The Message, March 20, 2022, "Along the Way"

The Message, March 20, 2022, "Along the Way"

Author: Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
March 22, 2022

 

“Journey to Jerusalem: Along the Way”
A Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
Luke 13:1-9

            Let’s be honest, shall we. I mean … this is a safe place, right?

            We really do not like Lent, do we?

            Lent is not nearly as fun as Advent. Advent is a time of preparation and anticipation … and there are lots of parties! There are no parties during Lent. (Unless you count St. Patrick’s Day festivities. And St. Patty’s Day really does run contrary to our Lenten discipline.)

            We do not like Lent. We do not like the whole giving up something good … or yummy … or comforting … or perhaps even a little bit unhealthy.

            Even more, we do not like the whole repentance thing. We do not like to think of ourselves as sinners. Even though we know that we are … even though we know that we do … sin. We do not like to think about it. We certainly do not like to talk about it.

            Some of you may be getting a little squirmy in your seats right now. “Honey! Turn off the computer! Scott is going to talk about our sins!”

            Sorry … you folks in the sanctuary cannot turn off your computers. You are stuck with me.

            Jesus is on a journey to Jerusalem. He is determined. He set his face toward Jerusalem, and we are joining him and the disciples. This journey is not just a casual little stroll. He is not packing the donkey for a vacation in the Holy City.

            Jesus knows that Jerusalem is the key to his mission and his ministry, and he is on his way. But then we hear this morning, he was approached by a group of people that essentially asked him, “Are you sure, Jesus? Do you really think that it is a good idea to go there? You do realize that it is dangerous there.”

            The news that they shared with Jesus was shocking. Actually, it was horrific. A group of pilgrims from Galilee were in Jerusalem making their sacrifices, and they were slaughtered by soldiers sent by Pontius Pilate. Sadly, it is all too easy for us to understand the evil in such an event.

            It will not be a surprise for you to learn that Pontius Pilate was not a nice man. He was cruel by the standards of any day or age. He intentionally tried to provoke and antagonize the Jewish people. He brought the Roman standard … a pagan symbol … into their places of worship. He took money from the Temple treasury to fund a Roman building project, and then savagely beat down the protest that arose in response. And then there was this tragic event that we heard about this morning.

            Their report was not a metaphor. No, it was the actual blood of innocent pilgrims that were slaughtered by Pilate’s soldiers.

            Clearly, the concern of those individuals who questioned Jesus was well-placed. Jerusalem was not a safe place for someone like Jesus. Jerusalem was not safe for their Messiah.

            And Jesus’ reply does not surprise us. Or, at least, it should not. He is going to Jerusalem. However, what he said next may be surprising. He calls upon those traveling with him to repent!

            Wait … what?! They had just told him about a heinous act committed by Pilate and his soldiers, and Jesus wanted them … his own followers to repent?!

            What is going on here?

            Let us remember and flash forward at the same time. In a couple of weeks, we will gather for Palm Sunday, that triumphant entry into Jerusalem. And we will remember the parade and the shouts of “Hosanna! Save us!” And then we will remember that the crowd turns against Jesus.

            Why?

            Because they were waiting for a warrior messiah. They desired that Jesus would ride into Jerusalem on a stallion … a war horse … and drive the Romans out of their city, out of their country.

            We may get the sense that Jesus was agitated, perhaps even irritated. He had been preaching a Gospel of love, proclaiming the Way of peace, and even after three years there were still some among his followers that did not get it. And time … his time … was running out.

            Even as they walked along toward Jerusalem, no doubt there was talk … murmuring … about Jesus’ anticipated victory over the wicked and evil Romans. Jesus preached about freedom and peace in the Kingdom of God. The people were marching toward a much different freedom.

            Jesus was offering them a very urgent and dire warning. “Repent! Turn away!”

            As it turns out, he was not talking about salvation, or referencing anything that had to do with eternal life in the heavenly realm. He was talking about real life in this world. He was saying that their pursuit of a warrior messiah was going to get them killed! Yes … they are oppressed. Yes .. they desire freedom. But he was not riding into Jerusalem on that war horse.

            Jesus knew that death and destruction was on the horizon. Jesus knew that the Romans would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple in the very near future. (The year 70 CE.) And Jesus knew that their desire for a violent overthrow of Rome would get them killed. Repent or perish!

            Admittedly, this is where it gets difficult for us. It is even more difficult when we consider what is happening in our world today.

            Are we not called to oppose evil?
            Are we not called to stand for peace, justice, and mercy?

            We see the atrocities being committed. We want peace … but a part of us wants punishment. We want to help the victims of warfare, oppression, persecution, and exploitation … but we also want the perpetrators to pay for their sinful acts.

            Should the children of God NOT object to horrors committed by evil leaders or empires?

            ‘Come on, Jesus! Ride into our world on your gleaming stallion … your war horse … and bring your sword!’

            ‘Are you sure that you want to go to Jerusalem, Jesus? They want to kill you there.’

            “What are we to do with our righteous anger, Jesus? Are there not causes that are worth fighting and dying for?”

            “Jesus … you meet us in the wilderness of our hearts and our souls. You test us and trouble us.”
            And Jesus answers … “I never said that my Way was easy. In fact, I told you that it would be difficult. After all, I did say to ‘pick up your crosses and follow me.’”

            “We remember, Jesus. But … does it have to be this hard?”

            The season of Lent is a season of repentance. It is about Jesus’ call to live penitent and faithful lives centered upon God and the love of God. Penitent lives … prayerful lives … on our knees.

            We do not have to contend with Pontius Pilate or a Roman legion brandishing swords and spears. We do not have to worry about wicked King Herod. But their plenty of evils in our world. There are plenty of desires and distractions that turn our attention away from God.

            When the soldiers killed the pilgrims in Jerusalem, they did not interview them to see who was the worst sinner, or who was the most faithful. When the stones from the tower at Siloam toppled, they did not pause in mid-air to determine the contents of the eighteen hearts below.

            Jesus calls us to repent and live godly lives because it is the right thing to do. Life is not an elevated game of gaining favors or avoiding losses by bargaining with God. The point of the Christian life is not to log extra time in worship or prayer in order to add extra strength to our shield of protection. I do not make a weekly report to God about your attendance or your faithfulness.

            This journey with Jesus allows us the opportunity to listen to him and to ponder his words. This season affords us the opportunity to consider what it means to truly live lives of love and peace.

            Imagine that you had the opportunity to stroll beside Jesus. Imagine that you could see his face, hear his words. Imagine that you could speak directly to him, and that he would answer you.

            Imagine.

            That is what the season of Lent is all about. That is why this journey is so special. Walk with him.
Talk with him.
And listen. Listen.
Amen.


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