Sunday’s sermon: God Moves … Past All Obstacles

obstacle

Texts used – Psalm 27; Luke 13:31-35

  • Lenten sermon series: God on the Move
    • Movement of God in our lives
    • Movement of Christ throughout his ministry
    • Movement of the Holy Spirit in and through us
    • Last week: way that God moved into the wilderness for 40 days when Jesus was tempted by the devil
      • Moved into a place of discomfort
      • Moved to embody the human experience (good and bad)
      • Moved with intention → important that God made the choice to take on human flesh and human experience an all that that entailed
  • Before we go any further, I want to read you a story this morning … [READ MUFARO’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS[1]]
    • Story about obstacles and perspective → both Manyara and Nyasha face the exact same obstacles on their journey to the city
      • Small, hungry boy
      • Old woman sitting on the stone
      • Grove of laughing/bowing trees
      • King in the form of the snake
    • Manyara’s perspective on these obstacles
      • Things to be conquered
      • Things to be subdued
      • Objects to be scorned
      • Negative things that got in her way
    • Nyasha’s perspective on these obstacles
      • Things to be enjoyed
      • Things to be appreciated
      • Objects to be cared for
      • Positive things that enriched her day
    • Manyara’s pessimistic attitude and approach brought her nothing but difficulty and despair
    • Nyasha’s compassionate attitude and approach brought her gratitude and ultimately the honor and prestige of being chosen as the new queen – “the Most Worthy and Most beautiful daughter in the Land”
    • Exact same obstacles … radically different perspectives.
  • Lent = all about Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem for the sole purpose of being arrested, crucified, and resurrected → certainly not a journey without some pretty significant obstacles
    • Obstacle: Pharisees and legal experts that keep questioning him and trying to trip him up before he even gets to Jerusalem
    • Obstacle: clueless disciples that keep trying to be helpful but just end up sticking their foot in it
    • Obstacle: King Herod – malicious and maniacal political leader who arrested and beheaded John the Baptist
      • Not the same Herod that Mary and Joseph fled just after Jesus’ birth (Mary & Joseph fled Herod the Great → this is one of his sons, Herod Antipas)
      • Scholar – a little clarity: Actually, there are six Herods in the Bible, and each one is pretty much the same guy: a petty tyrant with a touch of megalomania, paranoid, callous, in cahoots with the Romans, religious but in a conniving way, rich, and often cruel.[2]
        • Definitely gives some clarity to this character who is Jesus’ newest obstacle in his journey toward Jerusalem
    • Context – where is Jesus when today’s obstacles spring up?
      • Well into Jesus’ ministry in the gospel of Luke
        • Countless healings
        • Miracles (feeding the 5000, Jesus calming the sea)
        • Many parables (parable of the soils, parable of the lamp)
        • Clashes with the Pharisees (healing on the Sabbath, “who is my neighbor?”)
        • Even Jesus’ own warning to the disciples about what is to come (2 out of 3 such warnings in Luke’s gospel have already happened)
      • Just prior to today’s text: difficult question from the crowd following Jesus about who will be saved
        • References the narrow gate
        • Mini-parable about the owner of the house shutting the door and some late-comers being left outside in the night
        • Familiar passage (often used at the communion table): “People will come from east and west, north and south, and sit down to eat in God’s kingdom. Look! Those who are last will be first and those who are first will be last.”[3]
  • So on the heels of that pronouncement – a pronouncement that Jesus makes about there being room not just in the kingdom of heaven but at the very feast-table of God Almighty for those who are marginalized, scorned, and left out here in this world, we hear today’s passage.
    • Odd, enigmatic passage
      • Speaks first to the Pharisees who seem like they’re trying to warn him away to avoid Herod’s wrath → insults Herod
        • Scholar parses this section out for us: “Go and tell that fox for me …,” [Jesus] says, revealing that he knows these Pharisees are in cahoots with the conniving, calculating Herod. To use parlance of our day, Jesus “steps up” to Herod’s oblique, veiled challenge. He lets the Pharisees and Herod know he is not politically naïve. He is fully aware that the kingdom he proclaims – and enacts, by “casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow,” especially among the poor and the typically neglected – is an affront to the powers that be. More than that, he informs them that his challenge will go all the way to the top.[4] → “in your face” Jesus – no fear, pulling no punches, not holding anything back when interacting with those trying to derail his ministry, especially at this crucial point
