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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Lent 3C Luke 13:1-9

Luke 13:1-9
Isaiah 55:1-13

Am I being punished for my sins? At some time or the other we all ask this question. When tragedy strikes: we search high and low for a REASON.
Photo courtesty of
Someone tells Jesus, Pilate, the Roman governor, murdered some people from Galilee while they were sacrificing in the Temple. The question, “Were they worse sinners than we are? Is that why they were killed?”

If only Jesus had answered, “Yes.” We would be happy to know that, “To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Life would be neat and clean. Only bad people would reap bad consequences. The good would get good, the bad would get bad.

Jesus did not answer yes.

Instead he says, “not at all. Unless you repent you’ll all perish.” Sounds heartless and cruel. You’re all going to end up like them if you don’t get your act straight.

He goes on to site another tragedy “18 men died in the tragedy of Siloam by a tower falling on them. Unless you repent you’ll end up just like them.”


“Tragedies occur, whether intentionally by oppressive governors such as Pilate or accidentally by imperfections in the kind of world we live in. In neither case must one conclude that tragedies are necessarily an indication of divine judgment against sinners. Rather, in view of the uncertainty of life and the unpredictability of the future one must be warned to examine one’s own life and repent.” (Jirair Tashjian

We don’t have reasons for most tragedies. We would like to say, “those sinners in ________ pay for it by their earthquakes, mudslides, and floods.” We like to pat ourselves on the back and say they are worse sinners than we are, therefore those things don’t happen to us. We read the Bible. We go to church. Then terrible twisters tear up our state we wonder if our sins will wipe us out too.

Many times when we hear of or even experience tragedy we examine our own lives and say, “What if that were to happen to me? Would I be ready to die?” This is the right way to respond! That is what Jesus is saying, “Yes, yes, bad things do happen. We don’t know why. But when they happen let’s see if there is anything in our lives that needs changing.”

When we hear of a child dying because she found a gun in her father’s drawer, we all go home and check the safeties on our guns and buy gun cabinets with locks.
When we hear of a child overdosing on Tylenol from the medicine cabinet we go home and lock ours up even tighter.
When we hear of a dog getting rabies and biting someone we make vet appointments and take our animals in for shots.

Often it takes a tragedy to wake us up, to make us live responsibly, to examine our inner selves.
When we hear of someone dying we wonder, “When will it be my turn?” Until we face a death of someone our own age we think death is all for someone else.

What does a fig tree have to do with a tragedy?
Will the fig tree produce fruit next year? God longs for it to happen.

In other words, let’s give them one more chance. Jesus tells us its time to repent. Repent means to open your eyes, realize you’re heading the wrong way, and turn around and go the other way. If you turn on the wrong side of the exit ramp heading to the interstate you open your eyes right away to the problem and get out of there! You see the consequences in front of you in the form of an oncoming tractor trailer rig that make you into roadkill. It doesn’t take long to turn around when you’re scared.

Repentance means you open your eyes to the consequences of your behavior, and you turn around as fast you as you can to get away from it.

In the first part of the passage Jesus judges, “REPENT OR YOU WILL PERISH.”In the second part, “GIVE THEM ONE MORE CHANCE”two sides of the same God Judgment and grace

Oh how he longs for you to bear fruit

"Is anyone thirsty come and drink even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk—it’s all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen and I will tell you where to get food that is good for the soul!" Isaiah 55:1-2 NRSV

Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near Let the people run from their wicked deeds. Let them banish form their minds the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Come and eat at God’s table.
And when you do the the trees of the field will clap their hands because God’s salvation has broken into the history in the person of Jesus Christ.

Lent 2C Luke 13:31-35

The Fox and the Hen

Luke 13:31-35

Luke 13:31-35 Jesus, having been warned that Herod, a Jewish king given power by the Romans, wanted to kill him, smartly remarked, “Go and tell that fox…”
Now calling someone a fox in this respect is NOT a compliment. This is not the Fonz talking about a girl he met! This is an insult, and the rumor that Jesus had insulted him was enough to send Herod into a rage and order Jesus to be executed.What does a fox do? My only concept of foxes comes from cartoons. The fox runs after the chickens. Many have seen the Fox and the Hound, a story about a hound dog and a fox becoming friends as cubs but having to part ways because of their differences. Foxes are generally seen as cunning, sneaky.Sometimes they kill all the hens in one roost. It is a man like this that Jesus tells, “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside Jerusalem”

And then he calls himself a hen as he mourns Jerusalem. “I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing.”

“Jerusalem, oh Jerusalem.…” Jerusalem was a symbol for the entire nation of Israel, the holy city, the place where prophets are killed. How Jesus longed to comfort his people and to show them He LOVED them! But they are not willing!
If you ever loved someone who resisted your protection, then you understand the pain of Jesus’ lament. All you can do is open your arms. You cannot make anyone come into your embrace. Meanwhile, you find yourself in the most vulnerable posture in the world –arms (wings) spread, breast exposed. If you really want to protect, then you find yourself in a vulnerable position.
Even chicks know to stay close to their mother. And human mothers know the sound of their baby’s cry…the baby who doesn’t want to be separated from the place where love, food, and care comes from.
It is the fox who chases the hen…Herod, the king, chasing Jesus. Who is going to win when the fox enters the henhouse? But the story plays out a different way then expected.

Once a firefighter came upon an eagle’s nest after a forest fire had raged across the landscape. The eagle, stiff, charged, dead—the firefighter kicked the bird away. All of a sudden peeping filled the air. The chicks had survived because the mother had given her life to save them.
Jesus did this for us.

Yet even when Jerusalem kills prophet after prophet, God keeps sending more. This gracious God is the mother hen who makes repeated attempts to gather her chicks, but the chicks refuse and go their own way. God coaxes, he pleads, but he does not force.

God allows us to go our own way when we choose, and then we suffer the consequences of being outside of his spread of wings.
Psalm 91:4 He will cover you with his pinions (the outer part of a birds wing, the part that enables flight), and under his wings you will find refuge.”

When we insist on going our own way God opens up his arms to us. When you sit with arms crossed, aloof, you are giving the sign you want to protect yourself. But when you open your arms to anyone you not only risk rejection, you expose your heart to the world. You make yourself completely vulnerable.
The hen spreads her wings to protect the chicks and they are nailed to a cross.
And the hen sees the fox coming and when he slithers up to her she sounds an alarm and the chicks scatter. But the fox kills the hen.

She told the fox she would rather die than let him have her chicks.

And she does.

(A special thanks to Richard Fairchild at for inspiring and influencing this sermon)

Lent 1C Luke 4:1-13

First Sunday of Lent, Year C
Luke 4:1-11

“Just this once”

When I was in college, I had a few friends who influenced me to skip class. The conversation usually started like this, “Did you study?”
“No. Did you?”
“Do you really want to go to class?”
"Let’s go to the bookstores!” That was our temptation (When I preached this on Sunday, Feb. 25, a room full of college students/grads yelled this at me, NERD!)
So James & I got in his little Honda Civic & drove to pick up David who as usual was late for class. We threw David in the backseat as he knew where all the best bookstores were. We drove away to David’s wife screaming, “David, don’t you spend all the grocery money!”

