Lent 2 March 17, 2019

The Rev. Janet Campbell

LENT 2 Year C

Genesis 15:1-12,17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35

 

Christ Episcopal Church

Tacoma, Washington

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Rev. Janet Campbell

 

 

 

How could we ever

even begin to know

the depth of God’s sorrows?

 

God who created the world

to be an Eden,

an abundant, beautiful, peaceful home

for all God’s children . . .

 

children created

in all our variety

and giftedness

for

delight and rejoicing . . .

 

created for freedom . . .

 

freedom

to grow and to flourish

in love

for God,

for one anther,

for all of creation . . .

 

 

How could we ever

even begin to know

the depth of God’s sorrows

as we, God’s children,

abuse our freedom,

turn time and again

away from love,

 

seduced by

the insidious powers

of this fallen world

that corrupt and destroy

the creatures of God.

 

Again it happens,

again and again . . .

 

from the small ways and hurts

of petty mean-nesses,

 

to the monstrous evil

of unimaginable cruelties . . .

 

that in our time have become

tragically, shockingly

familiar,

ordinary (!). . .

 

this past week in New Zealand,

at the

Masjid Al Noor Mosque

and the

Linwood Masjid Mosque.

 

 

Children of God,

gathered in God’s houses,

in God’s presence,

murdered at prayer . . .

 

Precious, irreplaceable lives

extinguished in an action

of cold, calculated brutality;

and countless other lives forever changed

as an immeasurable weight of sorrow

spreads throughout

a grieving community

mourning the dead

and caring for the injured:

fathers and mothers,

sisters and brothers,

elders and children,

friends and colleagues . . .

 

victims of

a white supremacist

in an attack deliberately planned

to be seen worldwide on social media . . .

that it might be praised and applauded

by other white supremacists

and, doubtless, incite other attacks . . .

 

 

God’s intent for God’s beloved children

is under severe threat

from what

Richard Cohen,

President of the Southern Poverty Law Center,

warns is a global terrorist movement

“linked by a dangerous white supremacist ideology

. . . metastasizing in

the echo chambers of internet chat rooms

and on social media networks.”

[SPLC “New Zealand attack shows white supremacy is global                                                                                 terrorist movement” Richard Cohen, President, March 15, 2019,

online version]

 

“a dangerous white supremacist ideology

. . . metastasizing in

the echo chambers of internet chat rooms

and on social media networks.”

 

In the face of growing worldwide

hatred, bigotry, intolerance and fear

people of faith

must stand in solidarity with one another

against any ideology

that seeks to

corrupt and destroy the creatures of God . . .

must grieve together, pray together,

stand together, act together

striving for justice and peace

among all people

and respecting the

dignity of every human being.

 

 

“Events such as this,”

our Bishop wrote Friday,

“should call us all

to a more peaceful walk,

and, in every step we take and word we speak,

[to] be a non violent presence in the world.

By this we can truly follow our Savior Jesus,

and change the world.”

[Bishop Rickel’s Statement on the New Zealand

Mosque Shootings, March 15, 2019 online version]

 

We must be

teachers and exemplars

of the way of peace . . .

in our homes,

in our faith communities,

in our schools and our places of work,

in the raising of our children

to be better than we are.

 

 

The world is in agony

because of the ones

for whom it was made . . .

 

Once, God, in sorrow and in hope,

came into the world in Jesus,

seeking to establish

a kingdom of justice and peace

for all people.

 

 

Jesus came in love

and was met by rejection.

He came in compassion

and was met by fear.

He came in peace

and was met by hostility.

 

He came to a time as

cruel,

as violent,

as our own.

 

(although

our capacity to wreak destruction

is of far greater magnitude . . .)

 

He came to a people

loved by God as we are,

and

shaky in their commitment

to God,

as we are.

 

In today’s gospel,

Jesus is on the road

from Galilee to Jerusalem . . .

and the terrible end that awaits him there.

 

 

But things are not exactly

copacetic in Galilee either . . .

 

“Get away from here,”

some Pharisees warn him,

“because Herod wants to kill you.”

 

Herod,

that fearful and petty tyrant,

who had already beheaded

the politically inconvenient

John the Baptist.