      • Jesus moves into section where he addresses Jerusalem itself – text: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who were sent to you! How often I have wanted to gather your people just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you didn’t want that.”[5] → single verse reveals one of Jesus’ greatest obstacles: US
        • All those things we do to try to exempt ourselves from God’s love and grace
          • Ways we try to convince ourselves we’re not good enough
          • Ways we try to convince ourselves God’s grace can’t possible extend as far as we’ve stretched it
          • Ways we try to throw up our own obstacles in God’s path → keeping that overwhelming, undeniable, ineffable love of God at arm’s length because sometimes being at a distance from that kind of love is easier than trying to see ourselves through the eyes of that kind of love
        • Jesus embodies God crying out to Jerusalem: “Let me love you! Let me cherish you! Let me protect you the way a mother hen protects her chicks!” → Jerusalem’s reply: NO
    • Rev. Jessica LaGrone poses question: Which is the bigger obstacle? Herod’s murderous plot to stop Jesus before he reaches Jerusalem or the cherished city itself, loved by the Messiah whom it will ultimately kill upon arrival? Jesus’ answer to both obstacles is that nothing – even his own death – can stop him from reaching the goal of loving his children. Jesus’ love is opposed from the outside, and he keeps moving toward the object of his love. Jesus’ love is rejected, and he still keeps on track to give that love away.[6] → Can you imagine what would have happened had Jesus looked at the obstacles in his path – all the obstacles – with the pessimism and negativity of Manyara? If Jesus had attempted to overcome those obstacles by force and sheer superiority? But instead, Jesus looked at all the obstacles in his path with grace and compassion, turning them from a reason to leave into a reason to love.
      • Attitude is why I chose our psalm for this morning: The Lord is my light and my salvation. Should I fear anyone? The Lord is a fortress protecting my life. Should I be frightened of anything? … Now my head is higher than the enemies surrounding me, and I will offer sacrifices in God’s tent – sacrifices with shouts of joy! I will sing and praise the Lord. … Hope in the Lord! Be strong! Let your heart take courage! Hope in the Lord![7] → psalm that does exactly what Nyasha did and what Jesus did: takes those obstacles – whatever they may be – and turns them into reasons to praise God and show God’s love
  • It’s all about perspective. It’s all about how we approach obstacles. There are always going to be obstacles in our life journeys. Sometimes they’re big obstacles. Sometimes they’re only small annoyances barely even troublesome enough to be called obstacles. But no matter the size, obstacles arise. In this passage … in this journey toward Jerusalem … and in our own Lenten journeys, Jesus embodies for us the way to meet those obstacles – with grace, with compassion, with love.
    • Old saying: You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.
    • Jessica LaGrone: Jesus is on an unstoppable course toward Jerusalem, but that also means that he’s on an unstoppable course toward us, toward our hearts, with tenacity and determination that will not be blocked, not even by the obstacles we put in his place.[8] Thanks be to God. Amen.

[1] John Steptoe. Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters. (New York, NY: Puffin Books), 1987.

[2] James C. Howell. “Second Sunday in Lent – Luke 13:31-35, Commentary 2: Connecting the Reading with the World” in Connections: A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship – Year C, vol. 2. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018), 55.

[3] Lk 13:29-30.

[4] Rodney Clapp. “Second Sunday in Lent: Luke 13:31-35 – Pastoral Perspective” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C, vol. 2. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 70.

[5] Lk 13:34.

[6] Jessica LaGrone. “Lenten Series: God on the Move – Lent 2: God Moves … past All Obstacles” in A Preacher’s Guide to Lectionary Sermon Series: Thematic Plans for Years A, B, and C. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016), 195,

[7] Ps 27:1, 6, 14.

[8] LaGrone, 196.

2 responses to “Sunday’s sermon: God Moves … Past All Obstacles

  1. Pingback: Sunday’s sermon: God Moves … Down the Road | Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

  2. Pingback: Sunday’s sermon: God Moves Us … to Empty Ourselves | Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s