Sermon for 2nd Sunday In Lent Yr C 7/03/2004
Based on Lk 13:31-35
By Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson,
Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &
Chaplain of the Good Samaritan Society’s
South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta
One of the authentic trademarks of a prophet is that they live very dangerously! They are willing to speak the truth of God’s word regardless of the consequences. More often than not, the people respond to God’s prophetic word by misunderstanding, abusing or rejecting the message and the messenger. In today’s gospel, we learn that Jesus certainly is prepared to live dangerously as he proclaims his prophetic message to the people of Jerusalem.
Some Pharisees—who were obviously concerned about his welfare—have just informed him that Herod wanted to kill Jesus. How does Jesus respond to this message? One would think that he’d take it seriously enough to protect himself and retreat to some safe place of refuge, but not Jesus! Oh no! This news of Herod threatening his life does not stifle or stop Jesus from doing what God had called and prepared him to do. He continued to minister to all kinds of people in all kinds of places—never losing sight of Jerusalem where he would meet his final destiny.
He knew that God had destined him to go up to Jerusalem and die on a cross. With his thoughts fixed on that holy city, he spoke his said, heartbreaking lament: “O 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!”
How tragic, ironical, and paradoxical! Jerusalem, city of peace, derived from the Hebrew word shalom, meaning peace; dwelling place of God’s people; yet, rejecting the very prophets God sent to them. According to 2 Kings 21:16, and confirmed by secular historian Josephus; King Manasseh had killed many a prophet in Jerusalem. Josephus says: “He spared not even the prophets, some of whom he slaughtered DAILY, so that Jerusalem ran with blood.” (Ant. 10.3, 1-38) Thus, to be a prophet in biblical times meant that you must be willing to LIVE DANGEROUSLY. No one knew this more than Jesus, as he was well acquainted with the history of his own people; and he knew that he too would meet a similar destiny, in accordance with his Father’s will.
It takes a brave person to call the reigning king a fox. Hugh Latimer, the English reformer was once preaching in Westminster Abbey Henry the king was one of the congregation. In the pulpit he said to himself, “Latimer! Latimer! Latimer! Be careful what you say. The king of England is here!” Then he went on, “Latimer! Latimer! Latimer! Be careful what you say. The King of kings is here.”
Jesus and all other true prophets of any time or place receive their orders and message from God. Jesus and all true prophets never adjust their work or message to please or escape from any earthly power. 1
Prophets do God’s work and speak the truth of God’s message regardless of the consequences. They live DANGEROUSLY. Jesus epitomises this as a prophet of God and the Messiah.
Not only do prophets live dangerously; it is also a great tragedy, irony, and paradox that most people who hear God’s message spoken by the prophets live dangerously too. The people live dangerously by rejecting God’s message and refusing to repent. Jesus warns the people of the tragic danger that shall certainly befall them unless they change and repent. The end result, however was that the majority of people failed to pay attention to Jesus and his message. Jesus’ prophetic prediction of the destruction of the temple and the fall of Jerusalem was fulfilled in 70 A.D. The Wailing Wall is the only part of the temple, which remains standing today. The people failed to listen and refused to repent.
God also continues to call us individually and as a nation to repent. It is not too late for us to repent. We too are called to change our way of thinking, of living, and to obey God; otherwise we too are in danger of suffering the same end as the people in Jesus’ day.
The following words of Russian author, Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his book, From Under the Rubble certainly speak to the people of Canada today as much as they did to the Russians when the author wrote them.
The gift of repentance, which perhaps more than anything else distinguishes (human beings) from the animal world, is particularly difficult for modern (people) to recover. We have, every last one of us, grown ashamed of this feeling; and its effect on social life anywhere on earth is less and less easy to discern. The habit of repentance is lost to our whole callous and chaotic age. We can say without suspicion of overstatement that without repentance it is in any case doubtful if we can survive. 2
Today in our gospel, we have the most gentle picture of Jesus as a mother hen inviting us to repent of our sin, to turn away from our destructive words, thoughts and actions; to come under his protective, forgiving, loving wings so that we might avoid the tragedy of our own destruction and downfall. Are we listening? Are we responding?
May our loving, long-suffering God grant us the grace to truly repent of our wrong thinking, wrong speaking, and wrong doing; to sincerely change our ways and amend our lives before it is too late. For it is our mental, physical and spiritual health and salvation that Jesus has come to offer us. Right here, right now! Amen.
1 Cited from: Wm. Barclay, The Gospel of Luke (Burlington, ON: G.R. Welch Co., Ltd., 1975), p.186.
2 Cited from: Alexander Solzhenitsyn, From Under the Rubble, pp. 106-107.