Scripture: Luke 13:31-35
So often times as we move through our bible reading plans we zoom through passages and forget to really take the time to think about what they are saying. We read the words but can often fail to let the words soak into our hearts. The form of prayerfully reading scripture and meditating on it, called Lectio Divina, is a practice that takes time to read. You pray, read, and sit with the words. The difference between the one-year bible reading plan and Lectio Divina is like the difference between snow and rain as forms of precipitation. Our environments, ecosystems, farms, and lawns need water. I grew up in an area where our lives depended on precipitation. We would pray for rain, but if you would as any farmer they would have a preference in the form of precipitation they would ask for. In the spring they would pray for slow gentle rains, but most of all in the winter they would pray for snow. This week as much trouble as it has been for many of us in the city, has been an answer to prayers for the farmers in our area.
Snow is an amazing form of precipitation; it actually protects and waters the crops from harsh weather. Snow reflects heat. When a layer of snow covers a field of wheat it will often protect the fragile plant from the subfreezing temperatures of the air. While the snow is protecting the plant it gently waters them as well as it melts, the water goes directly into the soil. Snow is actually the most efficient watering system of nature. Slowly melting and shielding the plants it surrounds. Where the torrential rains of spring will often run off of the soil and down the hillside to collect in a valley where it forms streams, rivers, and in some cases it will even form a canyon as the water erodes the rock and soil. The difference between the slow prayerful reading of Lectio Divina and the rushing plans that push through scripture. Both are needed without the running streams and rivers Kansas City would be without water, but without the snow we would be without food.
I urge everyone to read scripture in both ways. Download the YouVersion App to your smart phone and tablets and start a plan to read through the bible in a timeframe you are comfortable with, but also slow down and practice the divine reading of prayer. The plan will give you a quick rush of biblical knowledge cleansing and watering the dry soul, but the prayerful reading of scripture will provide the protection and fulfilling nourishment we need to survive.
I begin this way to yet again remind us all of the three things Jesus did frequently. The disciplines of Christ: the practice of prayer, worship, and ministry. These three things are not only good but also vital for us to build a healthy spiritual life; each of these three disciplines builds and feeds on the others. Our ministry or service to others drives us to our knees in prayer and it also gives us reasons to celebrate and worship God. Our worship can encourage others to minister and also reveal to us that we need to seek the face of God in a deeper way. Our discipline in prayer provides the energy and direction in both our worship and our ministry. These three things keep us each centered on what is most important in our community, and in our spiritual lives.
Over the past few months if have noticed some things. It is easy to get caught up, in my own life I have gotten caught up in work, politics, church business, and several other things. Not that any of this is bad, but none of them are central. I get caught up and I allow an area of life to take over, and as a result I neglect another area. Suddenly what I have been caught up shoots roots into my soul and it begins to dominate my outlook, it can even be found in areas of life that it should not have influence. I learn this by taking the snowy approach at reading scripture.
This passage is all about what is central in our lives. It is about who or what controls life. If we quickly read over this passage we may miss that point and just get caught up in the idea of Jesus playing the role of a chicken and the people missing the point. This passage is very deep. If we let it seep into our souls it very well might change our outlook in life.
We first meet with Pharisees meeting with Jesus. I am glad that last week we had the privilege to hear a message from a Jewish Rabbi because he did highlight a fact that we often forget, Jesus was a Pharisee. He was a teacher within the Jewish faith and the teachers were Pharisees. When we take the quick approach to reading scripture we see that Jesus and Pharisees were often at odds, but this is not the full picture. They were religious leaders that had a different understanding of how best to approach the teaching and leading of people. In this passage Jesus and the Pharisees are on the same side. They are concerned for his well being, they are giving him a legitimate warning. They were telling him leave because they want to kill you. The problem was that the government was beginning to find the religious leaders, namely Jesus as a threat.
