THE 2ND SUNDAY IN LENT AD 2019
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, "You shall die!  Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, 'This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant'?" And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.
 When the officials of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king's house to the house of the Lord and took their seat in the entry of the New Gate of the house of the Lord.  Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, "This man deserves the sentence of death, because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears."
 Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, "The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard.  Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you.  But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you.  Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears."
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.  For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
[4:1] Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you."  And he said to them, "Go and tell that fox, 'Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.  Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.'  O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!  Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' "
He went back to the very ones who had enslaved him or so the story goes about the good saint that the Church and many others remember this day. St. Patrick was kidnapped as a young man in Britain and sold as a slave in Ireland. After six years of slavery He escaped back home. But after becoming a Christian Priest, he returned to the very people who had enslaved him to set them free from slavery to sin and death with the Gospel.
Patrick knew what he was heading back into. The Ireland of his day was not the Emerald Isle of today with gentle rolling hills and smiling Irish eyes. It was a hard brutal place held tightly in the grip a pagan religion. He went back to face threats, violence and hatred. An odd thing to do? For some, perhaps, but not for a follower of Jesus Christ.
You’d better move on Jesus because Herod’s out to kill you. So the Pharisees said. Herod had already beheaded John the Baptist. It wasn’t exactly his idea but Herod was bad news, if history is to be trusted. Whether or not Herod was really after Jesus isn’t clear. When he had Him in his hands later on, he mocked Him but he didn’t kill Him. He sent Him back to Pilate to do the dirty work.
The Pharisees and Jesus didn’t exactly see eye to eye, even though a number of them did become His disciples, Nicodemus being one of them. Whether the Pharisees were just trying to get Jesus to move on with this whole Herod business, or whether they were really concerned about Him, we don’t actually know, but the goal was the same - to get Jesus off track.
Whether the Pharisees were speaking as friends or foes, the one working through them was the same and his intentions were not good. Here we have one of those “opportune times” that we heard about last week. After Jesus had faced down Satan in the wilderness, Luke told us that he left Him for a more “opportune time.” Like a pit bull, the evil foe is tenacious, he doesn’t easily let go.
As he once spoke through Peter, we hear him at work today through the Pharisees. “Turn aside Jesus, don’t go down the dark and hard road, turn away.” But our Lord will not. The road is set before Him. For this reason He was born … for this reason He had come … to follow the road to Jerusalem who killed the prophets and stoned those who were sent to it. He had come to die for those who hated Him.
Why? Because He loved them. He loved those who killed His prophets and stoned those that He sent to them. Hard to believe, but true, as is so clearly shown by His choice, not to turn aside from His path … not to go an easier way. He had come to overthrow Satan and all of his power and He would see it through to the end, even though the very people He was going to save would hate Him for it.
The beautiful image that Jesus gives of His love is of a mother hen, gathering her chicks under her wings. A mother hen keeps her chicks alive by doing this. She uses her flesh and blood to sustain her little ones with the warmth of her life, but she also does this to put her life between her chicks and danger. The hawk plunging down from the sky tears into her flesh with its claws, while the chicks lie safe under her wings.
You can hear the heartbreak in Jesus’ voice as He laments that He longs to cover Jerusalem with His wings, to give her life, to safe her from her foes, but she will not. As He looks to the city that will kill Him His heart is filled with heartbreak, and yet, His love will not be turned aside. His love will not give up on her, on it will go, to spread out its wings on Calvary, whether anyone will gather under them for shelter or not. His love, unlike the love of many, won’t grow cold. His heart is unchanging, steadfast, to the end.
This is the love that men like St. Patrick and people like us have been invited into, beloved, the love of our Father. This love that does not cut and run when the going gets tough, but walks out the path laid out for it, even if it leads up Calvary to a cross … even if it means we will be hated by all for it. We were born into this love through our baptism into Christ. The Lord has planted it in each of our hearts, and now He asks us to abide in it, live in it in the way of His Son.
There can be no question that we are being to asked to live out this love in our time. The hatred of the world toward Jesus and His truth grows with each passing day. People do not appreciate the light that He shines on their lives. Their deeds are evil and they’d rather keep them hidden under the cover of darkness. The Church is not welcome with her Word of right and wrong, the world has no time for that, or for the word of truth that exposes all her lies.
Yes, in the face of all this darkness the temptation set before Jesus is the temptation set before us. Turn tail and run. Clear out. They’ve got their eye on you. Yes, beloved, it would be a lot easier for us, to turn our backs on all those people who won’t thank us for being God’s sent ones … for being the ones who live out His truth and speak it.
It would be a lot easier if we lived in a land that treasured the Church. It would be a lot easier, if we worked with, lived with, people who didn’t reject the truth. It would be a lot easier, if all our near and dear ones remained faithful to the Lord. It would be a lot easier, if we didn’t have to put up with all the Godlessness around us: on the news, in our government, in our schools, in our workplaces, and yes, even at times in our own homes. It would be a lot easier, but this is not the path that the Lord has given us to walk.
We could withdraw from all these places. It would be easier, a whole lot safer, but we are the Lord’s sent ones, the ones with the Light of the world in us sent into these very places to walk out the way of love … to carry the truth into them … to live out the truth in them, because the Lord loves all those that we find there, even those who would reject Him and kill Him. He loves them with an unfailing steadfast love that desires not their death, but that they would repent and live.
The way isn’t easy. It’s the way of the cross, but in Christ it is to be our way. Following it is the last thing that Satan wants us to do. He will use everything and everyone he can to get us off track, but there is no other way for the Father’s children. This is our path and it is ours to take. The Lord who walked it before us is with us today, because He knows how hard it is to follow it. He is here in His body and blood to forgive us for the ways that we have failed in the journey, even as He comes to nourish us for the way ahead.
Afraid? Yes, it’s easy to be afraid. Worried? Yes, it’s easy to be that too. Frustrated? Angry? Overwhelmed? Downhearted? Weary? Yes, all of them and more. As the good St. Patrick and many other saints were at times. But the love that spread out its arms on Calvary won’t fail you, beloved, as it didn’t fail them. That love truly has overcome the world. It is steadfast and unfailing, as you can taste and see at this altar. It’s here for you today, in Christ’s flesh and blood to gather you under His wings, so that you might live by the warmth of His life and be guarded from all evil. Amen.