Rev. Julie Wright
Sunday, March 8, 2020 – Second Sunday of Lent
Grace and peace to you from Jesus, our brother, redeemer and savior. Amen.
In the Gospel reading this morning from Luke 13, we are witnesses to what unfolds:
- A unique conversation between Jesus and some Pharisees; and
- A statement of lament in which Jesus expresses his hope for the city of Jerusalem
From Luke, we get the distinct impression that Jesus is on a mission. He has “set his face” toward Jerusalem – this is the journey Jesus makes — and although he stops along the way to heal, to protect, and to bless the people – we are told that nothing – and no one – will deter Jesus from achieving the mission that has been laid upon his heart.
“Go and tell that fox [Herod] for me,” Jesus replies to the Pharisees–
- Tell him — I’m working hard here!
- I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.
But I wonder, is the work of Jesus ever finished?
Is the work of welcoming and healing and protecting and blessing – is this work that can ever be finished?
- Echoing in our ears, of course, are the words of our Savior who on the cross hung his head and uttered the words, “It. Is. Finished.”
And yet, after that dark day, it was not finished. Jesus was not finished at all.
Even today. The work of Jesus is not finished in you, in me, and in this world.
Luke reminds us that Jesus is not dwelling in what is coming next — he is focused on the work in front of him – because he knows. He knows what awaits him in Jerusalem.
He knows what happens to prophets in the holy city.
So Jesus offers this lament for the city of Jerusalem as he continues to work, to heal, to tend to his people.
Jerusalem – the holy city claimed by Jews, Christians and Muslims – has within it something called The Western Wall – or the Wailing Wall – where people have come for centuries to pray.
If you’ve been to this wall, or seen photos of it, you will notice slips of paper folded up and stuffed in between the cracks of the stone.
Prayers, written on paper – paper damp with tears – then folded, fill up the cracks between the large stones where people pause to pray.
In July of 2018, at the Wailing Wall, something remarkable happened.
A massive stone, possibly weakened by erosion, cracked, slipped and plummeted to earth.
Roughly 3 feet thick, and weighing around 220 pounds, the slab crashed down, narrowly avoiding a worshipper.
It smashed into a wooden platform used by liberal-minded Jews who prefer to allow men and women to pray together in the central plaza, where other religious authorities require men and women to pray separately.
Some said that it was God who smashed the stone, speculating that it served as a warning. Others pointed to the cause of the accident caused by centuries of erosion.
Lying in the rubble and splintered wood, the stone exposed cracks that run deeply in the Jewish community, especially between the Orthodox and the more progressive branches [of Judaism].
It’s true that fissures existed among the Jewish community before this incident – and yet, this only served to highlight what was already evident.
We could say the same for the Christian church – who split hairs time and again – letting our own stubbornness get in the way of listening and understanding. Many of us could say the same for our families, friends or our communities.
“How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
Can you imagine standing and praying at the foot of that massive Western Wall in Jerusalem – such a holy site – when that stone came tumbling down?
Can you imagine being there and hearing sisters and brothers praying in the many languages of this earth – and instead of rejoicing in God’s blessing in this holy space and holy time, to be caught up in an argument about WHY the stone had crumbled and fallen?
It’s easy for me to see the fractures in THOSE religious groups and wonder, why can’t YOUR division be healed after all these centuries? Why can’t you just love one other?
Of course, this story sadly points us to a current reality.
If this text causes us to look into a mirror, you will see, as I have discovered, that the division of which Jesus speaks is not just about THOSE people, from all those centuries ago. No, Jesus speaks to you – and to me – who see this kind of division every day.
You see, Jesus knows – he sees the writing on the wall: that now is the time to heal, to cast out demons, to love the people – all the people – he meets along the way – fully knowing that the time will come when he will be destroyed – eliminated by authorities who would rather kill Jesus than to admit their own weakness, their own need of healing.
The time for healing is now, Jesus says, and I must say: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Because this world needs healing. Communities cry out for unity. The hungry cry out for food that will never spoil. Children cry out for a family to call their own – a family that will never abandon them – a family that mirrors the love of Christ day in, day out.
This image today of a mother hen – it’s an unusual image. We are more accustomed to images like the sheep and the shepherd; students and teacher; but this image of mother hen is strangely comforting.
Hens are not known for having an expansive wingspan. Hens are rather ordinary.
But this image of hen and her chicks provides us with an image that should offer comfort through this Lenten journey:
- as we look into the mirror and see ourselves in the face of the soldier who arrests Jesus;
- As we see ourselves in the crowd that shouts Hosanna and spreads palms upon his path;
- And a few days later spit upon Jesus as he makes his way, carrying his own cross, to Gethsemane
Yes, we will see ourselves in those who had made Jerusalem their home. We will see in the mirror that they are us – and we are them.
We are the ones who stand at Jerusalem’s Western Wall and argue.
We are the ones who will deny him three times.
We will lament that they have taken away our savior.
And yet, knowing all of this – Jesus still wants to gather us – his family under his wings.
And I wonder: Just how wide are those wings?
How WIDE must be the wings of Christ to gather all the children of Jerusalem under his wings?
How DEEP must his love be for his children!
How COMPLETE must be the comfort of the Lord – for you and me – for all of us – to be welcomed under the wingspan of the Savior.
This Lent, sink deeply into the story of Jesus as he makes his way to Jerusalem.
Sink deeply into the story of Jerusalem – for it is not just their city – it is ours, too.
- Book: Five Little Chicks Tafuri, Nancy. (Woodbury) + Adoption photo & story