“The Journey Home”
21 February 2016
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor
West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches
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.’”
Today’s message is one best delivered in three acts.
I don’t know about you, but …
I don’t deal well with rejection.
I bite my lower lip,
Get in the car, slam the door,
And accelerate a little too briskly.
I have even been known to go to bed
and pull the covers over my head.
I’ve been turned down and rejected with the best of them.
Potential employers, parishes, even that cute teenage girl in high school.
“Man, she doesn’t know what she missed out on.”
It is as if our ego serves to protect us
When the sword of Damocles falls
And failure hits us square in the kisser.
“When someone else was chosen,” we think to ourselves,
“They passed up the best candidate; ME!”
In hindsight, I look back and thank God that I wasn’t chosen.
What if I had married Debbie?
What if I’d been accepted at Cornell?
What if I’d taken that internship at Corning?
What if I’d been selected for that big steeple church downtown?
What if …
Certainly God knew better.
The Gospel from Luke 13 speaks about Jesus
Making the journey to Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is the seat of power,
The place of Priests,
The cornerstone of Kings.
Jerusalem is the city where the Devil,
who departed from Jesus on the 40th day in the wilderness,
Would soon meet up with Jesus once again,
For now, in Jerusalem, it became “an opportune time.”
Jerusalem had a history of rejection,
Stoning, crucifying, hanging them;
Whipping up angry mobs into a murderous frenzy on a moment’s notice.
The entire city represents rejection.
People angrily shout at Christ’s trial.
They lined the Via Dolorosa to watch Jesus carry his cross,
Carrying it to his crucifixion.
Warm, welcoming crowds on Sunday
Had him a hanging, bloodied corpse by Friday.
As we journey with Jesus throughout Lent this year
Consider aligning your history of being rejected
With that of Jesus Christ.
Where have you been denied?
When have you been betrayed?
Who has turned you down or selected someone other than you?
What has rejection done to you?
It might be possible –
To avoid all the emotional turmoil and sleepless nights,
To avoid years of psychotherapy and lingering trauma,
To avoid the arguing, defending and justifying
Past rejection with those you love,
- It might be possible to connect the pain of your own rejection
With the pain of Christ’s rejection.
Carry that rejection together.
Hoist it onto your back the same way
That Jesus must have carried his own cross through the crowds.
Carry it together.
Experience your rejection with Jesus Christ.
Shared events bind people together
Like the combined elements of Epoxy.
They draw each closer to one another.
And they open the flood gates for healing to begin to flow.
Take advantage this Lent
Sharing rejection with Jesus.
Share the burden together
On your journey home.
The Gospel can raise a chuckle,
Especially if you know where to look.
Did you see the literary tools Luke puts in play?
Fox and Hen in one narrative!
Oh, my. This has to be good.
Some well-meaning Pharisees,
(Which, in and of itself, is a head scratcher)
Warn Jesus that Herod Antipas was out to kill him.
Herod Antipas was the Jewish appointed king over Galilee and Perea,
(What is now the Golan Heights).
Murder was an often used friend of Herod Antipas.
Homicide ran in the family;
Antipas was son of Herod the Great, who didn’t think twice about slaughtering children in an attempt to kill the baby Jesus.
Antipas was the one who had
The head of John the Baptist served up on a platter.
Now there is a guy who knows
How to bring a good party to a screeching halt.
And Herod Antipas was intent on
Killing Jesus to squash rumors that Jesus was a resurrected John the Baptist.
“Go and tell that fox,” Jesus begins.
“I’m just an honest working man,
Who’s headed on the southbound train to Jerusalem.
When I’m gone, I’ll be no concern of yours.”
“Tell that fox!”
Not only is a fox a small, insignificant animal,
It was a description in rabbinical literature of the day
Of someone who is rather unimportant.
“Tell that fox,
Who sneaks around the hen house
Looking for an opportune moment to feast,
That I’m ready to fly the coop!”
Even as Jesus paints Herod as a fox,
He just as quickly paints himself
As a compassionate mother hen,
Who longs to gather Jerusalem under his wings.
It is Jesus’ desire to gather together the people of Jerusalem.
You know, the Jews with a history of killing prophets
and those who are sent to it.
It’s his desire to gather them safely in
And to treat them like a mother hen tends her chicks.
Talk about love your enemies.
Jesus is about to show us with his behavior
What he’d been preaching about with his lips.
We see in this passage
Three examples of the use longing, desire or want.
Herod wants to kill Jesus.
Jesus wants to gather Jerusalem under his wings.
Jerusalem is described as a city that did not want to be gathered.
Jerusalem pushes Jesus away
Like a child that doesn’t want to be hugged.
Talk about unrequited love.
This Fox and Hen analogy is a spring board launching us this Lent
To more deeply examine our deeper wants, longing, or desires.
Do we want more Jesus, even if his message sometimes makes us uncomfortable?
Are we tempted to respond with murderous anger?
Or are we content to respond with simple rejection?
Would it be possible to kindle a desire
To find compassion for our enemies,
For those who politely walk away?
For those who push us away?
How about compassion for those who want to kill us?
Lent invites us to reconsider our relationship with our enemies.
Like most of you,
I’ve been a working man all my life.
It’s kind of like my DNA was infused with the Protestant Work Ethic.
I delivered newspapers at age 14 for a nickel each.
I cleaned out cattle stalls for two bucks an hour.
And by age 16 when I got my working papers, I was cleaning pots and pans in the kitchen of Tioga General Hospital.
At $2.20 an hour, I was making my first deposits
into Social Security by 1977.
When it comes to work, not everyone is created equal.
It would be nice to be a jazz musician or an astronaut,
But we all come to the realization at some point in our lives
That each person has different gifts.
I don’t have the rhythm and I don’t have the stomach.
Some are given the gift of music,
While others are called to the sciences,
And yet others are given the talent to build or sell things.
Natural gifts are raw.
With effort and experience
Even the most elemental gifts or talents
Can blossom and grow to become significant assets for God’s kingdom.
For a moment, think about your gifts and talents.
How have you come to identify them,
Put them to good use
In your vocation, or avocations?
How have you employed your gifts and talents for God?
Jesus is a working man.
He was going through one town and village after another,
Teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.
His resume was expanding.
Today we learn he was casting out demons and performing cures.
Free health care is certain to bring out a crowd,
Especially those who are dangling at the end of their rope.
His appointment schedule is full today and tomorrow,
And on the third day,
His must be on his way.
On the third day …
Yes, you caught it.
On the third day …
Jesus will have flown the coop on the third day.
Jesus will have risen from the dead on the third day.
This allusion to the third day by the Gospel author is quite intentional.
It can only be used as a literary tool post-resurrection.
Its purpose is to draw laser attention to the work of Jesus.
Three days of teaching, casting out demons and performing cures.
Three days of dying for the sin of the world,
Chasing out demons from hell,
And rising from the dead
To become eternal life for all God’s creation.
In three days, the world was changed.
In these 40 days of Lent,
Could you find 3 days of your time
To change the world?
Consider three days of prayer,
Three days of selfless service,
Or three days spent immersed in one of the Gospels.
Align your three days with three days from our Lord’s life;
Three days working in ministry,
Or three days becoming the redemption and salvation of others.
Change the world by saving someone from loneliness.
Change the world by fixing and repairing old wounds.
Change the world by intentionally drawing closer to Jesus;
His life, death, and resurrection.
Today’s three acts
Are each an invitation to embark
On a journey home to Christ
This season of Lent.