Second Sunday of Lent

I was quite pleased with the feedback received from Sunday’s sermon. One of the congregation who is a teacher asked for my text and PowerPoint so that she could share it with her colleagues and, in a simplified form, her pupils. Here’s a trial recording I made. And beneath it is the text. It is on Luke 13:31-end and I am grateful for the background I gleaned from Ian Paul’s blog.

Chickens and foxes don’t mix as anyone who has kept chickens knows.  You have to protect them and keep the foxes out.  If a fox gets in, they don’t just take one chicken for their dinner – they play with their food and destroy them all. Wonton destruction. We tend to think of foxes as cunning, but in Jesus’ day they were thought of as insignificant.  So Jesus is being quite dismissive of Herod.

The Pharisees – who weren’t all bad, despite the impression we get from the bible – were warning Jesus to get away because of the danger posed by Herod Antipas. We read about him later on in Luke’s gospel when Jesus is under trial.  Herod’s jurisdiction is Galilee, in the north, not Jerusalem, but he happens to be there when Jesus is arrested and because Jesus is from Galilee, he gets sent to be cross examined by Herod.  Herod had wanted to see Jesus, to see a miracle or other impressive act. Instead, Jesus was mocked and sent away.  But we rush ahead to Holy Week. Let’s get back to this Sunday’s reading.

I love the image of Jesus being like a mother hen protecting her young.  It has been known for a dead hen to be found after farmyard fire with chicks still alive under the wings.  Jesus says: Jerusalem, Jerusalem how I long to gather you to me.   Jerusalem is the religious and political capital of the nation. It represents the people, so Jesus here is saying he wants everyone in the nation to come to him, including of course the religious people. Just before today’s section Luke records Jesus teaching in various towns and villages on his way to Jerusalem. Someone asks him if only a few will be saved. Jesus’ answer indicates that we may get some surprises and those we thought were saved and IN may not be and that there will be people from all over the world who are in the Kingdom of God. He ends with “Some are last who will be first and the first who will be last.” 

It is at that point the Pharisees came to warn him about Herod and get Jesus’ emotional outburst of wanting to gather them in, but they were not willing.

Who wouldn’t want to come under God’s protection, especially when in danger from enemies? In my preparation my mind turned to the current situation in Ukraine, and I could quite easily describe Putin as a dangerous and malicious fox, bent on total destruction.  But not insignificant…. therein lies the worry. He will, however, come under God’s judgment. Of that, I am sure.

But, we might ask, where is God’s protection of the Ukrainians, and especially those who are his people?  Where are the mother hen’s wings now with protection from bombs and guns? Where was God when the maternity hospital got bombed?

How would we respond? And more importantly, how are the Ukrainian Christians responding?  I want to share a few with you.  They are responding in prayer and praise:

The Hillsong song “Mighty to Save,” which came out in 2006, has been sung in Ukraine for almost that long. The video shows students worshiping together with the lights out—as the battle for Kyiv began not many miles away.

Significantly, this is being sung in Russian, not Ukrainian. It is very important to note that not everyone who speaks the Russian language is Russian, despite the propaganda out there. These are true Ukrainians who happen to speak Russian. Most Ukrainians are bilingual to one extent or another.  The English translation is next to the video.

“Mighty To Save”

Everyone needs compassion, A love that’s never failing, Let mercy fall on me.  

Everyone needs forgiveness, The kindness of a Saviour. The hope of nations.

Saviour, he can move the mountains, My God is mighty to save.  He is mighty to save, Forever Author of Salvation, He rose and conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave

So take me as you find me, All my fears and failures, Fill my life again

I give my life to follow, Everything that I believe in, Now I surrender

Shine your light and let the whole world see

We’re singing for the glory of the risen king Jesus

What about the church leaders?

From The church Times

The head of Ukraine’s Moscow-linked Orthodox Church, told citizens: “Tragically, Russia has launched military operations against Ukraine — at this fateful time, I urge you not to panic, to be courageous and show love for your homeland and for each other.” He also urged prayers for the country’s “army and people. . .

