2nd Sunday in Lent
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 13:31-35 Sermon
March 4, 2007
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
492 “I Lay My Sins On Jesus”
390 “Thou Art The Way, To Thee Alone”
572 “Children Of The Heavenly Father”
576 “Abide With Me"
FRUSTRATION AND HEARTACHE
TEXT (vs. 34-35): “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”
This morning, I’d like to introduce you to a man by the name of Jim. Jim is a police officer; or more specifically, a detective. In fact, he is a captain. He’s a man in his 50’s, with over 30 of those years on the police force. And he’s good at what he does—people look up to him, respect him, and like him. He’s tough but fair, and he’s generally pleasant to be around.
There’s really nothing special about Jim. He’s about as average looking as they come. He dresses in a J.C. Penney suit, has thinning salt-and-pepper hair, and his belt line is definitely showing the signs of middle age.
Jim occupies a rather austere but very functional corner office tucked away in the bowels Central Police Headquarters. When you walk into his office, you’ll see an ordinary steel case desk with a credenza off to the side devoted to his computer. On top of his desk, you’ll see ordinary types of things—various file folders arrayed on the top, along with his name plate, pens and pencils, and a telephone. Right next to the telephone, you might notice the back of a small metal picture frame.
From Jim’s vantage point on his side of the desk, you’d see that the picture frame holds a professional photograph of a very attractive young lady with auburn hair. The young lady is Jim’s daughter Becky; and the photograph is her high school graduation picture. Regardless of whatever else is on his desk, that picture of Becky is always there in Jim’s full view. It is never obstructed or pushed out of the way. It’s almost like it was glued down.
If you ask Jim about her, he won’t tell you much. He’ll indicate that she lives in a different city, and that he doesn’t see her too often. And then, he will quickly change the subject. He doesn’t want to talk about it. Of course there is a story behind all of this.
Jim’s wife died when Becky was just 13 years old. She was their only daughter. Jim’s wife was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty. This left Jim to raise their daughter as a single parent, and he did a good job of it. His mother and sister also spent a lot of time helping him at home with raising Becky, so she had some good female influences in her formative years.
Jim was a great dad too. From her earliest days, he would always tuck her in bed and kiss her good night. He would read to her and play with her. They went places and did things together—both as a family, and as father and daughter. Now Jim didn’t spoil her—he was firm and disciplined her when it was needed. They had rules at home, and Becky was expected to obey them. But she also knew that her father loved her very much, and she never doubted that for a minute.
So when Becky’s mother died, she and her father were able to support each other. They talked about her, they laughed, and they cried. They both missed her very much.
Jim made sure that the two of them were in church every Sunday—he felt that there was rarely a good excuse to miss church. Becky went to Sunday school and confirmation classes. She was also active in youth group, and participated in various other church activities.
Jim felt certain that his daughter was growing up the way she should. She reminded him a lot of his wife, and Becky was that part of her which would live on.
Jim’s life was filled with Becky and her various activities. There was her confirmation, her first date, her prom, and her graduation from high school. She was an excellent student and graduated with honors.
Jim sat down with her as they looked over the various colleges and universities who had offered her acadaemic scholarships. Jim and his wife had started a college fund when Becky was a baby, to which Jim continued to contribute, even during those times when money was tight. There was enough in the fund to easily take care of any expenses not met by the scholarships.
Becky eventually selected a rather prestigious school, and Jim agreed with her selection—although somewhat reluctantly, since it was a long distance away. But Jim reckoned that it would be good for her to be out of the house and on her own, even if it was in a dormitory. And of course, she would come home on the holidays; and then there was always the telephone and letters too. They definitely could keep in touch. So off she went to school. Jim of course missed her terribly, but she needed a life of her own as well.
Things went quite smoothly her first year. She was on the Dean’s list, and was holding a good 4.0 grade point average. She phoned her dad faithfully every week, and they discussed all of the various things that were going on at school and in their lives. Jim made sure that she had a plane ticket to get home on the holidays as well; and even though she spent more time with her friends that were still around, Jim still appreciated the time they had together.
When the next year rolled around, things weren’t as good. Becky’s grades began to slip a bit, and she would often forget to call her father. When she came home for Christmas, she seemed so totally different to Jim. She had become defiant, and had gotten into several rather heated arguments with her dad. Jim didn’t like what he was seeing.
After Becky went back to school, Jim didn’t hear a thing from her for the longest time. When he contacted the school, he found out that she had dropped out a month after the second semester began. Nobody knew where she was.
Jim contacted the police in the town where she had been living to see if they could locate her. Several days later, he received a phone call. She was in jail, having been arrested for prostitution and possession of a controlled substance. Jim of course went out there; and when he saw his daughter in that jail cell with those other street-wise women, it felt like he had been shot through the heart.
Jim made several more trips out there for the same reason. Becky made it clear to him that he wasn’t welcome, and that she didn’t want anything to do with him. She told him that it was her life to do with what she wanted, and that she was very happy with the way things were, thank you very much.
