Jesus’ journey continues!
Jesus is on a literal journey to Jerusalem, where he will be executed on the cross.
The Pharisees that are often depicted in conflict with Jesus the Christ actively warn him not to continue his journey to Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the Holy City of God, has a harsh yet deserved reputation of rejection, violence, and the murder of prophets.
Jesus opposes their warning. He knows that the journey, his work, must continue.
Jesus shares that his journey, to gather the people safely under the wing of God, is the recurring theme in our sacred story.
God creates a covenant with his people.
We, the people, break the covenant rejecting God’s love.
God punishes the people.
The people repent… reflect, reconnect, and are transformed.
God welcomes us home and creates a new covenant.
God is always the one reaching out to us. And, perhaps the most vivid image of this comes from Michelangelo’s painting on the Sistine Chapel of the creation of Adam. We all know that image the one of God and man reaching out to one another. But if you notice God is leaned in, arm fully extended, and hand reaching out to the greatest of its reach. The man, Adam, is leaned back and away from God. His hand is not extended fully, but if it were it seem that the gap or separation would not exist.
This image and sacred story informs our journey, which is not only a powerful theme for Lent, but also a metaphor of our lives.
In our Genesis text, Abram (Abraham) has received a promise from God regarding his journey. The promise is that Abram will have a heir born of his genetic code and his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the night sky. This is not God and Abram’s first interaction, but it is the first time that Abram engages God in a two-way conversation. He wants to believe in this promise. But, how?
This is not too different than our own journeys.
The process to be educated for and approved for Ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is challenging. In addition to the education and practical application, it requires a criminal background check, a financial background check, and a psychological evaluation. And at three separate points a committee can approve you to continue, delay you while you resolve their concerns, or prevent you from continuing. (I know! I often wonder how I survived it).
There were obstacles. There were challenges. And there were moments that I questioned the journey! In such a moment, I was driving in my car. I verbally stated out loud “God I have felt called to be a pastor since I was seven. Yet it seems to be being tested, so how do I know?” The radio stopped playing the song, it skipped two songs, and begun to play a new one. This had never happened before or since. The song was “Blessed Assurance”.
How do we know if this is the right journey?
How do we know that God will keep God’s promise to gather, to love, and to welcome us home (again)?
There are 3 ways in our Scriptures today.
One, our sacred history as comment on by Jesus and depicted by Michelangelo.
Two, Abram engages in an ancient ritual. It sounds odd, but Abram sacrifices a variety of animals, separates them into two pieces, and creates a pathway between them. Abram falls asleep and God (as a smoking pot and a flaming torch) passed through the pieces. Literally, God stated ‘if I break this promise, may I endure the same fate as these animals’.
Three, God continually reaching out to us became human. God, through the incarnation, slipped into our human skin and experienced the best and worst of humanity to break the cycle of our sacred history.
Although the journey may be long and hard, may we trust in God’s promise until he welcomes us home at the end of our earthly journey. Amen.
Genesis 15: 1-12, 17-18
Philippians 3:17 – 4:1
Luke 13: 31-35
A version of this sermon was preached at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church (Kelso) on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016.