Sermon for Lent2C
Give Me Shelter
Jesus’ Mission and Ministry
Each time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask that God’s kingdom comes among us and God’s will is done among us, here in our presence as it is in heaven. How surprised we might be, though, when God answers our prayer and comes among us.
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he gathered with his hometown people for Sabbath worship in the synagogue. They asked Jesus to read the passage from the prophets and to comment on it. He found the passage where Isaiah had written:
“The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.”
Then, to everyone’s surprise, Jesus told them that today that word from God had been fulfilled right in front of them. By quoting that portion of Isaiah, Jesus gives us a way of understanding his mission and his ministry as God’s Messiah. That’s exactly what Jesus went about doing, and as he went about living God’s love and loving God’s people, he started to get a lot of negative attention.
The religious leaders of all kinds – liberal and conservative – thought his ministry dangerous and looked for ways to discredit him and bring his movement to an end. The politicians, in Jerusalem and in the surrounding territories worried too. Herod seemed especially haunted by Jesus. Herod had beheaded John the Baptist, even though he believed John was a prophet. Then, word came to Herod that Jesus was doing greater things than John. He had cut the prophet’s head off, but his good works multiplied. What scares Herod is the truth. Not even death can stop God coming kingdom, but death is the only weapon Herod has.
Though This Worlds Tyrants Rage
In the story we heard today, the Pharisees come and tell Jesus that Herod is looking for ways to kill him. But Jesus has already come to understand that his mission will end in Jerusalem, with his betrayal and arrest, crucifixion and resurrection. He has set his face, with adamant determination, toward Jerusalem. In faith, Jesus makes his way into death, in hope of resurrection, new life. Herod’s paranoid threats mean nothing to him. He is God’s Son, God’s servant and agent of God’s kingdom coming and God’s will being done.
Jesus is confident God will accomplish to perfect completion exactly what God intends. This world’s petty tyrants pose no threat for God’s Word in action. Jesus tells Herod: “I will cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow and on the third day I will bring it all to completion.” Jesus knows that his mission overcomes a tyrant’s paranoia; goes deeper in spirit than the conservative mission of strict religious observation; goes broader in freedom than the liberal mission of religious relevancy and expediency. Jesus is God’s kingdom, God in the flesh coming into the creation to redeem and restore and fulfill it. Not even death will keep him from accomplishing God’s purposes. In truth, God’s purposes will be accomplished through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
But even on his way to fulfill all God’s plans, Jesus knows that his good news proclamation will go unheeded, by a people too busy trying to survive to hear the simple call to shelter in God’s love in Christ. They respond to his exorcisms and healings with skepticism and suspicion. Once again, all the little gods – money, fear, religious and political ideology, and on and on reach out to claim our allegiance with false promises of their own. But in the end, their promises become just more bad news.
Baptism Is Gift
Last weekend our council got together to spend some time talking about our mission, what we think God is calling us to be and to do as God’s people in this part of Edison, at this point in time. A lot of the time, talk about God’s mission deteriorates into talking about our own visions and agendas, giving voice to our own fears and schemes. We talk when we should be listening. What we discovered last weekend, though, is that we need look no further than God’s covenant with us in baptism to rediscover what God has done for us and what God is calling us to do.
It begins with God coming to us in Jesus and welcoming us into God’s family. In our baptism, God has graciously redeems us by gathering us together into Christ – like Noah’s family was gathered into the ark, like God’s people were gathered together for transit through the Red Sea, or, like a hen gathers her chicks beneath her wings.
Commenting on our Gospel for today, NT Wright tells us that this image Jesus uses to describe himself as mother hen gathering chicks is an image of a family being caught in a fire or threatened by a predator. The mother hen gathers her chicks under her, sacrificing her body for the life of the brood. Outside her protection, the chicks run from false shelter to false shelter in fear and finally death. Under her wings they find rescue and life. God’s good news message and mission, spoken by the Holy Spirit through the prophet Isaiah, lived by Jesus in his words and deeds, is brought to completion in Jesus death and resurrection. In him, with him, under his wings, we find shelter, sanctuary and salvation. In Jesus we move from death to life.
That is the promise God makes to us in baptism: with Jesus, we die; with Jesus, we rise, a new creation. This is also the good news and shelter we offer this community. It’s good news. It’s our gift; It’s also our mission.
Baptism Is A Call
Not only does God gather us into God’s shelter, sanctuary and salvation in Jesus Christ, but God sends us out to bring others into this life, as well. Having experienced the joy of God’s grace, the shelter of his unconditional love and the healing of sacrificial life, God sends us to extend this shelter to others, following the example of Jesus; guided by God’s vision of a world brought together, living justly and in peace, in the shelter of God’s dwelling with us.
Now, this mission God has given us as the baptized doesn’t mean that hundreds or thousands are going to join St. Paul’s. Though those whom God gathers will find all God promised is true. Christ is here and …
This doesn’t mean we’ll win the respect and admiration of the community, though we will work in Jesus’ name to make the community better. Yet, some in this world – the herods and religious elites, liberal and conservative both -- have never stopped looking for and working for opportunities to kill Jesus and bring an end to his ministry. But Jesus’ resurrection reassures us. Not even death can stop God’s purposes, but through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God is making everything new.
That’s good news of God’s kingdom and life through Christ that this community needs to hear from us, and it longs to see in action through us. Through us and others who make up Christ’s body throughout the world, Jesus’ presence, Jesus’ mission and Jesus’ ministry multiplies. We are living proof, a living welcome into the relationship with the God who keep us safe in Christ till the flood has receded, the fire has been extinguished and the predators have been pacified at last. It is a promise and gift for us to live in … in Jesus name. Amen.
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