First Reading: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
1After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” 4But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” 5He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.
7Then he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.” 8But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” 9He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. 11And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
12As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.
17When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.”
Psalm: Psalm 27
In the day of trouble, God will give me shelter. (Ps. 27:5)
1The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
2When evildoers close in against me to devour my flesh,
they, my foes and my enemies, will stumble and fall.
3Though an army encamp against me, my heart will not fear.
Though war rise up against me, my trust will not be shaken.
4One thing I ask of the Lord; one thing I seek;
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek God in the temple.
5For in the day of trouble God will give me shelter,
hide me in the hidden places of the sanctuary, and raise me high up- on a rock.
6Even now my head is lifted up above my enemies who surround me.
Therefore I will offer sacrifice in the sanctuary, sacrifices of rejoicing; I will sing and make music to the Lord.
7Hear my voice, O Lord, when I call; have mercy on me and answer me.
8My heart speaks your message—“Seek my face.”
Your face, O Lord, I will seek.
9Hide not your face from me, turn not away from your servant in anger.
Cast me not away—you have been my helper; forsake me not, O God of my salvation.
10Though my father and my mother forsake me, the Lord will take me in.
11Teach me your way, O Lord;
lead me on a level path, because of my oppressors.
12Subject me not to the will of my foes,
for they rise up against me, false witnesses breathing violence.
13This I believe—that I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
14Wait for the Lord and be strong.
Take heart and wait for the Lord!
Second Reading: Philippians 3:17–4:1
17Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. 19Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. 4:1Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
Gospel: Luke 13:31-35
31At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to [Jesus,] “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”
CHILDREN’S SERMON: This morning I want to remind you of a story most of us have probably heard but is worth repeating. This is how the Internet tells the story of the hen and her chicks caught in a fire:
The forest fire had been brought under control, and the group of firefighters was working back through the devastation. As they marched across the blackened landscape, a large lump on the trail caught a firefighter’s eye. It was the charred remains of a large bird. Since birds can so easily fly away from danger, the firefighter wondered what must have been wrong with this bird that it could not escape. He decided to kick it off the trail. As he did, he was startled by a flurry of activity around his feet. Four little birds flailed in the dust and ash then scurried away.
The bulk of the mother’s body had covered them from the searing flames. Though the heat was enough to consume her, it allowed her babies to find safety underneath. In the face of the rising flames, she had stayed with her young. She was their only hope for safety, and willing to risk her own life. She had gathered them under her body and covered them with her wings. Even when the pain reached its most unbearable moment, when she could easily have flown away to start another family on another day, she made herself stay through the raging flames.
What love must have constrained that hen!
Let us pray: Lord may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.
“At that very hour…”
We are journeying with Jesus to Jerusalem and to the crucifixion. Last week reminded us that on this Lenten journey Jesus, and we, will face temptations to distract us from God’s goal for our lives – eternity with him. Today we will start looking at the time between the beginnings of the journey and reaching the goal. “At that very hour” on his journey, Jesus is approached by the Pharisees. At this very hour on our journey, we are gathering here around the altar, making our way to God.
“Leave this place and go somewhere else”
The Pharisees tell Jesus to flee for Herod Antipas is seeking to kill him. Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great who was ruling when Jesus was born, is the tetrarch of Galilee in northern Israel and we will see him again on the night Jesus is tried after the Garden of Gethsemane. Herod will go to Jerusalem for the Passover but his area of jurisdiction is Galilee. Herod is the man who had John the Baptist beheaded. The Pharisees tell Jesus that Herod wants to kill him. Herod is ruthless. Danger cares nothing about us. The temptation is to flee.
We do not have to ponder very long to recognize this scenario in our world today. The news is full of Technicolor pictures of people fleeing from political powers seeking their lives. Others are fleeing so as not to be identified with those powers. We imagine Europe, Afghanistan and let us not forget our borders with refugees lined up seeking a safe place. We know this danger, this dynamic. In the face of danger we flee for help. Jesus speaks into this very human dynamic.
We might take a moment and reflect on the forces that tempt us to flee a situation. Perhaps the situation is not political but fear of failure, fear of finances, fear of aging, or fear of what or what comes to us all. Somehow the grass is often greener on the other side of the fence. For many this danger is real, not imaginary. Getting women and children out of war zones is not a situation to take lightly. I am not saying that faith should lead us to foolish decisions that endanger lives of people. Sometimes we have to flee. We are indeed unable to defend ourselves in our own strength. We need an intervention. At that very time when the danger is real, we will weigh all the voices in our heads.
