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Larger Life

posted Feb 22, 2016, 6:49 AM by Saint Andrew

Lent 2C

Luke 13.31-35

Herod’s threats are feeble for Jesus standing outside Jerusalem -- that beautiful and imposing city at the heart of all things religious and political.  For most people Herod was a paranoid and ruthless ruler who thought nothing of murdering his wife or his sons or any number of critics for his own protection or gain.

When Herod hears rumors of the birth of a rival king, he tries to deceive the magi, then orders the mass murder of all male infants under the age of two.  You know that story.  You also know the one about his murdering John the Baptist at the whim of his daughter or more precisely the vengefulness of his wife.

We often make the mistake of hearing the gospels and the life of Christ as only a religious story when it is so much more.  New Testament scripture and the life of Christ is unequivocally political.  There was a deep hostility between Jesus and the powers and politics of his day.

Gary Wills says Jesus threatened the political powers of his day not because he wanted what they had but because "he undercut its pretensions and claims to supremacy."  So while politicians in our own country claim they are on the side of God, or that God is on their side then they really are ignorant of the fact that of how frequently Jesus challenged politics and politicians’ of his own day.  And that if we live the life he lived then we challenge the politics and politicians’ self-importance and claims to authority of our day as well.   

I went to see my spiritual director this week.  Sr. Francis Therese is in her 80s, she’s about the size of my thumb and I’ve been seeing her for almost 20 years.  This week she told me she was reading a biography of Donald Trump by Michael D’Antonio.  And she said, ever so gently and directly, as she so often does, “…it clearly explains his pathological narcissism.”  And I thought, preach it sister.  You and Pope Francis:  preach it please.

I know it may be early but in the light of the political climate we’re living in today let’s fast forward to Jesus’ arrest that we’ll hear about later in Lent.  We hear this account as a religious story, but it was a political face off.

Jesus is dragged before Pontius Pilate for three reasons as the gospel of Luke sees it, all were political: He is subverting out nation, he is opposing payment of taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.  (Luke 23:1–2)

Pilate meets the angry mob outside, and then interrogates Jesus one-on-one back inside. "Are you the king of the Jews?"  "My kingdom is not of this world," Jesus replied. "My kingdom is from another place."  "You are a king, then!" mocked Pilate.  "Yes, you are right in saying that I am a king."  Pilate has his soldiers’ beat, flog, and humiliate Jesus with purple robes and a crown of thorns appropriate for a man who thinks he has power: "Hail, O king of the Jews!"  Back outside, the mob does not let up on Pilate threatening him with treason too: "If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar."  And Pilate finds himself caught like a mouse in a cage.  There he is between angry lynch mob and his obligation to serve the emperor.

He caves in: "Here is your king. Shall I crucify your king?"  "We have no king but Caesar!"  And there it is.  The people who once trusted and followed a larger message, a bigger picture, Jesus’ invitation to live a larger life, cave in to the political status quo.  Only Caesar matters.  Only Caesar is our king.

And we cave in too when we buy in to politics or any politician’s power or pretentions and fail to see that our faith invites us to a larger life.

All our lessons today tell us that however important politics may be, we are called to see a larger picture – like the one we see in our study of Acts of the Apostles about forming an alternative community.  “Sounds like socialism,” some of us have said.  Call it whatever you want.  We cave in to labeling anything out of fear when the alternative community Jesus lived and calls us to live cares for those in need and makes certain that the basic needs of all are met.  Basic needs: like a roof over your head, food to eat, health care, education, meaningful work and basic human dignity.

All our lessons today tell us that however important politics are, we are called to see the larger picture and live a larger life.

Paul reminds us in the epistle this week, that while we live in this world "our citizenship is in heaven." 

God shows Abram the stars in the heavens and makes a covenant with him, promising land and offspring and we are those stars, we are the offspring of Abram.  Yet there is always a sense that we are aliens and strangers in this world.  Jesus said his kingdom is not of the world.

Political threats are feeble for Jesus standing outside Jerusalem -- that beautiful and imposing city at the heart of all things religious and political.  What he cares about is us -- the descendants of Abram who so often choose to reject God and the things of God -- just like Jerusalem would ultimately reject Jesus.  And yet Jesus has a firm resolve to face what lies ahead.  He has the same fierce devotion of a loving mother for her children. Jesus longs to gather all her children, as a hen gathers her brood.  Only a deep, stubborn, foolish love can speak like this, only a love that is willing to give all, to risk all.

            There are stories of farmyard fires -- and those cleaning up who have found a dead hen scorched and blackened, perfectly petrified and when they move her they find beneath her are live chicks that were sheltered under her body.  The hen has literally given her life to save the chicks.  That is what our God does for us; that is Jesus’ longing we hear in today’s gospel. 

            We do engage in the world and in the politics of our own day, but we do not lose sight of the larger picture that our faith offers.  A way of life that cares for the needs of all, and trusts in the love and mercy and self-sacrifice of God.  Jesus goes on his way, undeterred, accomplishing his call.  And we go with him. We go with him living his life of love and mercy and self-sacrifice.  We go with him.

 

Amen.

M. Phillips +

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