke 13:31-35 or Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a)
The gospel from Luke:
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “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.
Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'”
Sermon, by Pastor Stevensen
The gospel reading is a portion of Luke 13. Simply a great reading for Lent. Why would I say that? What does it have to say when placed alongside the other lectionary readings? In the 1990’s I took a class on Luke at LSTC and then came back to my congregation and taught a year-long course on Luke’s Acts, using the insights that I had gained from a week in Chicago.
Remember what happened when we discussed Luke 13:
13:33 “Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible
for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’
13:34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to
it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood
under her wings, and you were not willing!”
Professor Krentz, a highly regarded NT scholar who taught the LSTC course, said that these
passages mean that Jesus goes to Jerusalem to die, knowingly. I simply repeated his comments. One of the people in the course announced, “That is horrible,” and left, never to return.
Where do we – I – go from there? I was a difficult experience, to have someone stand up like that and walk out, never to return. But, it seems to failed to dissuade me, as I keep offering that
interpretation of these passages.
I would like to place these passages in the broader context of human behavior by referring to our current situation. Anyone who is awake is aware of the current level of conflict in American politics and culture. People are attacking each other like they haven’t since the Vietnam war. But is this behavior unique to our times?
I clearly don’t think so, with my reference to the Vietnam era. Students of American history may recall that on May 22, 1856, in the United States Senate chamber, Representative Preston Brooks, a pro-slavery Democrat from South Carolina, used a walking cane to attack Senator Charles Sumner, an abolitionist Republican from Massachusetts. Interestingly, those in the north sympathized with Summer, and southern newspapers defended Brooks. Fortunately, we are not there, at least not yet.
My point is that people often respond quite aggressively when their values or behavior are
challenged. Imagine then what it would have been like to be a prophet of Israel. Prophets
challenged the king and sometimes the people, calling both back to God’s covenant with Israel.
The covenant required them to keep the commandments. No idolatry. No stealing. No, well, you
have the idea. Given human behavior, is it any surprise that the prophets suffered when they were active in Jerusalem?
But is there more to it than just the human desire to silence those with whom we disagree? In
these seemingly all too human events, the eyes of faith can see the hand of God at work. For
those that miss it, Jesus tells them. God’s hand is at work in these seemingly ordinary events.
Why is it so important to see the the God’s plan unfolding in the events long ago in Jerusalem?
Because Jesus’ comments point to the climactic events to come. Specifically, the death and
resurrection of the messiah, that is to say, Jesus himself.
We say it every Sunday, but Lent is a time for especially saying it. The central point of
Christianity is the cross, by which I mean both the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Today’s reading is more than just a reflection of people’s bad behavior, it is an assertion that
Jesus goes to Jerusalem because that is God’s plan for him to do.
The events in Jerusalem, the city that kills prophets sent by God, is central to every book in the
New Testament. Why is this the case? Why is it necessary for the Son of God to journey to the
city that kills prophets? Because human sin and death, and evil in the world are very serious problems, indeed. That is why the person in my class exclaimed that I said something horrible, I was horrible, and left. By repeating the comment that I was taught at the Chicago seminary, I was forcing everyone to confront these serious problems. Who wants to do that?
That’s why Charles Summer got canned by Preston Brooks; Summer pointed out the evil of slavery. That is why Jerusalem kills prophets, they pointed out that their listeners had really gone astray. God’s answer to all of these problems is the cross. A completely unexpected answer, too, I think. The cross tells us the seriousness of sin, death, and the devil.
The solution had to be that God himself came and died. That tells us how serious are sin, death, and the power of the devil. Second, he did it his way. We were not involved, and it was not our way. At first blush, it looks like we were very involved, after all, Jerusalem is the city that kills prophets. And this is why Luther writes, quoting Paul, that the cross alone is our theology. That is the basis of our hope and assurance. Thank the Lord. Amen