I gave in to temptation this morning. A quilt magazine advertising… (for my blog on quilts see my likes to the right of this post) it’s like they knew me…quilts, shortcuts to making quilts, lots of bright colors, glossy pictures and oooh stickers! So I stuck the stickers on the little cute card & popped it in the mail counting the days to getting my first magazine & oooh free book! Forget the 24.95 plus 5.97 shipping. That’s way off in the future.
Last night I was walking through Wal-Mart and just tried to step back and see what temptation had to do with walking down action alley the center aisle…Everything screamed "buy me buy me" and with a credit card that is not maxed in my purse, well, that is temptation. There is a blanket softer than mine there is a new DVD I don’t have in my collection and oooh look at that new sweater than would just match my eyes…. You know most people call this advertising but the Bible calls it temptation.
We get a wrong picture of this scene with Jesus if we think he is out in the wilderness & an ugly devil in a red suit with a face like an Orc and a voice like Vader. That is not how temptation works. In the book of proverbs temptation is a sexy woman seeking to devour. As much as I hate to refer to this because it makes women look bad, I can’t get away from what Proverbs really says.
How is Jesus tempted? First it is about feeding his own hunger. Turn these stones into bread. Anything wrong with this? How about using your power for selfish gain just this once. Just this once. It’s like one drink won’t hurt you or one indulgence in porn or just one affair one little lunch
Jesus resists because he knows human nature even his own human nature….and there is no such thing as just one lay potato chip or krispy kreme…whatever you gave up for lent in the blank…just one just one.
The next temptation is about bowing down to the authority of the world. Just this once the devil says play the game and step on the other on the way to the top. Google your homework subject and turn in someone else’s paper as your own. Just this once it won’t matter.
Annie had been married a year when she meets the man she thinks was meant for her. Now this is what she thought of her current husband before she married him and found him not quite as romantic as he was when they were dating. He squeezed the toothpaste in the middle and he always hogged the remote and he was too busy to pay attention to any kind of romance. They both got busy with their jobs and then Annie met Gary. Gary was attentive when George, her husband was distracted. Gary was poetic when George was matter of fact. Gary complimented her when George didn’t see a new outfit…and George never meant any harm and neither did Gary. But suddenly she found herself seeking Gary’s attention more than George’s and wishing she had waited one more year to get married…if only she had waited then she would have met Gary first and her life would not be miserable. Gary was single and perhaps na├»ve and perhaps he didn’t know what his attention was doing to Annie or maybe he did. She did not know. But one night when George was out of town and Annie and Gary had a late night business meeting she found herself walking out of her office building with him. He was being gallant and offered to walk her to her car and when she got there she realized she was shaking. If only he wouldn’t leave. Suddenly she remembered feeling this way about George. She remembered all the times they had shared together and thought of their dreams and wondered what would happen to them if she just asked Gary to get in the car with her. And then she knew. She could not do this. She could end her marriage for one night with Gary. She could not destroy the future of her community with just one night. She said good-bye to Gary and got in the car and drove home to an empty house. Maybe she could catch George on the phone before he went to sleep.
Sadly many stories similar to this do not end this way. Soaps and movies tell us that we are unable to resist temptation because we are just made this way. For some reason people begin to think that there is “nothing wrong with love” and destroy homes with just one time. But what would have happened if Jesus had bowed to the authority of Satan? I can’t imagine it.
Then we have the final temptation of falling off the pinnacle of the temple. Letting angels catch him fame fame fame everyone would know his power and there would be no doubts about who he was. Kingdom come and kingship and overthrowing Caesar would be nothing. Lightning bolts flashing he could ride into Rome on the back of a white stallion with the whole Jewish nation behind him….
I was trying to picture a temptation scene & this is what came to mind (I showed a clip of the movie Cars where Lightning McQueen is imagining what fame will be like) perhaps because it is watched over and over at my house. What is the temptation here and why is it similar to Jesus’ temptation? Fame. Glory. No road to the cross and no Pharisees harassing him because they could not deny his power if they saw it, right?
Later when Jesus performs miracles even in front of the Pharisees, a leading religions group, they still deny who he is. They see him heal with their own eyes and THEY STILL DON’T believe. Have you ever met someone in complete denial of their own problems? Nothing you can do will change their minds.
What is the end of fame? Usually a lonely death of a drug overdose, plane crash, or huge scandal that the media sets up for you. We may even think Jesus would have been better off doing it this way…but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the famous usually end up last weeks’s news when something bigger and better comes along.
So what does Jesus do? He refuses the devil’s offers now matter how attractive. He knows charging up a load of stuff at Wal-Mart on the credit cards will eventually land you a huge bill in the mail, turning in a copied paper will get you a poor academic record and you cheat yourself out of your own education, breaking a home in the name of love will only get you broken pieces after a huge adrenaline rush and fame will get you perhaps a reality TV show where you share a house or an island with a bunch of other stinky has beens wishing for a way to climb to the top—usually by voting you off the island.
So why do we give in when Jesus didn’t? He is supposed to be our example, right? Most say well of course he did not give in he was God. Orthodox Christianity affirms that Jesus is fully human. Temptation means nothing if isn’t possible for us to give in…or for Jesus to give in for that matter.
Someone said to me yesterday that evil people don’t bother him and good people don’t bother him but someone who is both good and evil do bother him. I think that is because we don’t want to admit that we are fully capable of evil.

But those capable of evil are fully capable of accepting the grace offered to us. The grace offered to us by the one who could have given in but did not and who stands with open arms waiting for us at the table…because we need this strength if we are going to resist the voices screaming at us when we walk out of this room…to give in to the things our bodies are craving but that will bring chaos and pain to the community if we give in. So join me here at the table as we together beg the one who resisted evil to give us the strength to unite and to resist as well.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Scriptural Influence

The story of God has influenced me. I will be sharing some thoughts and prayers on Scripture while following the Revised Common Lectionary.