And so Jim keeps her picture on the desk. He looks at her with heartache and frustration. She had everything going for her—intelligence, beauty, an education, and a promising future. And now she’s chosen this kind of life for herself—Jim wonders where he might have gone wrong. And he prays often for her; in fact, every time he sees her photograph, he breathes a small word of prayer. Jim knows that God knows where she is and what she’s doing, and he prays for her safety and well-being.
That’s a long and sad story. But if you can somehow imagine what Jim is going through, then it might give you a clue as to how Jesus was feeling in our Gospel lesson for today.
The final two verses of our Gospel give the account of Jesus looking at Jerusalem, and he is expressing deep frustration and heartache. For here he is looking at the holy city itself, the bastion of the Jewish religion, the spiritual home of God’s chosen people, the Israelites. And what were they doing? They were killing God’s prophets! They stoned those God sent to them! They had systematically eliminated God and his will from their lives, and had replaced it with their own sub-standard values and rules. By re-inventing God in their own image, they became calloused to the love and acceptance God had for them. And so, there was no place for the one true God in their lives. They had chosen their own way instead.
There were the Pharisees. They were the teachers of the law, the so-called “religious experts.” They were guilty of doing things like inventing their own religious rules, and binding the consciences of people to them. They were self-righteous, always looking down at everybody else who they didn’t feel were as good as they were. They were also lovers of money, and were constantly looking to line their pockets any way they could—most of the time, dishonestly.
Then there were the Sadducees—those who sought to rob God’s people of their eternal hope by teaching that there was no resurrection of the dead.
The church was in a mess, and God’s people were being swindled and lied to and led astray at every turn! God tried to help them in so many ways, but they flatly refused what God had to offer. Their way seemed so much better to them.
And of course when Jesus comes on the scene, they definitely had no use for him either. They knew that God had promised them a Messiah, but Jesus didn’t fit what they thought a Messiah should be. They wanted a Saviour who would give them earthly glory, one that would defeat and kill all their earthly enemies, one that would make them rich and powerful; yes one that would basically give them some type of heaven-on-earth and make all of their wishes come true.
You know, God had done so much for the Israelites. In countless ways, he showed his love and affection for them. He led them, he preserved them; in fact he even fed them in the wilderness. And what did they do? They complained, they disobeyed, and they turned to other false gods. In effect, they told God to “go and take a hike” so many times, indicating that they knew better than God did, and that their lives would be so much better without him.
So they brought troubles on themselves time and time again, and guess what? They blamed God for that too! Even though God had warned them what their actions would bring, they ignored his warnings.
And yet, God continued to show love for them. He kept trying to bring them back into his fold. He offered them words of forgiveness, love, and acceptance. Following God wasn’t a burden or chore either; rather it was a matter of faith, a devotion of the heart.
But Israel still maintained their stubbornness and rebellion. Out of the twelve original tribes of Israel, the ten northern tribes were disband and scattered because of their faithlessness and disobedience. The two remaining southern tribes of Judah weren’t that great either, but they still existed. This was the line of Jesus’ ancestry. However they proved to be stubborn and rebellious as well, as these were the ones who were killing the prophets and stoning those God sent to them.
When I see Jesus looking at Jerusalem and speaking words of frustration and heartache, I think it must have been something like Jim looking at that photograph of his daughter Becky. God had given them every advantage, every blessing, and had loved them unconditionally. And what do they do? They take the path to destruction with the attitude of “Hey, it’s my life, and I’ll do what I want.”
What do you think God sees when he looks at our picture? Does he look at us with a sense of frustration and heartache? Have we ever given God the old “heave-ho” in our lives, thinking that our way is better than his way?
We know that we have. So many times, and in so many ways, we have been like Jerusalem. God sends us a warning, and we ignore it. God sends us his messengers, and we want to get rid of them. God even speaks to us through his Word, and we shut our ears.
But Jesus comes into our lives, and it is his desire that he gather us under his loving arms, something like a hen gathers her brood under her wings. Jesus knows that we have been as stubborn and rebellious as the Israelites, but he still speaks to us with words of forgiveness and love.
When God gives us the faith to believe in Jesus our Saviour, then we know without a doubt just how much he loves us and wants us to be his own. We recognize that our own ways will only lead us to our eventual destruction, and we need the forgiveness Jesus has to offer.
Jesus looks at the whole world with longing eyes, wanting to save each and every one. He would bleed and die for the sins of the whole world; and yet there would be those who would reject his grace and go their own way.
Yes, I think about Jim looking at that photograph of his daughter Becky. He gave her everything a good father could give, and yet she has chosen the path of destruction. She has rejected the good things offered, and has gone her own way.
But I also know that Jim looks at her photograph with hope. He longs to have that relationship restored with his daughter, and is praying for the day it will happen. And when it does, he will be there for her with his arms wide open.
Jesus is there for us too. He always will be. He has loved us from the beginning, and will continue to love us. He has paid for all of our sins and faults, regardless of how big or how great. Through faith on our Saviour, we will not be left in a desolate house, but we will live in his heavenly mansion forever.