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Lent 2C   March 17. 2019

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

In our opening reading for today, we meet those shining examples of faith, Abraham and Sarah. At this point, their names are still Abram and Sarai. God has called them to leave their comfortable life in Mesopotamia and journey to Canaan.

Abram and Sarai have no children, and God has promised them that they would have many descendants. They have been through trials and tribulations and challenges too numerous to describe, and, although they are humans like us, they have stayed on the path and kept the faith as well as anyone could  under the circumstances. Yet, they are still childless.

Back in those days, around 1600 years before the birth of Christ, having children was everything. If you had children, you had a future, If you had no children, you had no future. If you had children, you could leave your land and flocks and herds and fields to them and they would take care of you. If not, it was easy to feel that you had nothing to live for.

By this time in their lives, Abram and Sarai are very old, way beyond the childbearing years. Yet God has made a covenant with them, and now Abram is asking God, when are you going to keep your end of this bargain? God takes Abram outside and shows him the night sky. See that? That’s how many descendants you will have.

Abram still needs more proof, so God actually tells Abram to carry out a liturgical offering, a sacrifice. Then Abram falls asleep and has a dream in which God confirms that the promise will come true.  

Have you ever thought you didn’t have a future? Have you ever thought God had broken a promise? Has your faith ever wavered? Here we have Abraham, that great icon of the faithful person, needing reassurance from God. And God responds.

In today’s gospel, the Pharisees warn Jesus that Herod is trying to kill him.  Jesus has little patience with the machinations of worldly leaders. His response is terse, “Go tell that fox that I’m going to keep on healing people and helping people and on the third day I finish my work.”

Jesus knows exactly what is going on. These days we would say he is streetwise. He knows that Herod is a fox who is ready to raid the hen house and eat the chickens. He is totally focused on his mission, and he knows that he has to go to Jerusalem. Yet he tells us a tragic truth. Jerusalem, the city where the temple is located, the city which is supposed to be listening for the voice of God and following God’s leading, is a city in which the leaders, both sacred and secular, do not hear the voice of God. Beverly Gaventa writes, “Ironically, tragically, the city that houses God’s Temple also houses a persistent refusal to hear God’s word.”  (Gaventa, Texts for Preaching Year C, p, 207.

Because of this, Jesus wants to protect his little chicks. Like a mother hen, he wants to gather us under his wings and protect us from the likes of Herod and other foxes. But he cannot do this. The powers that be in Jerusalem are not going to permit it. He is called to go to Jerusalem, and he will go, but he will not be permitted to offer healing and comfort and protection to the people. The earthly powers will stand in the way. They will kill him. Jesus knows exactly what a fox is, because he has the vantage point of a mother hen, or maybe even a chick.

How easy it is for us humans, when we acquire a great deal of money and a great deal of fame and power, to lose our bearings. The recent scandal involving very rich people paying money to insure that their children get into the best colleges and other people running a business that facilitates these transactions is a glaring example of this.

What would we do if we had that amount of money and power? What would we do without our faith? What would we do without God and Jesus and the Spirit guiding us and giving us grace?

In his letter to his beloved Philippians, Paul reminds us that, ultimately, we are not citizens of this world. Yes, we are called to stay informed and participate in our government and exercise our vote, but, as Paul writes, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” We are following Jesus, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith”. We are waiting for him to come and complete his work of creation. And we are not waiting passively. We are doing all we can to help him build his reign of peace, harmony, and wholeness.

Sometimes, on this journey, we wonder, where is God in all of this? Sometimes we may feel that God is far away. Abram felt that way, even though he was a person of deep faith. He called out to God and God answered him.

In today’s gospel, we stand beside our Lord as he shares his profound grief, “Jerusalem, 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!” Even  before we call out to him, our Lord is ready to help us.

And yet, our Lord knows that he will not be allowed to offer that comfort and protection to Jerusalem. He will be killed.

But we are listening, and we know that, at this very moment and always, Jesus is offering us his presence, his grace and strength and guidance. He is with us right now, doing just that. We don’t even have to ask him, We don’t have to call on him. He is here.

May we accept his gracious gift of himself.  Amen.

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