United Church of Christ

OGHS Preaching Notes March 17

Lectionary Preaching Notes  from the lens of UCC Humanitarian and Development Ministries
(Disaster, Refugee and Global Sustainable Development)

These ministries are made possible by your participation in the
One Great Hour of Sharing Offering (UCC)

2019 
Year C

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Text    
Luke 13: 31-35

Preaching Focus:   With urgency, Jesus persists in his healing and wholeness ministry, refusing to be distracted by his self-interest or by only meeting short-term needs.  The purpose is seeing God’s glory of abundant life, both in the completeness of time and in glimpses in our midst.

Interpretation and Informing Stories
Luke communicates the urgency of Jesus’ preaching and action on his way to Jerusalem in this passage.  It is both a warning and a lament, preparing the disciples (and us) for Jerusalem and beyond.  Urgently “at that very hour,” some Pharisees (Luke is not one to see all Pharisees as bad) warn Jesus of Herod’s threats.  This may be a different Herod (here, Herod of Antipas, tetrarch of Galilea) than the one who ruled 33 years earlier when Jesus was a baby and Herod massacred thousands of baby boys under the age of 2, but the same fear of power competition.  The displacement of Jesus as he was with Mary and Joseph in Egypt as a refugee continues to fame the story.  Yet, Jesus persists not only by continuing his ministry to heal people in mind, body and spirit, but sends the message back to Herod with those same Pharisees that he will continue this healing ministry until it is complete “yet today, tomorrow and the third day” Jesus is a bold voice speaking truth to power and he gives those Pharisees the same prophetic ministry.  Jesus is forthright and urgent in his response, calling Herod names like “that fox.”  With this name, he points to Herod as clever in a sly way, based on Greco-Roman uses of the term.  Jesus also is educating the disciples in what they too will need to do as prophets who must speak truth to power to complete Jesus’ healing ministry.  From our place on the timeline, we also can see the three-day reference to resurrection.  Jesus knows that, eventually, his will not be a political death (and that it will be), but that Jerusalem, the religious center of his culture, will be the place of his demise, giving his passion a spiritual and transformational meaning.

And then, just like that, the passage’s voice switches to lament.  Jesus wishes that he could have played the part of the mother hen who keeps her brood safe and secure under her wings.  It is a reference to an image from the religious tradition of the crowd.  He has to lament, though, that the people collectively would have none of that.  They wanted to be on their own “See, your house is left to you” Jesus says.  And the broken people around him testify to the futility of that.  There will be glimpses of God’s glory.  The people will shout when Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey.  But they still won’t ‘get it’ until they ‘get it.’  They won’t truly shout, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord’ with authenticity until they are part of the wholeness of his transformative power in the world.

The Humanitarian and Development ministries made possible through the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering operate in the matrix of meeting immediate needs, presence for the long-term, addressing systemic root causes of crisis, and building local capacity for resilience.  They are ministries located in the intersections of warning, lament, and resurrection.  They are ministries that demand urgency and public warming to accomplish healing.  They are ministries that don’t stop with meeting immediate needs but expand the response toward systemic wholeness in which individuals and societies will show forth God’s glorious wholeness.

Today, we experience urgency and warning related to climate change. The movement of masses of people is not likely to end with the Syria crisis.  Climate change that changes sea levels and dispersed political violence is likely to increase forcible displacements.  Responding to these changes in ways that preserve human dignity and human rights require confronting the political systems of Herod “that fox.”  It will require commitment to long-term and systemic changes.  It will bring healing this day and the next and into the third day.

We engage in these ministries out of our faith, in lament and in glory. It would be one thing to simply offer safety and security from the rage of the world outside – like a hen gathers her brood under her wings.  But power differentials keep the world unequal and natural disasters create crisis, calling for lament.  The interaction with the world’s crises, therefore, is long-term, systemic and multi-layered.  Glimpses of God’s wholeness are experienced in the process.

For example, the crisis of ROHINGYA refugees has received very limited global media coverage.  Yet, over 750,000 people have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh since August of 2017.  Less media attention also results in less attention to regional peace efforts and results in less international resources available for meeting basic needs.  The UCC is part of the ecumenical church community active in refugee support. Like a hen sheltering her brood, these groups provide basic needs of refugees like food and water.  But the violence continues and more is needed and so the church is part of conflict resolution efforts as well.  The global community can provide an outside presence for observation and help to build the capacity of the local organizations composed of local leaders.  Local empowerment and capacity building embody glimpses of the “just peace” needed for wholeness in this crisis.

We live in a complex world and to follow Jesus means to enter into that complexity with our whole selves.  As Jesus persists in the face of Herod and enters into Jerusalem, he is intentional and complete in his purpose of healing and wholeness.  Jesus is confident that the people will indeed see him in his glory and proclaim “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord”

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