“Go tell that fox..”
Jesus hears, Jesus knows, and Jesus responds to the threat of evil that plagues our lives. I will say it again, the presence of danger and evil does not mean we are out of God’s will or that God is not aware and active. We must never doubt that.
“I will keep on driving out demons and healing people…”
In the midst of the traumas of our lives God is active, working for good. Jesus does not abandon his post and his people. Jesus is not driven by the dynamics of Satan. Jesus is living out a plan that is in God’s hands and is not driven by fear and panic.
Our hearts are warmed today to see, read, and hear the reports of the different aid organizations working in the war effort. Clothes and supplies are being donated. Soup kitchens are functioning. People are sharing their homes. I cannot list the Lutheran organizations present in the middle of the horror. Christians in Russian are putting their lives on the line and demonstrating and going to jail. Let me remind us Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” In the midst of all the chaos evil can throw at us politically, socially, emotionally or any other way, God is active and not abandoning us. Satan like Herod is a sly fox trying to steal our faith but God is working and standing firm, fighting for us. Jesus is on the way to the cross and working to defeat the evil that causes us to flee.
“…today, tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.”
Not only is Jesus continuing to do good in the midst of the battles with evil, Jesus reminds us that his timing is right. Confrontations with evil can lead us to panic and think that God has forgotten us or is asleep on the job. Our text today grounds us in God’s timing, not ours. Perhaps you are like me and imaging that “evil other” to have a heart attack or a coup or some sort of intervention that will end the pain quickly. Pain and suffering wear us down and discourage us. The evil voice whispers that God does not care or even that he is not powerful.
God does not need me to defend his ways in the world and explain them but he does ask me to trust that he can somehow make good come out of what appears so evil now. “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)” Jesus will reach his goal and at this point in the biblical narrative, no one was thinking of the cross and resurrection. That is not today’s sermon. At this very time, as evil is seeking to destroy Jesus and us, he is continuing to work good and on schedule. Jesus is actively doing good and he is on course to achieve his goal.
“…it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem”
Jesus turns our eyes to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is “headquarters.” It is the seat of power socially, religiously and economically for the Jews. It’s kind of like saying he was headed to Washington DC or Kyiv or Moscow. It is impossible for him to die without dealing with the core of the problem.
I suspect we often get bogged down in the details of a problem. We imagine and fear what the catastrophe or problem might bring. We think about the timing of a solution, or even the various people who are involved and we loose sight of the forest because of all the trees! Jesus gives an example. Over the centuries, God sent prophets to Jerusalem with messages. The people thought that by killing the prophets themselves, they somehow killed the truth of the message. Wrong. God is the only source that sees our plight correctly.
We think if we could just silence the voice of the messenger then the message would disappear. Often we deal with problems like that. The temptation is to turn off the TV and news because it is too disturbing. Get a second opinion so perhaps the outlook will change, or gossip with a friend so they can confirm that we are right in our evaluation of something. If all else fails, there is always food, alcohol, gambling and sex. Getting to the core of a “complicated” problem is hard. It requires prayer, reflection, perhaps group think, and often time. Jesus will deal with the disease and demonic problems on his daily path but he is on his way to Jerusalem to deal with the core issue – Satan, evil, must be defeated. It is evil’s involvement in our world that distracts us from the reality that “this is my father’s world.”
“I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings,”
Our text now gives us a window into God’s heart as Jesus laments the Lenten journey he and we are on. God does not desire to kill and destroy us but he desires to gather us under his wings. I’m sure you have heard the story in the children’s sermon in some form. The charred body of a hen was found. When they lifted her wings, they found tiny chicks huddled underneath. She gave her life shielding her children. God loves us like that hen and is shielding us from that sly fox Herod or Evil or whatever name we want to put in this sentence. God will not stop doing good as he is dealing with a bigger picture. God’s timing is always right. He is on task heading to the core, the Jerusalem, of our situation. He will deal not only with Herod but also with all forms of evil that threaten to unhinge us today. We need only take shelter under his wings.
And the people of God said, “AMEN!”