Sunday, February 21, 2016

Jesus Wants to Include People (Maybe Even Herod)

At church this morning, the pastor preached about Luke 13:31-35.  The text states:
31 The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee.
32 And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.
33 Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.
34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!
35 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.  (KJV)
The theme of this morning’s sermon was Jesus trying to heal divisions and bring people together.

The pastor opened his sermon by asking us how we would feel if everything tasted like pickles.  The cake in the basement?  It tastes like pickles!  The girl scout cookies that are being sold?  They taste like pickles!  And I assume that the pastor was not talking about Aunt Bee’s horribly-tasting pickles, but just regular pickles, maybe even good pickles.

Many of us wouldn’t want to everything to taste like pickles.  We like variety.  God likes variety, too.  That, according to the pastor, is why God in Genesis 11 scattered the people at the Tower of Babel by giving them different languages: God wanted to see variety.

The pastor talked about his own experiences in diversity when he was growing up in West Virginia.  He expressed concern that his daughter goes to a school where everyone looks like her.  When he was growing up, however, he encountered people of different races at his high school.  That made him aware that his way was not the only way to see things.  He said that he did not learn this lesson at church.  This is actually a pretty poignant point, from him.  Usually, in his sermons, his high school experiences are a foil for his church experiences back when he was growing up.  At high school, he did not fit in.  At church, he was accepted and learned that he could make a difference.

The pastor then proceeded to our text.  In the text, we see divisions.  The pastor said that the Pharisees are pretending to be concerned about Jesus by warning him about Herod.  Usually, Pharisees and Herodians were in cahoots (see Mark 3:6; 12:13).  I do not know whether the Pharisees in Luke 13:31-35 were sincere in their concern about Jesus, for there are both positive (or at least neutral) and negative depictions of the Pharisees in the Gospel of Luke.  Jesus did tell them to send a message to Herod, so perhaps that presumes Pharisees and Herodians were in cahoots.

But there were still divisions.  Herod wants to kill Jesus.  Prophets were killed in Jerusalem.  Jesus, by contrast, wants to gather people together like a hen gathers her chicks underneath her wings.  Jesus wants to communicate that to Herod, so Jesus told the Pharisees to inform Herod about his exorcisms and healings.  The pastor may have been suggesting that Jesus wanted to gather Herod, too, underneath his wings.  Herod was one of the bad guys in the story, but Jesus was reaching out to him.

The pastor talked about how Jesus, through his healings, was often including the excluded.  Having leprosy could exclude one from the Israelite community and Temple worship on account of purity regulations.  The pastor suggested that Jesus was tired of this, and that was why he was healing lepers.

The pastor was criticizing dualism: assuming some people are in, while other people are out.  Jesus, however, wanted the people of Jerusalem to know that they all belonged to God.  The pastor acknowledged that there were biblical passages that appear to be rather dualistic, but he said that this highlights why we should read the Bible with wisdom.

I’ll stop here.

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