 

Herod,

a common thug, really,

not unlike the tin-pot dictators of today,

appointed by the Roman occupiers

of Palestine

to maintain order

in the remote territory of the Galilee,

by any means

by any means.

 

A predator.

 

“That fox,” Jesus derisively calls him.

 

 

“Tell him,” he says to the Pharisees,

“I’m working here now,

but my destiny is not in Galilee

or determined by Herod;

my destiny is in Jerusalem,

and determined by God.”

 

Jerusalem, Jerusalem,

that center and symbol

of God’s presence with the people

chosen to be God’s own.

 

“How often,” laments Jesus,

“have I desired to gather your children together

as a hen gathers her brood under her wings,

and you were not willing.”

 

It is a striking image

that would immediately call

to his listeners’ minds

the ever-present danger

in the ancient world

of fire raging out of control . . .

 

in this case,

in the familiar setting of a farmyard

 

with panicked animals

trying to escape

the flames and smoke,

and if unable to escape,

trying to protect

their young.

 

Many of Jesus’ hearers

would have seen, or known stories of,

a hen’s chicks found alive

under her charred, dead body,

her life given for theirs.

 

The image then

reflects back to Herod, “that fox,”

for hens were also known

to sacrifice themselves to a predator

in order to save their chicks.

 

This vivid and violent image

reveals what Jesus knows he must do

for the people of Jerusalem,

and by extension

for the people of Israel . . .

 

give his life.

 

How could we ever

even begin to know

the depths of Jesus’ sorrow,

as he calls his people

to himself

 

only to see them

running off in all directions

oblivious to the danger

they are in,

deaf to the call

of the only one

who can save them.

 

 

“Many live as enemies

of the cross of Christ . . .”

Paul wrote to the Philippians,

“their end is destruction, their god is the belly;

and their glory is in their shame;

their minds are set on earthly things.”

 

The cross,

instrument and sign of

God’s suffering and sorrow,

the world’s suffering and sorrow

in the tortured body of Christ,

brought about by

our wrong-headedness,

our wrong heartedness . . .

our chasing after earthly things . . .

 

The cross,

revelation of

God’s mercy and compassion,

for the healing of

our wrong-headedness,

our wrong heartedness . . .

our reliance on earthly things . . .

 

We ourselves

have been its enemies . . .

 

Is that too shocking?

 

 

In this season of Lent,

in this season of the world’s agonies,

God calls us to befriend the cross,

embrace its message of self-offering,

become, ourselves,

the sorrowing

mercy and compassion of God.

 

In Jesus

God has revealed God’s power

to heal our folly and delusion,

transform our minds and hearts,

bring all things together

under God’s most gracious rule.

 

That power is at work in the world,

at work in us,

and will not be denied . . .

 

despite any appearances

to the contrary.

 

The story of God’s promises to Abram,

of a new land, of an heir, of many offspring,
and Abram’s recurring struggle with doubt

when the promises were not fulfilled

according to his expectations,

or in his timing . . .

reminds us

that God is faithful

but God’s ways and God’s timing

are not our own.

 

 

The psalm we sang with the choir today,

the song of someone

who has known great troubles

at the hands of adversaries and evildoers,

is a song of the goodness of God,

a song of trust in God

a song of God’s help and protection . . .

and a song of waiting on God’s timing.

 

“The Lord is my light and my salvation,

whom then shall I fear?

The Lord is the strength of my life;

of whom then shall I be afraid?”

 

“What if I had not seen

the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!

O tarry and await the Lord’s pleasure;

be strong, and the Lord shall comfort your heart;

wait patiently for the Lord.”

 

 

Our house is not left to us abandoned,

this home of the world

that God created to be an Eden.

 

It is a troubled home, still,

there are dangers and predators

in the world.

 

 

But God is at home here, with us,

calling together

all the children of Abraham,

Jews, Muslims, Christians,

and all people who strive and suffer with us

walking the way of peace.

 

It is God’s way,

and its time is now.

 

At 6:30 this evening

people of many faiths

will gather

at the Islamic Center of Tacoma

in support of and solidarity with

our Muslim neighbors.

 

Let us join them,

as many as are able,

together to proclaim,

to be,

the goodness of the Lord

in the land of the living.

 

 

 

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