Preparing

This sermon was preached at Kenai United Methodist Church and North Star United Methodist Church on March 17, 2019.

Luke 13:31-35

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.’”

Throughout the season of Lent, we are preparing for the resurrection. Each year, we know Easter is coming, yet the preparing and the intentionality remain part of our practice. Today’s scripture describes Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees, who warn Jesus that death is coming. While we assume Jesus wants to be safe himself in his earthly body, he tells the Pharisees that he still has work to do, a mission to uphold.

Last week, we talked about the devil, Jesus’ encounter of being tempted while he was in the wilderness. And today, Jesus’ ministry is being challenged and tested again, this time by an earthly ruler, King Herod.  Perhaps this is an important Lenten reminder that our lives which are held in love and God’s grace still involve risk, still involve hardships along the way, as we travel towards resurrection. Death or loss is always involved in resurrection.

Part of the beauty in our walk with Jesus is the messiness we encounter along the way, the messiness that we can see through our Lenten journey, leads us to the cross, to resurrection. If Jesus was only with us in the good moments, we’d be lost a lot of the time. So we are challenged to ask, how does Jesus’ experience of danger and warning reflect our own drive to follow God?

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The language “today and tomorrow, and on the third day” from verse 32, give voice to his death, an acknowledgement of the humanness of Jesus in this form. It also makes clear his divinity, or rather, the divinity of the mission of God. It defies death. It defies earthly timelines of life. It defies the tragic role of the city of Jerusalem. Jesus leads us to an important realization about how we are to lead abundantly, as we prepare for the resurrection. Death is not the final answer. But it still is something that happens, and Jesus is well aware of that reality.

Jesus’ death went along with the rest of his ministry, which is why his sense of fear did not deter him from doing the work he was called to do, which in his case was casting out demons, we read.

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Our risk and our work is a little different. Our risk involves fear, but likely not fear that will make us fear for our life. It probably is closer to a fear of loss, or failure, or disappointment, or change.  And our work isn’t really about casting out demons, at least not literal demons. But it may involve finding ways to push out negative feelings, habits, or toxic parts of our life that take up too much space.

How might we encounter our missions and our ministries with a perspective that goes beyond our daily tasks, our earthly attempts at doing the work. Jesus invites us to see our lives as a reflection of the Divine, the God who brought us to being out of dust, and the one who sees us beyond the dust after our body dies. And when we see our lives in this way, we allow ourselves to look beyond the fear. It doesn’t go away, but we can see it and still see the mission we are called to.

How does the calling you strive to follow, reflect the cross today, tomorrow, and even on the third day? How does Christ’s experience of danger and warning reflect your drive to follow Christ, anticipating resurrection? How might we work in our humanity to bring prophetic witness and service to those we encounter, revealing the fully human and fully divine being of Jesus Christ into our lives this Easter season?

On Ash Wednesday, our service involved posting confessions on a giant door, things we were holding on to or wanted/needed to let go of in order to see the fullness of God and the fullness of who God created us to be.

Can you remember what you posted on that door? And if you weren’t there, can you think of something you would post, something that stands between you and God in this season, however small or big it might be?

Being super transparent with you all, the thing I wrote down for myself was ‘imposter syndrome’, which is this fear or paranoia of being ‘found out’ in a way. This is a pretty common thing, especially I’d say for young people, and also church people. We usually want to put our best self forward, showing a put together or knowledgeable or even so far as perfect front. At least for me, this leads to a fear of other people seeing the imperfection as being not capable. It pops up in various places, not just work. I notice this imposter syndrome in relationships, in watching successful people around me, in silly things like walking my dog. It’s this little voice in the back of my head that says, maybe you’re not as good as people think you are, and one day, they’ll find out and think less of you because of it.

And so, for me this Lent, my practice is to see past that voice. We might call it a demon. And in seeing past that voice, in pushing whatever it is away from my view of God, I’m able to do work more freely. The time it takes to wonder what people are thinking or saying or worrying that they are, that time instead can be spent doing the things and being the person God calls me to be. It frees space, precious space that instead can be used to prepare me for my own resurrections.

Jesus, in our story today, is doing this work. He’s pushing away the voice that warns him to the point of quitting, of straying away from his view of the cross.

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

Jesus knows he is called. He knows he is good and enough and worthy. And so his response to the Pharisees, his response to fear, is to say to them, ‘hold on, I’m not finished yet’. Perhaps we too, can respond this way to our own fears, our own insecurities, our own confessions, the things that stand between us and the full view of the cross.

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As we leave this place today, my challenge for you, as our Lenten journey unfolds, is to identify that thing or those things for you, the things that need to be pushed away in order to see your call, your path in following God. And from there, I challenge you to walk with me, with us, throughout this Lenten season, to do that work and to push those things aside, so together, God can lead us towards the cross, towards the resurrection God promises us all.

Let us pray. God of spacious life, we give you thanks for your promises to us, promises of abundance and freedom. Walk beside us as we strive to see you more fully, fully alive and thriving, so we too may live that way. In your loving name we pray, Amen.

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