Saturday, February 27, 2010

Luke 13:31-35 Sermon, The Fox and the Hen

Luke 13:31-35

The Fox and the Hen


Sarah sat down in a familiar seat. There were only two foot panels on either side of her, which were created to give the illusion of privacy. A phone hung on one of them and the shatter proof glass smiled back at her once again. As she waited, a tear dripped from the corner of her right eye. The plastic chair didn’t give her any comfort as her guest sat down. From the other side of the glass she watched as the shell of what use to be her son sat down and picked up the phone on his side. Sarah couldn’t pick up the phone yet, she simply starred at her son. He had lost weight and sleep. The bags under his eyes were heavy with grief. He attempted to hide his pain but she was his mother, she could always see through the walls he attempted to put up. After her brain finally processed all the clues from her son’s appearance she picked up the phone and said hello.

When a child does something wrong something within the parent dies a little. Like a potter watch a vase fall and break into a thousand pieces, something shatters within a parent. All their hard work, their hours of teaching morals and what is right and wrong, seems to be gone. What Sarah saw as her life’s work came up short of her lowest expectation. Instead of the ideal life she had thought of and planned for, she received nothing but heartache, grief. After the conversation with her son, the officer lead him back through the barred doors and into the inner chambers of the prison. Sarah sat there, in the warm plastic chair, and her heart lamented.

“Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.” (Luke 13:22) He was teaching to the people the lessons of the Kingdom of God. He was telling them how things should be. He was giving them parables about mustard seeds, fig trees, and faith. He was healing crippled women and others who were in need. He was telling them that only a few will go through the narrow door and that the last shall be first and the first shall be last. The last heard this message. They were the sinners, the outcasts, the poor, the hungry. The firsts were also listening to this message. They were the religious leaders, the scribes, the Pharisees. What happens when the firsts hear a message that they will become last? Well it can only lead to dark thoughts and plans to keep what they feel were rightfully theirs.

That is the thought of The Fox. Herod Antipas was the ruler of this area. After his father died, he received a quarter of Herod the Great’s kingdom. His quarter landed him in the heart of many New Testament stories. Herod was King of the Jews and when someone goes around and is being called the King of Kings, of course things will start to get a little muddy. The political conversations started to happen and allies were made, alliances forged, and plots where thickened.

The religious leaders of the day joined up with Herod. They held power over the people and were in places of influence and wealth. Then along came this guy named Jesus who was preaching good news to the poor and doing miracles that couldn’t be explained away. He was starting to have a large following. He was starting to stir the pot. He was starting to pull the power and authority away from those who had it. He was starting to become an annoyance. Something had to be done to get rid of him.

While Jesus was preaching and teaching a group of Pharisees came up to him and told him of a plot to kill him. They told him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you." Now this threat was truly real. Herod was the one who put John the Baptist’s head on a platter. Literally. He had John beheaded and his head placed on a platter after telling a girl who danced for him he would give her anything she wanted. Look it up in Matthew’s gospel. Herod was not a man to be messed with but this threat that the Pharisees inform Jesus about was really just part of another plot.

Politics are in everything and they were all over this comment to Jesus and Jesus saw it. If you are a political junkie then you have been enjoying these last couple of days during the healthcare summit. If you hate politics, then you have been hating these last couple of days. But what we are experiencing in 2010 America is nothing new. Politics were being played right here within this. How we handle politics tells us a lot about a person. One person says that politicians are like diapers, they should be changed often and for the same reason. Another one says, The penalty that good men pay for not being interested in politics is to be governed by men worse than themselves. (Plato) Another says, "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy." (Earnest Benn) Yet another says, Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.

Jesus understood what was going on. Herod and the Pharisees were trying to get rid of Jesus. If he took the bait and got out the area he would have been under someone else’s jurisdiction. What this means is Herod would no longer be in charge of what happened to him. Herod, King of the Jews, only could do some things to some people. Pilate, the Roman governor, was in charge if a Jew went out of Herod’s jurisdiction. To scare Jesus just a little away would make him Pilate’s problem. Pilate could do a lot of things, which included putting him to death. We know they will eventually succeed at this, but here Jesus’ is not afraid.

