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Lent 2C RCL February 21, 2016

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

Our opening reading from the Book of Genesis is full of insight for us on our journey through Lent. It shows one of the great heroes of the faith, Abraham, in a state of fear. Our lesson opens with God telling Abraham not to be afraid. Here is the great example of faith, Abraham, who has journeyed from Ur of the Chaldeans to a new land, and now he is wondering whether he has made a huge mistake.

As we can see, God is with him, encouraging him. And Abraham asks God the real question that is bothering him. Abraham asks God, “Are you going to give me children as you promised? Am I going to have a future, or has all my journeying been for nothing?” God tries to reassure Abraham, telling him that he is going to have children. But that does not seem to make the point strongly enough

So God takes Abraham out into the night. “Look up into the heavens and count the stars. That is how numerous your descendants will be.”

When we go out at night and look up at the sky, the vastness of it speaks of God’s immense power and glory. It is impossible to count the stars. There are far too many of them.

Somehow, the immensity of God’s creation speaks to the heart and mind of Abraham, as it also speaks to us. If God can create all this and if God is telling me that I am going to have this many descendants, I have to believe it,” Abraham says to himself.

But then he needs a sign. We could say that he needs a liturgical sign. So God instructs Abraham to make a sacrifice. And Abraham does that. A deep sleep falls on him, and when he wakes up, the fire of God comes and burns the sacrifice. This is the sign of the convenient between God and Abraham.

Abraham and Sara had left a prosperous life in Ur of the Chaldeans, had packed up their possessions and their animals, and all they had, and had gone to a new land. God called them to do this, and they responded to that call.

But now Abraham comes to a point where he is doubting or questioning what he has done. Has God really called me to do this? Will God help me to take the next steps? Will God keep his promise to give us children, even though we are old? Is God really going to help me establish my home in this new and unknown land?

Even this great holy example of the faithful person, Abraham, had times of fear and doubt. That can be very reassuring to us. Sometimes we need to ask God to reassure us. Especially when we have made major decisions, even if we have felt that God is calling us to these choices, sometimes we need support and reassurance from God and trusted friends in the faith. Even Abraham needed this reassurance from God.

Questions and doubts are not the opposite of faith. They are part of our human journey of faith.

In our gospel for today, the Pharisees are trying to help Jesus. They warn our Lord that Herod wants to kill him. Jesus responds with some blunt comments. He is healing people and doing his ministry and on the third day he will finish his work. On the third day he will rise and lead us into new life. He has to keep moving because Jerusalem, even though it is the site of the temple, is dangerous. That is where those in power, such as Herod, exercise total control over everything. That is where the prophets are killed. That is where those who want to keep complete control over everything that happens exterminate everyone who threatens their power.

And then Jesus says something that is so much from his heart that it brings tears to our eyes: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills 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!”

Jesus wanted so much to share his ministry of love and healing with this most holy city, and it was impossible because the earthly rulers shut him out. All they wanted to do was to kill him. They are so blind and so caught up in their own power that they could not be open to Jesus in any way.

That is something that can happen to us humans. We can actually shut God out from our lives. Jesus is expressing the sorrow of God when people attain so much power that they can prevent an entire city from having access to God.

Jesus tells the Pharisees that they will not see him until what we call Palm Sunday, the day when he will enter Jerusalem and be honored, the beginning of the week when he will die.

In his Letter to his beloved Philippians, Paul is calling them and us to keep following our Lord. By that time in the Roman Empire, moral values were beginning to slip.  As Paul says, “ Our citizenship is in heaven.” The values that Jesus calls us to, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, are not the values of this world.

What are these readings telling us today? First, even Abraham became scared and anxious. When we feel that way, we need to follow Abraham’s example. We need to talk to God about it and ask for help. We can also ask for human help from friends in the faith.

Our other two readings are also reminding us to ask God for help. Jesus would have loved to gather the people together and teach them and help them, But the religious and secular leaders prevented that.

On our Lenten journey and every day, may we ask our Lord for help. May we listen to his guidance. May we follow him in faith. And, when we are scared, may we let him gather us under his wings and protect us. Amen.

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