Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord: Second Sunday in Lent at ORLC, Feb. 24, 2013
Second Sunday in Lent
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 Psalm 27 Phil 3:17-4:1 Luke 13:31-35
“Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!”
We say that in the Sanctus of the liturgy almost every Sunday. With loud Hosannas the people shouted that to Jesus waving their palm branches when he entered Jerusalem. One time I realized that it did not only mean Jesus, but also meant you yourselves. You are blessed when you come to church; you are blessed in the name of the Lord. You are blessed when you come through the doors and come and take a seat in this holy place. When you bring others to church to come and see the love our Lord commanded us to have for one another, and then they too are blessed, blessed because they come in the name of the Lord.
Of course one can come to the church for opportunism, so it really means when we come to seek the face of God, as the psalms says, “O Lord, your face do I seek!” Blessed are you when you come because you realize that your citizenship is in heaven and it is from there that you await, yes, that you expect the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ and when he enters his capital city, the Jerusalem in our hearts we too will shout, “Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!”
You are blessed because there are so many obstacles getting in the way to prevent your coming and yet you come. Blessed are you in the name of the Lord! We have to allow Jesus to confront the demons in us and hold still until Jesus drives them out. And sometimes it takes a long time. Some of those demons cling to us for dear life. They say, “May we enter those pigs?” Jesus says, “Go ahead!” and they dive over a cliff and drown. That’s the end of our pornography on the web, that’s the end of our love for assault weapons, semi-automatics, and what not, that requires merely the squeeze of a trigger-finger to kill. That’s the end of our methamphetamine addictions and all the others, like our binging on alcohol, our cold hearted Christianity! We could go on and on of course because the demons are legion, just like that crazy fellow Jesus healed in that cemetery said.
That is why we are blessed! Jesus’ blessings drive the curses out of our souls and make us gather together in the blessed warmth of God’s love, just like little chicks gathering together under the wings of a mother hen. We know Jesus is really present with us and so we have nothing to fear. We can pop our little heads out from under the feathers of that mother hen and check out what is around us, satisfy our curiosity, because we know Jesus will not allow us to come to any harm. Have you ever seen little chicks popping their heads out through the feathers of a hen to look at you? It is the sweetest thing!
In the online commentary, Brian Stoffregen writes:
The image we are given is of God/Jesus as a hen gathering a whole bunch of chickens under her wings. What might that imply about our relationship with those other chickens? It requires a physical closeness to be packed together under those wings. It implies a learning to get along with one another if we wish to stay packed together under those wings. How do we balance our own comfort level of space with this image of physically gathered together under God’s loving wings? being packed together in a pew? rubbing shoulders with others on the way out of church? sharing the peace by touching others with a handshake — or an embrace (when appropriate) — or even a kiss between spouses? [What about the holy kiss?]
I remember being in Nagasaki, Japan where they have subway pushers. Believe it or not, they push the people into the crowded subway car so they are packed in there worse than sardines. If you are in the crush, you can lift your feet up and you still are pushed right into the subway doors.
Some people need a great deal of distance in their relationships and some need a great deal of closeness. You have to discover in a relationship where your comfort zones overlap so you don’t always get upset with each other. But really Christ brings us closer together. Jesus makes us become one. We slowly get one heart and soul together and the heart throbbing in our breast is that of Jesus Christ. I can’t get into calling it his “sacred heart.” That still sounds too Catholic for me. But that’s what Catholics are talking about, because Jesus prays for us all to become one, to have one heart and soul together.
How do we do that? We pray for our enemies. My brother used to say, “Now that we’re married we might as well be friends.” So often husbands and wives turn against each other and have to say, “If we are friends, I’d hate to have enemies.” We hurt each other so often and so much. That’s why relationships are made out of forgiveness. Teenagers often feel like their parents are their enemies and often people in church also feel that way about other members. It’s a process of forgiveness working out of the love of God that draws us together, so that whatever we ask of the Father, God gives it to us. That’s the promise, where two or three are gathered in his name and become one. So we pray for our enemies and behold the miracle: we become friends. Republicans and democrats, conservatives and progressives, European Descent and African Descent Lutherans, we need each other and God’s miracles can progress when we become one. Those prayers are also good turns we do for each other, even in secret. You know random acts of kindness, senseless acts of love. And we can do that because God’s wings are over us, protecting and guarding and healing us with love and forgiveness.
I used to schedule Leadership Training Laboratories for our Vacation Church School and Day Camp staff. We would say, “How can we bring up the kids, if we can’t bring something up?” We would bring up things like, how come you still don’t know the names of your class? We would do role plays of the parables and end up by learning helpful criticism that lifted someone’s self-esteem and then learning to say loving and affectionate things to one another. The growing edge of some was being able to take criticism or others, they’re not always being so critical; that of others, was being able to say a loving word and give a compliment, and others, of being able to accept a compliment and accept an expression of love from somebody else. Love can be as threatening as criticism. Let me tell you there was resistance. I would usually not get off first base, seldom to second, let alone make it to home. They finally said that I was only trying to duplicate the close feeling I had in my family that did not belong in the church. Were they ever wrong! I had never been close to anyone in my family and our family fought all the time. In my huge family I never had anyone to talk to.
My father had been a machine gunner in World War I and he didn’t allow a gun in the house. We were not even allowed to have toy guns. We used our fingers of course. We got close with music and by singing with each other. But I know that in other families fights can get out of control, and they even throw things at each other. When people have lost control it would not be good to have a gun there. I wonder if that is what happened with Oskar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp. The fighting in my family really broke my heart as a kid. Sometimes fighting is a real cop-out. Sometimes smoothing over everything and not daring to fight is. It is wisdom to know the difference. But parents should never have big fights in front of their kids.
Jesus speaks about driving out demons today and tomorrow and then finishing his work on the cross in Jerusalem and being raised from the dead on the third day. The clever fox Herod won’t be able to win the day. That fox in the chicken coop killed a great many innocent people and the Pharisees, now, not all of them, some of them supported Jesus, – but this group was trying to stop Jesus from doing God’s work. Really, Herod did not try to kill Jesus during the trials. Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate and Jesus even made these two sorry characters, these villains into friends. Imagine that? So imagine what Jesus can do for those who have given their hearts to him. Brothers and sisters in a congregation can become closer to each other and more understanding and loving than even our families. As the Psalm says, “Though my mother and father forsake me, you will accept me.” (27:10) There is some incredible healing power under God’s wings, when Jesus makes us friends. He does not even call us disciples any longer. Imagine a huge bird that flies down to us, covers all of us who gather under its huge wings and we become healed. Come Holy Spirit with healing in your wings!
So money won’t make us safe. Guns and weapons won’t make us safe. It is God who makes us safe and protects us, as Jesus says, like a mother hen sheltering her chicks under her wings. It is God in Christ who died on the cross for us outside of the gates of Jerusalem, who draws us and all humanity together. In the words of St. Paul, “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. Amen.
Song: “You Can’t Count the Stars”
 Brian Stoffregen, CrossMarks for Luke 13:31-35 .