Loving and gracious God, give us grace to discipline ourselves in submission to your Spirit, that as you know our weakness, so we may know your power to save. Amen
This week it occurred to me that the word vocation is only one letter different from the word vacation. It is perhaps not surprising that during the last week I thought more about vacation and less about vocation. That said it seems that there might be a link. For when we take vacation, in other words, a break from our regular schedule, we may be in a better place to think about our vocation. Time after time in the gospel account Jesus takes a vacation, by stepping away from his routine of being with people, teaching and proclaiming the good news, to rest and recharge in God’s presence. This allowed Jesus to think again about what God was calling him to do, but more about that in a few moments.
In our culture, and likely in that of the Greeks, a fox was regarded as a cunning creature. However, in Hebrew writings, the ideal was quite different: where the fox was seen as a puny figure. Therefore Jesus may have been saying: go and tell your insignificant king, rather than your cunning king.
Regardless of this, Herod wanted to put an end to Jesus’ activity of casting out devils and working cures. Jesus’ activity, however, would be ended in three days, (meaning a short period of time), by the will of a power far great than Herod. Jesus would by then have met his goal, as it was unthinkable (to Luke) that a prophet such as Jesus, could die anywhere but in Jerusalem.
After last week’s temptation narrative there is a change of pace as Luke examines Jesus’ vocation as the Son of God. This begins with his baptism (by the Holy Spirit) and continues with the announcement of good news in his home synagogue. For Luke, temptation is not so much about Jesus’ personal struggles, but how Jesus seeks to fulfil his call for God.
In today’s passage, the Pharisees warn Jesus about Herod and encourage him to move on. Jesus sees his call to go to Jerusalem is about God’s will, not any threat from Herod. In other words, God is setting the agenda, not Herod. The warning is almost an act of friendship from the Pharisees, who, unlike Herod and Jerusalem, at this stage (at least), do not want to get rid of Jesus. This is quite different from how the group is referenced in the other gospels.
Although the Pharisees were at odds with Jesus over Sabbath, their opposition really came later after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70. It was, therefore, more with the early Christians than Jesus himself. Ultimately Pharisees didn't want to be part of universal religious grouping and the early Christians didn't want to remain a Jewish sect. This led to both groups going their separate ways.
Jesus speaks on his own authority, and the Pharisees prefer to avoid him because of the messages he gives; he is totally under the power of God and also has great compassion for people, especially those who suffer.
In speaking, Jesus calls people to repentance and proclaims salvation, showing the human situation and maintaining his love for people all the way to the cross.
Jesus of course is both the inspiration, the pattern, as well as the means for us to be people of faith. It is by listening to his words and actions, by thinking deeply about our lives. To reflect on what is going well and what might need improvement. It is by being strengthened by Christ’s grace, (or blessing for want of a better word), that we hope to become more like him.
The reality is that God made us as we are, and to God, we are beautiful and lovely and should be ourselves rather than try to be anyone else. Well with one exception. Our Christian pilgrimage calls us to be like Christ: with our words, our actions, our lives; in fact our total way of being.
Wherever Jesus goes crowds follow him, wherever he is, he carries out healings and exorcisms and thereby makes clear that God’s kingdom is present. These actions are central to Jesus’ message and daily work, and today healing and deliverance remain essential parts of the ministry of the Church. For all of us are lost and broken in various ways and therefore in need of being delivered of our obsessions and fears, as well as being in need of healing.
Although Jesus is headed for the holy city which had a hostile record towards prophets, and although he will die there, his ministry will continue, be made complete by his resurrection. For now, Jesus is still in charge of his own timetable, continuing his work until the third day, a reference of course to his resurrection. And in spite of the hostility of Jerusalem to the prophets, and ultimately to Jesus himself, Jesus is likened in Luke to a mother hen who wants to gather his brood under his wings. In fact, Jesus would also willingly protect those who reject him.
Here we see Jesus as his most profound. For most human beings, protecting our loved ones is a natural response, but to care for and protect those who hate and reject us does not come easily to any of us. Here we are challenged to have compassion for those who despise us and might even want to put us to death. This is a very, very hard path to follow.
In this season of preparation for Holy Week, it is our purpose to think more deeply about the ministry and passion of Jesus. For if we reject his offer of salvation, deliverance and healing, our fate may be equal to the city that rejected him and which was destroyed less than forty years after his death. Jesus longs to have compassion, and his longing should be met with our longing for salvation, deliverance and healing.
This morning we are commissioning the members of our Council, those elected at Vestry to take council for the parish in the year ahead. We have entrusted to this group our decision-making to guide and direct our common life. Together with the Council, all of us share in the call of Jesus Christ, as we follow him. We engage in the mission and ministry of the Church as part of our service to God, as part of our worship of God. For in caring for others, in supporting groups in the community, by individual prayer, by study, by breaking bread together in the Eucharist or praying together online, we worship (give reverence and adoration) and serve God.
As we continue in our vocation to be people of God, walking in the way of Christ, may we find times to be on vacation, to step back from what we are doing, so that we may reflect more deeply on all that God has called us to do.