Sermon – Lent 2 – March 17, 2019
Luke 13:31-35 ‘Gathering the Reluctant’
CT: Our unwillingness to be gathered by God is only overcome by His persistent love for us through His Son.
Intro: The Portals of Prayer devotion this morning was about St. Patrick, who was kidnapped from Britain by Irish raiders and forced into slavery. Eventually he escaped, but was compelled to return to Ireland where he forgave his enemies; those who tried to kill him became his dear family in Christ. What kind of love of is this that brings a man to do that? If we think about this critically it doesn’t make any sense to us; it’s as if we really don’t know love at all. (Joni Mitchell; Both Sides Now)
Crippled Love: Our ability to love is critically hampered by our fear of being hurt on one side and our selfish interests on the other. We’re not good at unrequited love; we want assurances that we will be loved in return. Nothing hurts deeper than rejection; when a husband tells his wife he doesn’t love her anymore, or a son telling his parents he wishes they were dead. It’s next to impossible for us to extend ourselves if we don’t feel any love in return. How quickly do you give up on someone when they’ve hurt you? It’s easier for us to slip into anger and revenge than show compassion and understanding. We are more skilled at putting up barriers than tearing them down. Yet Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.” Our need for real love and our ability to love seems to be so mismatched; disjointed by sin! It points to our dependency on God.
God’s Pain: 1 Corinthians 13 describes God’s love for us. “Love is patient, kind, never rude, it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but always rejoices in the truth; love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things; love never ends!” That’s the love of our parish mission statement: “To know, show, and grow in the love of Christ.” And that’s the rejected—unrequited love that Jesus weeps over in our Gospel lesson. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
True Love: Jeremiah was one of those prophets Jesus spoke of and like all God’s prophets, he spoke the truth to God’s people. God’s desire was that His people, whom He delivered from Egypt, made into a nation, and planted in the land He promised to give them, would find shelter in (as the psalmist put it) “In the shadow of His wings.” But over and over again they pushed Him away and put themselves in grave danger; physically and spiritually! Jeremiah’s words from God were meant to keep them from dying apart from the gathering love of God; but they would not. Instead the people were offended by Jeremiah and grabbed him saying, “You shall die!” History shows that they beat, stoned, cut in two, and belittled God’s messengers. The people wouldn’t heed Jeremiah’s message, yet they were afraid he just might be God’s messenger, so they threw him in a dry well to keep him quiet. All this did not change God’s love or end His desire to embrace them or us; He didn’t reject them; instead He sent His Son. (Remember the Jesus’ parable of the vineyard and the tenants; Luke 20:9ff)
Love’s Place: As opposition to Jesus increased so did His determination to be in Jerusalem even in the face of all that He said would take place there. Herod could not change what was written about the Christ or alter God’s plan. Jesus would continue toward Jerusalem healing, casting out demons, and in a clear pattern of 3 days “finish His course.” God’s gathering love for us was publicly displayed in His Son’s outstretched arms on the cross. [Today, tomorrow, and the next] Our rejection—our misplaced love—our “No, I don’t want to; get away from me” is met by the boundless depth of real love; God’s love for us. The affirmation of God’s love for us burst forth from the tomb on the 3rd day. Your sins are not only forgiven and buried with Christ forever, but death is defeated. In Jesus’ resurrection you have the promise and power of new life lived now for forever. In the waters of your Baptism you have been given a heavenly citizenship. And we await from there our Saviour, “who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body.” Yes, we have the certain hope of the resurrection from the dead, because all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to our Saviour; our Lord, Jesus Christ. We are loved with an everlasting love, and His first love for us makes love possible in you and me.
Intensity: It’s not that the people of Jerusalem were particularly bad people; many would say they believed in God, yet they knew nothing of His love for them. I trust you believe that God is in control of all things and that Jesus has forgiven you all your sins, yet are there times when we can act as though Jesus has nothing to offer us that will make a difference in our lives. How many times do we reject Jesus by the way we glory in our own independence (in other words, we appreciate God but we really don’t need Him), or where we put our will above His, or when we refuse to let God hold us because our problems are too small or we hurt far too much for God to care for us; and Jesus cries over us? Do you ever miss the point of worship that it’s where Jesus comes to us to heal, forgive, bless, renew, change, and protect us?
If we can take anything from Jesus’ words today; it’s God’s passionate desire to embrace us in His arms of love—to hold us—to protect us with a love for us that is unchanging and persistent. And despite the ways we deny and reject the One God sent, Jesus continues to reach out for us with His arms outstretched on the cross. These are the same hands that reached out to you in your Baptism with every blessing that flows from His life, death, and resurrection that you would be gathered into His embrace and daily live in the security of His love for you. These are the same hands that offer you today His Body and Blood at His Table for the forgiveness of all of your sins. These are the same hands that bring to you His Word of peace and forgiveness that you might leave this place certain that you have been gathered by a love that will not let you go. Your salvation is secure in Jesus Christ.