Sermon for March 13, 2022               Lent Two         “Is the welcome for Jesus?”

The teaching of Jesus for today as recorded in Luke is delightfully filled with a many hued palette of layers. Some are obvious some not so much so. It is one of those teachings that each time we read, we discover a new insight. Unlike Matthew who places this story near the end of Jesus teaching, Luke places it near the beginning. A glimpse if you will of the daily challenges Jesus will have with the leadership of the Empire and the Church. Of the concern Jesus has for the people, not just the people of Jerusalem but all people. And the image of a new way of being with God, prophesied.

We know that Herod was a ruthless leader who had little regard for people or for anything that got in the way of his ego. The Pharisees walked a fine line between holding the line on Jewish law and practice and not wanting to upset Roman rule, especially Herod’s rule. They did not like the growing support of Jesus as he constantly made them look like fools. They also knew that Herod would see Jesus as a Jewish trouble maker and by default look bad for the Synagogue. So they came to Jesus to warn him about Herod. Jesus could see their self-interest and their split allegiance so sent them back to Herod with a message that God’s plan would not be stopped.

Jesus also recognized that the people of Jerusalem were caught in the middle of ego battles and power battles that they had no control over and yet they significantly affected their daily life. And Jesus just wanted to somehow protect them.

This story can easily be placed into our context today. COVID protocols have been in place and it has been an exercise in flexibility to keep up to the changes, growing extremist movements as witnessed at borders, cities and towns, the war on Ukraine and humanitarian crises growing there and in many parts of the world, the price of gas, food and well everything, and the growing anxiety about life as we know it. Jesus is aware of all that is happening, the true intent of leaders, the wondering of church folk and our growing uneasiness about the future.

And we hear “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” The church, founded on the teachings Jesus, has been consistent and perhaps the only constant in these years. And yes I know technology has made being present difficult for some, there are many who continue to seek solace, peace and purpose in empire and principalities. And it is not working out so well.

The invitation of Jesus to follow is founded on one main and constant guiding marker: to love others. If what a church professes or its members profess does not meet this one command, then a re-evaluation of itself is in order. It does not mean that the love of God or Jesus is withheld from anyone…it means the beliefs and actions of churches must this one benchmark.

Jesus is extending the invitation to come under his love and care. It is an invitation…we have to respond. And in these days and this time of being, cared for and protected is desperately needed.

So I am going to do something you almost never hear preachers say…

Close your eyes          take three deep breaths          be still              and know        Jesus’ love

Feel the embrace of Jesus surrounding our anxious minds and beating hearts

Feel the warmth of the comforting warmth of Jesus

Breath             Three more breaths

From now on every time you are too immersed in too CBC or CTV or CNN 24-hour news channels, turn them off        close your eyes           breath              and know the embrace of Jesus.

Then we can re-engage in the world with love and kindness and be the followers of Jesus.