This would be the third time his life was threatened and not the last. When he was born Herod the Great killed off many of the infants in hopes of erasing Jesus from the map. Matthew’s gospel tells us he fled to Egypt until Herod died. Then after Jesus’ first sermon in Nazareth people tried to throw him off a cliff. All Jesus did was read some scripture and say, the person the prophets are talking about is here, the scripture is being fulfilled. They laughed him off but then when he told them a prophet can never be heard in their hometown, they got angry and a mob grabbed him and attempted to throw him off a cliff but Jesus slipped through them and got away.

Now he hears that Herod might kill him. Oh no, what shall he do? The truth is Jesus understood when and where his death was to happen. It wasn’t outside Jerusalem, but inside that holy cities’ walls. Jesus does call Herod out as a fox but he had all the right to go postal on them in this moment but instead of lashing out he laments. Lamenting is the act of grieving audibly. It is to express mourning or anguish. Instead of anger, Jesus’ heart turns to grief.

As he was there when the world was created, Jesus understood what this city was to be. Jerusalem was to be a city that all other looked up to and admired. It was to be the example of God’s chosen people for the rest of the world to seek to imitate. But that wasn’t the case. After years of being run by Judges, Jerusalem wanted and begged for a king. God didn’t want it to happen but listen to his people and gave them a king. As they progressed through time and kings they got farther and farther away from the true meaning of their nation.

God sent prophets to come and tell them how they should live and the Kings, one by one, would listen for a while but then would get rid of them. Instead they knew of the power they held and the riches they had. That was too much to get rid of and instead they held tightly to it and got rid of the one making waves, the prophets. Isaiah came and preached to the southern kingdom of Judah, where Jerusalem is located, but was martyred by being sawed in half. Jeremiah also preached to Judah but was killed by stoning. Ezekiel also preached to the same kingdom and he too was martyred. These were a couple of the major prophets but some minor ones found the same path. Micah and Amos’ lives were both ended like the others. Jesus knew Jerusalem’s history and when he hears the leaders of this area are now after him, he grieves, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

As Sarah looked at her son through the glass of the meeting room, Jesus looked to Jerusalem, longing for it to live up to his Father’s expectations. Instead of killing everyone off, why not listen to them? Instead of thinking God will rid you of power and glory, why not focus on the work God can do through you instead? Jesus simply wanted to bring all of them under his wings and protect them, mostly from themselves.

We are only in the second week of Lent and we know the journey Jesus must take. It is hard for us to fathom that instead of anger he laments. Instead of wanting control he give them the free will to chose? He does this with us too. We all have the ability to either see God in our midst or to cast him out? If our eyes are only concentrated on what is in it for us, than we will miss him. We will miss him in the smile of the person on the street or the care of a loved one. Will we miss him?

Jesus longed to transform the heart of Jerusalem but the truth was, just as he says it, they were unwilling. Jesus looks at his children and he too wonders if our hearts are too hard as well. Are we unwilling to listen to the prophets around us who tell how to live Godly lives or will with stone them with our deaf ears and shame? Living in modern day Rome, will we be too consumed with our own desires as a nation and as individuals that we forget the awesome work God can do through us? When the time comes will we see Jesus and be able to say “blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord?”

And all God’s people said…Amen.


Dennis Campbell said...

Dear Rev. Parsons, I found your excellent sermon when I did a google search looking for "The Message" version of the Gospel lection for Sunday. I serve a St. Clement of Rome Episcopal Church in Seattle, WA, but I'm well acquainted with your part of the world having served on the faculty of our seminary in Sewanee, TN. You used Sarah's story in such an effective way to amplify the exegesis of the passage. Many thanks again for your outstanding homiletical work. blessings in this holy lenten season, dennis+

Unknown said...

Thank you for your kind words Dennis. I appreciate them and I hope God blesses your work in Washington.