Filling in at the Wednesday Lenten Luncheon in March of 2013 —
May the love of God, the communion of the Holy Spirit, and the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, be with you all.
Our opening prayer is sung this morning, by our quartet: Nancy Dallas, Barbara Gentry, Ted Hale, and Eugene Leciejewski; and Bonnie Montague doing her magic on the piano. Augustine said, “The one who sings, prays twice” – so let’s pray! – twice!
“Precious Lord, Take My Hand”
At our first Lenten Luncheon, Pastor DuPre celebrated how good it is that we can come together as a community on a Lenten Journey together; and today, we gather as we prepare to wave palms this Sunday and sing Hayzanna, Hosanna as Jesus rides the colt of Peace down the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem – possibly at the same time that Pilate was entering Jerusalem on steeds of war and empire from the opposite direction.
Today I want to read from the gospel according to Luke a little beyond where we often stop reading on a joyous Palm Sunday, and I want to think a bit about how this gives us a clue as to how it is that we have the chutzpa to ask the Lord of the Universe to “take our hand” – us specks! – how it is that we have the trust that the Lord will “take our hand,” and will help us “through the storm and the night.”
We will read the familiar story on Sunday, and I am starting to read as Jesus is seated on the foal of a donkey, starting from the Mount of Olives.
38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”[a]
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” [NIV; last phrase from NRSV]
“Jesus broke into tears.”
When we think over the gospel stories of Jesus, we see an intense life, but one with an even tenor – Jesus steadily and purposefully moving: healing, teaching, helping; but on occasion – like here — the gospel writers show us a flash of strong feeling that give us strong clues as to what the God of the Universe is like: clues into the character of God.
Earlier in Luke, Jesus has said about Jerusalem,
34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’[a]”
Jesus knows what is going to happen to him, but incredibly, he still reaches out, longingly, to us.
At the Last Supper, he tells the disciples, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you.” Linguists tell us “eagerly desired” is from a Hebrew idiom – “I have been ‘longing longingly’ to eat this Passover with you.” – The Lord of the Universe – longing for us –
It seems absurd – and yet we read in John’s gospel, “For God so loved the world – God sent his son.”
Occasionally the gospel writers show us flashes of anger. In Mark, we read, in chapter 3:
3 Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand,“Stand up in front of everyone.”
5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.
This is the anger that shows up in the Woes to the Pharisees in Matthew and Luke:
“Woe to you experts in the law, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” [Luke 11:46]
And yet, in the story of the shriveled hand, along with the anger is grief – “grieved at their hardness of heart.”
Throughout the gospels there is that searching love for all of us on the wrong track.
We remember two “gut feeling” words the gospel writers use to describe Jesus: One is the way John’s gospel tells us Jesus reacted when he saw Mary and the others crying when Lazarus died. We read that Jesus “was deeply moved in spirit,” or “greatly disturbed in spirit” – And again, the linguists tell us this is a word properly used of a horse – a snort – “hunh!” – and “he wept,” we read.
In this word picture of Jesus, we see just how intensely Jesus means it when he says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” [Mtt.5:4] – The Lord of the Universe, to the depth of God’s being, resonates with us, “bears our griefs,” and “restores our souls” little by little as we turn to the Good Shepherd.
The other “gut feeling” word in the gospels is literally that: our inward parts. In English we usually see “had compassion on.” It’s not a rational response – but a deep instinctive gut-level response. The gospel writers say Jesus had immediate “gut feeling” for
the leper that came to him
the crowds who were like sheep without a shepherd
the widow of Nain whose only son just died
two blind men who heard him going by on his way to Jerusalem.
The Lord of the Universe, incredibly, is inclined to us dust specks.
And we heard this yesterday in the first homily of Pope Francis. Francis said:
“Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!” http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/19/world/europe/vatican-francis-homily/
Other flashes of feeling the gospel writers tell us:
Jesus was indignant that the disciples would try to keep the children away from him. He kept teaching that we adults need to be more like children. (And it’s probably no accident that when we celebrate on Sunday, we see it’s the children who are shouting “Hosanna!” in the temple and upsetting the authorities)
He rebuked the forces that beset us:
He rebuked the unclean spirits
He groaned when the Pharisees asked for a sign, in spite of all the astounding good they plainly saw him doing.
He said alas for us who are rich, full, laughing, well-spoken of, if we are not caring for one another and for the least of these. [Luke 6:24-26]
And the gospel writers tell us straight out: Jesus loves us.
He looked at the rich young ruler who, in a few moments, was going to turn away from following because of his riches; and, Mark says, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” [10:21]
John says Jesus loved “Martha, her sister, and Lazarus.”
And he says about Jesus, “having loved his own, he loved them to the end,” and tells us how Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.”
We recall one of the woes to the Pharisees – and to the Pharisee in our own hearts – “Woe to you, Pharisees – for you give God a tenth of your mint, rue, and all kinds of other garden herbs, but you have neglected the weightier matters of the Law: justice, and the love of God.” [Mtt.23:25, Luke 11:42]
Love for God. [an objective genitive]
Incredibly, the God of the Universe loves us and longs for our love in return.
That has been from the beginning: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.” [Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18]
that the very being
of the God of all being
is love. [I John 4:16]
And the song will say “Amen.”
“Out of the Ivory Palaces” [duet: Nancy Dallas and Barbara Gentry]
- My Lord has garments so wondrous fine,
And myrrh their texture fills;
Its fragrance reached to this heart of mine
With joy my being thrills.
Out of the ivory palaces,
Into a world of woe,
Only His great eternal love
Made my Savior go.
- His life had also its sorrows sore,
For aloes had a part;
And when I think of the cross He bore,
My eyes with teardrops start.
- His garments, too, were in cassia dipped,
With healing in a touch;
In paths of sin had my feet e’er slipped—
He’s saved me from its clutch.
- In garments glorious He will come,
To open wide the door;
And I shall enter my heav’nly home,
To dwell forevermore.
March 20, 2013