Lent 0219- “Par for the Course.” Luke 13:31-35

Lent 0219- “Par for the Course.” Luke 13:31-35
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of St Luke, the 13th Chapter.

31At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to [Jesus], “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ 34O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! 35Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“Par for the course.” This is a golf term which we know well. It means that those who play well achieve the minimum number of strokes for a round of golf. Along the way there are many challenges which the golfer faces. The greatest challenge being a proper swing of the club. Even the best golfer hits an errant shot every now and then.

Par for the course also has the idea that what is encountered is expected. This can be said of any experience in life. It makes no difference whether you are, going to school, washing dishes, managing a business, raising children, or some other work there are challenges, pitfalls, high points and joys. You can say, “Par for the course.”
Jesus speaks of being on a course. Reading this account of St Luke there appears to be many expected events as Jesus pursues His course. We encounter Jesus as he is ministering the very real needs of the people. In this section of Luke’s account, Jesus is in the Galilean countryside. He is moving around from city to city and town to town healing the sick, casting out demons and teaching in the synagogues. People are flocking to Jesus for a word, a healing touch, or release from demons. Jesus message is powerful and spoken with authority that was not heard before. Certainly, for the people of Galilee this was not par for the course.

Now, Jesus is confronted by Pharisees. We read in other places that these men, the Pharisees, are the enemies of Jesus. Usually they are plotting to silence Jesus and later on we will read of them plotting to put Jesus to death. Yet, it appears that death is not their plan today. The Pharisees come with a message of warning for Jesus. They tell Jesus to leave Galilee because Herod seeks to put him to death.

This warning seems reasonable, par for the course. Yet there seems to be something amiss. What we know of Herod Antipas and what we know of the Pharisees causes some second thoughts. When we read of Jesus being sent to Herod by Pilate we read of Herod desiring to see a miracle performed by Jesus. To this end, Herod questioned Jesus and cajoled him to put on a show. To say Herod wants to put Jesus to death seems a little gratuitous on the part of the Pharisees. Indeed, it is gratuitous because where would Jesus run if he sought to escape Herod’s grasp? Jesus would leave Galilee for which large city in Palestine? Jerusalem is the answer.

We see that the Pharisees are seeking to manipulate the situation so that Jesus would return to their jurisdiction. When Jesus sets foot in Judah, he falls under the control of the Sanhedrin’s guard. There Jesus could be arrested and his voice silenced. What is the motivation of this manipulation, deceit and persecution other than outright rejection by sinful men. Par for the course for sinners.

In what ways have you sought to manipulate God to your will? How often do you turn away from your Lord seeking something more exciting than singing hymns of praise, hearing the Word of God and receiving His means of grace on a Sunday morning or at other times appointed for worship? How many times do you seek to justify your errors of thought, word and deed by looking only at the end goal and not considering means of reaching the end goal? In the fifth chief part of the catechism we read the instruction to consider your station in life according to the Ten Commandments.

“Consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments. Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?”

We often only think what we said or did is sinful or relatively sinful. We are always ones who make comparisons and judgments that put us in our good graces rather than realizing what it means to be in God’s good grace. Our Lord spoke to those who followed him on many occasions reminding them that we sin without even opening our mouths or raising our hands or swinging our feet. Hating causes others pain because you neglect to give the aid and comfort needed even by an enemy.

Planning to do harm or holding ill feelings against someone is just as if you hurt or harmed their body. Jesus says that anyone who hates his brother is a murderer. Recalling Cain’s hatred for his brother Abel we see the result of unresolved anger. Truly Cain was angry with God. But knowing he could not hurt God, he took his anger out on the one whom God showed favor.

Daydreaming of beaches and drinking fruity drinks in exotic places when you are supposed to be working is theft from your employer. As is using company resources for personal use. You are stealing time, paper, copier toner, pens or pencils from the one who owns your place of employment. Those things designated for doing business are no longer available to do business. You are diminishing your employer’s ability to earn a living for himself and for you. Higher costs are passed on to customers. Sounds strangely like the effects of shoplifting.

Our Lord did not fail to carry out His responsibilities and fulfill the work He was given to do. Listen to His rebuke of Herod and the Pharisees. “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.” Jesus could not be dissuaded from the timetable set by His Father. Jesus did not fear Herod nor the Pharisees who sought him out. Jesus faced enemies more powerful than either Herod of the Pharisees.

Jesus faced demons, illness, injury and death. In each instance Jesus was victorious over these enemies. Demons were sent packing. Illness and injury received God’s personal attention and healing. Death bowed to the voice and touch of the Son of God. Lives were restored. Deliverance was realized. Hope abounded. Faith in the Son of God was created. Par for the course for the Son of God.

In the face of these works of mercy, threats from Herod meant nothing. By comparison, Jesus is telling the Pharisees that Herod is less than a threat. His words are of no consequence. Herod cannot take the life of the Son of God. For, the Son of God will go only as it is written of Him. For this reason Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and proclaims His death will take place nowhere else but in the city and by the city which kills the prophets of God.

Earlier in this same Gospel of St Luke, we read of Jesus setting his face toward Jerusalem. Resolve filled Jesus’ thoughts and works. He is in the final year of His ministry to those oppressed by sin and living in the fear of death. In a few short days, Jesus is riding into this great city on the colt of a donkey. He will be resoundingly welcomed by the crowds. The people will strew his path with palm branches reserved for the victorious king. They will sing, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” All this in accord with the plan of God for the redemption of the world.
Jesus speaks of this redemption when he proclaims the journey of salvation ends only in Jerusalem. The One who will give His life for the sins of the world will go only as it is written of Him. Jesus goes to Jerusalem, the City of Peace, to establish God’s eternal peace. We hear the in the words of Jesus spoken to bring all the people of God to repentance and faith. “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! … How often would I have gathered your children together ….” The repetition of Jerusalem! Jerusalem! reveals the deep sadness that fills the heart of Jesus as he marches on to the city which bears the name of God. Absalom! Absalom! David so wept for his son Absalom whom he loved even though Absalom sought his life. Martha! Martha! Jesus also softly admonished Martha when she complained her sister Mary wasted time sitting at Jesus feet. Saul! Saul! Jesus sought Saul’s repentance on the road to Damascus.

Would that you hear Jesus calling your name bringing you to repentance and faith. Today you are reminded of Jesus calling you to repentance and faith. That call was spoken over you by the pastor who applied the water of Baptism to your body. In following the command of Jesus, the name of your God, Father, son and Holy Spirit, was placed upon you. Through the work of God Spirit and the cleansing power of God’s promise you were given new life to walk in the path of salvation and the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

This is par for the course when Jesus comes to you. He finds the ones he seeks and brings them into His eternal kingdom. The arms stretched out for you upon the cross have also wrapped you in the saving embrace of God’s mercy. The hands pierced for your transgressions have plucked you from the wide road that leads to destruction. They gently guide you to the place prepared for you in the house of our Father in heaven. God keep you for the end of faith, His salvation.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen!