First preached 3/17/19 at West Linn Lutheran Church.
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to [Jesus,]“Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”
I think I’ve shared this but Luke is my favorite Gospel because of the kind of Jesus Luke reveals to us. This Jesus has some real emotions. I mean here we have angry Jesus, we have stubborn Jesus, we have determined Jesus, we have Jesus full of love and longing, and we have discouraged Jesus (Disrupt Worship Project, Lent 2, Rev. Carolina Glauster).
I love that our God is one of so many emotions! Because that is me. I’m known for having so many emotions all at once so in this very human side of Jesus, I see myself reflected.
I think especially this weekend of all the many emotions I’ve had. The joy it was to gather with 54 other faithful lay and rostered leaders at the Building an Inclusive Church training yesterday and Friday evening. The gratitude I had for the amazing group of WLLC members who provided hospitality and participated in the training. The excitement for us to continue this work together. My heart is full from that.
But my heart is also broken. Because other emotions I had this weekend were anger and grief because I woke up Friday morning to the news of 50 of our beloved Muslim brothers, sisters, and siblings, murdered at their place of worship.
Lord. Have. Mercy.
Jesus clearly has experience with those “set on murder” and he does not have the time for them. Exasperated Jesus calls Herod a fox, y’all. The Hebrew Scriptures associate foxes with being clever but ultimately sly and unprincipled. They act with no regard or care for others and the consequences their actions have on others. Jesus’ words here reflect the disdain that Jesus has for Harod. And, like I said, Jesus has no time for this. Harod is, in Jesus’ eyes, powerless (Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 2).
And so I can’t help but think today, who are the foxes of our world today? In light of the terrorist attacks in New Zealand, I cannot help but name Brenton Tarrant, the man charged with committing these heinous, hate-filled acts of violence against the Muslim communities in Christchurch, as a modern-day fox.
But this is deeper than this one man. We must expand our view of the foxes of this world not being people but rather the ideologies that those who act with violence against others were and continue to be bathed in. We look towards these ideologies because this is much greater than Brenton Tarrant.
These ideologies are the pervasive, systemic and EVIL ideologies of white supremacy, xenophobia, and Islamophobia. In fact, these ideological foxes are the anythings and everythings that perpetuate the fear and violence against others – the growing list of phobias and -isms that divide and divide and divide. Kill and kill and kill.
Lord, have mercy.
“You go and tell that fox for me, I’m casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will finish my work.”
Herod, the fox, is powerless to prevent Jesus’ work in the world. And beloveds – I know it is so hard to see this right now – after FIFTY of our Muslim siblings were slaughtered in their place of worship (something that we are surprisingly and sickingly familiar with) – it seems like the foxes of this world have won over. But the foxes are powerless over our compassionate God who acts with a bold determination to gather us together in Her protection (Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 2)..
And though I believe it with all my heart…trust me, I am struggling to see it. I want to fall on my knees and yell “God, if you’re healing and casting out demons, why are these foxes still killing your beloveds?!?!” But in times like this I have to trust that God was in those mosques…I have to trust that God is weeping for Her slayed children…I have to trust that God. Will. Have. The. Last. Word.
Lord, have mercy.
On Friday afternoon I gathered with other people of faith and our elected officials at the Muslim Educational Trust. I arrived just as the funeral prayers were being recited during the Muslim time of worship. I stood just out of the sanctuary while hundreds of our local Muslim siblings were praying together in this time of great grief for their extended community. I could feel the saturation of the Spirit in that place.
And as their prayers ended and many departed for work while other interfaith leaders and elected officials trickled into the space, I took my shoes off and entered that Holy Place. I saw imams and rabbis embracing. I saw condolences being made. I saw tears flowing. And as the prayers began for the vigil, I was reminded that the last time this large of an interfaith gathering took place in this area was directly after the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue where eleven of our Jewish siblings were killed in their place of worship.
Lord, have mercy.
But through that, the collective grief offered up in prayer, song, and speech…there was a sacred healing. Not a curing of the violence that had been done, because that is not possible. But a healing and mending of communities. A recognition that we are stronger together and that the love shared in that place will and MUST overcome the hatred that permeates this world.
A Sikh leader charged us to “stop being bystanders and start being upstanders.” To not sit around and wait to gather again together when the next community of faith – or any community – is targeted. But to do something about it.
Not easy work…It’s scary. I don’t know about you but there is fear within me when I show up to vigils or even to worship following events like this. And even when we do speak up, we run the risk of facing repercussions…WLLC saw this when y’all put out the sign wishing our Muslim siblings a blessed Ramadan and faced the backlash of vandalism. We risked it putting our sign out front of the building this week. But risking things, even with small statements of support, is how we build this world from love. It’s how we say that we will no longer tolerate other’s intolerance because when lives are at stake, there is no room for that in the shelter of God’s wings.
This, my beloveds, is how we live into our baptismal calling. In our affirmation of baptism we are asked if we renounce the devil and all the forces that defy God. We are asked if we renounce the powers of this world that rebel against God. Well, these ideological foxes are those things defying God at every turn. So we must speak, we must act.
Because, y’all, just like Jesus will not be stopped by the powers of the world that were out to kill him, so must we not bow down in fear. We must we link arms together with all of our siblings and sing the song that a rabbi led us in. He sang it in Hebrew first and it was beautiful to hear the voices of our other Jewish siblings present join in. Then we sang it in English:
I will build this world from love
You must build this world from love
If we build this world from love
Then God will build this world from love
Lutherans believe that we are co-creators with God, we are reforming the world with God…we are not to be passive and offer our “thoughts and prayers” – though they are needed – we are called to act. To actively cast out the foxes of this world and cure the hate…We are called to be agents of God’s justice until that third day when God’s work will be finished.
Until then, Lord have mercy.