“Defending the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine, we also appeal to the president of Russia to stop this fratricidal war immediately. The Ukrainian and Russian peoples came out of the Dnieper baptismal font, and war between these peoples is a repetition of Cain’s sin. . . Such a war has no justification for either God or man.”

God is weaving Putin’s evil act ‘into the tapestry of his purpose in the world’ says refugee priest  byALEXANDER FALUDY 11 MARCH 2022

The gentleman on the left is the Revd Solomon Ekiyor, a refugee from Ukraine.  He says that RUSSIA’s invasion of Ukraine presents a spiritual challenge, not just a material one.  He was at St Margaret’s Anglican Chaplaincy, on Sunday, in the Lutheran Church, Budapest. “The war profoundly disrupts our lives and plans,” he said, but “our faith also gives us resources to meet these questions.”

In his sermon, he referred to “the long history of disruptions that are part of the life of the people of God, from the Exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt.

“God did not cause the evil in Putin’s act, but God has a way of working with it, improvising and weaving it into the tapestry of his purpose in the world. . . It is for each of us to now ask his guidance on what new purpose he has for us in this situation. I am asking that for myself, too.”

And a little girl sang from the Disney film Frozen – doing what she could to help.

We are all doing what we can to help be that through prayer, through giving money to aid charities or donating items to be taken.

Churches in the countries bordering Ukraine are also there extending their help and protection.

The demand for Bibles in Ukraine is ‘exploding’ according to a spokesman for the Ukraine Bible Society.

The team started handing out Bibles across the country soon after the war began. Now, demand for Bibles is outstripping supply.

‘The need is exploding,’ said Rostik. ‘Our stock of Bibles is quickly diminishing. We have many more requests for Scriptures than we are even able to provide.

‘We need more Bibles because there are millions of people who are moving from the east and south to the west, and who are in desperation.

‘Nobody knows how things will unfold,’ Rostik added, ‘the demand might be way, way greater. We don’t know what kind of Ukraine there will be in a month. But what I see is the demand for Bibles increasing exponentially.’

During the war, the whole nation has, he said, turned to Psalm 31, which begins, ‘I come to you Lord for protection; never let me be defeated. You are a righteous God; save me I pray.’

‘Our experience is that this difficult situation is already changing our nation, changing us and our attitudes, our values, our lives,’ deputy general secretary Anatoliy Raychynets told Premier Christian Radio today. ‘People are standing together and helping each other. 

‘I see so much of God’s love in spite of what’s happening. People are driven by the love of God. 

‘Whatever happens in Ukraine, we will come out of the situation a really Christian nation who pray together and trust in God.’

HOPE is so important.  In our Lent group discussion this week we talked about visions and dreams, our hopes for the future to be better. As Christians, our hope is in the Lord who made heaven and earth, not wishful thinking based on nothing more than fresh air. We hope in Jesus, the Mother Hen to protect us against the foxes of evil.

Our hope goes beyond the physical life we have here. Our hope is in eternal life.  Is this Pie in the sky when we die? or is it Steak on the plate while we wait. 

Who can be saved? Jesus was asked.  Did he reply, those who are good enough?  No.

All through the gospel we read of Jesus hanging out with the sinners, those who are definitely NOT good enough.  I think those who will be saved are those who are HUMBLE ENOUGH AND CHILDLIKE ENOUGH.  By that, I mean those who are willing to come under the protection and shelter of God, accepting the GRACE of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Grace – we often talk about it being unconditional.  Indeed, I have been guilty probably of saying that.  God’s love is unconditional.  But Grace is unconditioned. There are no pre-requisites to it being offered. But Grace has to be received.

Jesus ate with sinners, he spent time with them. He took an interest in them. He showed God’s love to them. He invited them to come to God and be changed.

The condition attached to Grace is that when we accept God’s grace to be forgiven and made right, that we become disciples.  The Water of Baptism isn’t just about being forgiven.  it is about belonging to Jesus. I am not my own, I belong to Him.  And discipleship has been described as a struggle not a stroll.  It isn’t easy. But God loves us so much that he doesn’t want us to stay as we are, he wants us to come to him to be changed and transformed into the best version of ourselves possible. 

The sermon ended with prayer.

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