Herod is mention by them. Herod the Roman appointed leader of Galilee and Perea the lands in northern Israel, was tuned into Jesus’ ministry. This is important to us for a number of reasons but mainly because Jesus was being seen as a political threat. Politics is all about control of people. When a new idea begins to divert attention from those in power it threatens the ability of those people to control the populous. Herod wanted to control his people, it was his job to control, and without control he would not have a livelihood. But who governments only control when people allow them to control, it does not matter if the Government is a monarchy, democracy, or an oligarchy those being controlled give that governing body the power to control, and when they lose the people they lose and the power is given to another. Herod is nervous because in his courts he is hearing the name of Jesus more often, and suddenly he is losing the control of people. Jesus is healing, feeding, and giving people a new life.
“Go and tell that fox.” is Jesus answer. He calls Herod a fox because is sly. He can twist and manipulate things to go in his favor. Jesus says, “tell that fox, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow…’” Jesus is saying I am ministering not seeking power. It is not any of his concern. He says that He will be doing this for a time and that Herod can come get him if he wants. The Government and national politics has no place in ministry of a church. No matter how sly and cunning a politician is it should not affect what we do as a church. If we are called to cast out demons, heal the sick, or feed the hungry we should precede. The ministry is more important that any nation, any politician, any government. Governments no matter how powerful cannot stop God; ask those Soviet Union how that works. All of our concern for what our government does in the world outside these walls should have no bearing in what God calls us to do inside them.
Now Jesus gets to the heart of the issue. “It is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.” This is a cryptic portion of scripture. Is Jesus talking of Jerusalem proper or Jerusalem the idea? Cryptic words can only be deciphered with discipline and understanding. Jesus is speaking not of the city but of religion. Jerusalem is the center of the faith tradition. Religion is about influence of people, much like government. It seeks to influence people to act in certain ways. Now before we get to far off remember that Jesus is telling the Religious leaders to tell this to the governmental leaders. Jesus is telling Herod that the government has less power than religion. It is religion that can silence the prophet not the government. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” Religion can get it wrong if the religion is focused on controlling and not guiding. “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wing, and you were not wiling! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the times comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
God does not desire us to be divided into religions and governments. He does not desire us to divide into political parties or denominations. These things are about control over people; Jesus spoke often against lording it over people. Those that desire control will be given just what they want. They will gain the house…but the house will eventually be found empty. This is contrary to everything that Jesus promoted. Jesus gathered by offering people something different then a leader to follow. He offered life. To the blind man he offered a life of sight, which lead them out of the life of begging and gave them the opportunity of a different life. To woman with a bleeding condition He offered a life without shame. To the leper he offered acceptance into a community instead of a life of rejection. To the woman caught in adultery he offered an alternative to the constant giving and seeking of lustful desires but one of respect and forgiveness. How He wanted to gather the religious into the brood but they were not willing.
Control…Who is in control…What is in control? Do we want to control? To exert control over other is not godly even if it is done in the halls of the most pious organization. Those that seek to control are not leaders of God but the murderers of prophets. I want to ask a hard question to each of us, one I hope we all will consider, do we want to control our community or do we want to gather? The hen does not seek to control her brood but to protect, direct, and encourage them into their next stage of life. Eventually all of the chicks become adults who will live their own. Jesus wants to gather us. He wants to protect, encourage, and direct our lives not to control our every movement but to transform us into a people that are less concerned with control and more concerned with transforming the earth to be as it is in Heaven. He wants us to offer life, hope, and opportunities to people so that they can move from being a brood and into disciplined people living a life of prayer, worship, and ministry. To gather a community Loving God, Embracing the Holy Spirit, and Living the Love of Christ with other.
Today as we join together in this time of communal prayer and open worship, let us remember the difference between snow and rain as well as control and gathering. I pray that we will allow the Spirit of God to let us release those things in our lives that we have allowed to gain control over us, and that we will move under the wings of the God that loves us and let Him guide us into Life.