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Lent 2C RCL February 28, 2010

Lent 2C RCL February 28, 2010

Genesis 15:1-12. 17-18

Psalm 27

Philippians 3:17-4:1

Luke 13: 31-35

Abram and Sarai had a very comfortable life in Ur of the Chaldees until God called Abram to pack everything up and travel long and far through all kinds of difficulties to the land of Canaan. Abram has been faithful to God’s call, but he finds himself this morning caught in a net of discouragement, perhaps even despair.

“O Lord, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and my heir is Eliezer of Damascus?” Abram has no children. To be childless in ancient Hebraic thought meant to be out of favor with God. To be childess meant you had no future. Abram was planning to leave everything he had to his servant Eliezer.

Abram is a man with no future, no hope. But God reassures him that it is not over yet. How does God get through to Abram? God gives Abram a different perspective. “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” That’s how many descendents you are going to have. And God seals that covenant with the sign of fire, another ancient ritual symbol.

God asks Abram to look at the stars, to look up instead of looking down, to take the long view, the cosmic view, instead of, as it were, contemplating his feet and his sandals and being generally downcast. When we are preoccupied with our own immediate problems, it is very easy to become discouraged. But when we take God’s eye view, things begin to take on a new appearance. Faith happens. Hope happens. As you know, God’s promise to Abram came true.

In today’s epistle, Paul is very upset that the Philippians have taken the freedom of the gospel, the fact that our sins are forgiven, and twisted that loving grace into permission to commit sin. These people are thinking that, since Christ came to fulfill the law, we can forget the law. No so. We are called to live, not only the letter of the law, but the spirit as well. We are citizens now of a higher realm, the heavenly realm, and we are called to live lives worthy of that identity.

In the gospel, too, we see these two realms, the earthly and the heavenly. Those who were tied into the rewards of the status quo were against Jesus from the start. Jesus calls Herod, “That fox.” We know how cunning foxes are as they stalk the chicken coop. Jesus portrays himself as the mother hen gathering her brood and protecting her chicks—namely, us. This is a beautiful image of God’s care for us.

Jesus is not going to let the political forces of this world get in the way of his ministry. The foxes are not going to stop him. He laments that Jerusalem, the center of life and worship for his people, is also the place where God’s loving intervention is thwarted and denied, the place where prophets are killed and where he himself will be put to death.

You and I are citizens of the heavenly realm. You and I are called to live lives which reflect this citizenship. The values of this realm are very different from some of the values which prevail in the world. It is not easy to live the Christ-centered life. Like Abram, we will have doubts, we will be discouraged at times. Doubt is a part of the journey of faith. With God’s grace and help, we will be able to lift our eyes to the hills and to the stars and allow God to restore our hope and renew our vision.

There are many forces which call us away from being faithful to our heavenly citizenship—pride, wrath, greed, envy, gluttony, lust, and sloth, to name a few. The temptation to cut a few corners here, to skew a few facts there, to ignore or stretch the truth. Perhaps the most subtle tempation is to adopt the values of the world, thinking that we just have to in order to survive. Sometimes we give in. Sometimes we slip. We fall short, we ask forgiveness, we get back on track.

Our Lord knew exactly what the situation was. He was no dreamer with rose-colored glasses on. He saw reality for exactly what it it was. But he refused to go by the values of this world—aggression, cruelty, political one-upmanship, power-over others. He chose to walk the way of wisdom, compassion, understanding, and love. It led to a cross, and it will lead us to some crosses. But that is the only way to Easter.

What a courageous model we have in Jesus. May we strive to be faithful citizens of the kingdom he is building even now. Amen.

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