Opening To Life – A Sermon On Luke 13:31-35

The Second Sunday in Lent – Luke 13:31-35

Sermon, Lent 2C, Luke 13:31-35, Future, Death, Life, Jesus Laments Over Jerusalem
By Hernán Piñera, CC BY-SA 2.0, Flickr

When was the last time you went to bed thankful and amazed by what the day had given you, something you had not planned or foreseen? Maybe it was a conversation, a chance meeting with someone else, a moment of hope or beauty, a truth or insight that changed you, an experience when you felt really alive. Life felt larger and more real than when you got out of bed that morning. When has life taken you completely by surprise, given you something you hadn’t expected, and you were glad for it?

Do you remember a night when you were too excited to sleep and you just couldn’t wait to get the new day started? I am asking about more than being energized and enthused about a particular activity you had planned for the following day. I am asking about a welcoming of life, an expectancy, an attitude of wonder, an openness to come what may, a feeling that the new day held something for you and you couldn’t wait to see what it was.

When have you been absolutely sure you were standing in the presence of God? Some would describe it as their moment closest to Christ. Some might say they saw the face of Jesus in another person. Some would say they saw the Spirit at work in a particular situation. Others might talk about an answered prayer, the beauty of nature, the first time they held their child or grandchild. 

Those situations, those times, those experiences, are the promise I spoke about last week, the promise of life and more life. Life is always coming to us in unknown, unexpected, and unplanned for ways. It’s the promise that life is breaking in on us in big ways and little ways. And when it does we can’t explain how or why it happened but we know it did. And we know that it was real. 

In those moments we were open and available to the promise and the coming life. Last week that’s how I described Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness. He was struggling with and learning how to remain open to his future, to his coming life. And aren’t we all? Haven’t there been times in your life when you struggled to stay open to the future, to what life was bringing you?

That openness to life is the call of Jesus in each of our lives and what the gospel is about. “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10), he said. It’s why “he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). It’s why there are so many stories of Jesus healing the blind and deaf. He is opening eyes and ears to the promise, to the future, to the coming of life and life abundant. It’s why, so many times, he tells us to stay awake, to be watchful, and to not fall asleep. He’s telling us to keep open to our future, to our coming life. And that’s what Jerusalem in today’s gospel (Luke 13:31-35) has failed to do.

Jerusalem has killed the prophets, the ones who were calling it into a future. It has stoned those sent to bring it life and more life. Jerusalem here is a metaphor for the ways in which we are blind and deaf to the promise, the ways in which we do not keep open to our future. “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Jesus says of Jerusalem (Luke 13:34).

“And you were not willing!” Jerusalem has closed to the future. The door of their house is locked and the windows are boarded up. “See, your house is left to you,” Jesus says (Luke 13:35).  Jerusalem has refused to respond to the promise and give existence to the insistence of life. 

And sometimes you and I are Jerusalem. Sometimes we are blind and deaf to the promise, closed to the future. It happens when life is on auto-pilot and we are just going through the motions. It happens when we hold grudges and resentments, withhold forgiveness, or refuse to accept forgiveness from another. It’s in our suspicions, cynicism, and rejection of others. It’s in all the things we declare as ultimate and in the ultimatums we issue. It what’s going on when we circle the wagons, draw lines in the sand, deny hospitality and refuse to welcome another. It happens when fear overwhelms us and power, security, and control become our primary values. It’s what lies behind our illusions of self-sufficiency, our refusal to listen to another, and our belief that there is only one way, our way. It happens when structures, rules, and law become ends rather than means. It’s what happens when we cling to and become defined by past guilts, hurts, or losses. It’s what’s going on when we refuse to be self-reflective, to question ourselves, or consider something new. It’s in those times when we settle and say, “This is as good as it gets, all there is.” It’s what happens when routines, habits, and the same old patterns govern our lives. It’s our inability or refusal to imagine, to dream the impossible, to wonder what if, or say, “Perhaps….” And the list goes on and on.

When this happens we settle for mere life rather than more life. We stagnate. Everything atrophies. We are no longer growing and maturing. Despair replaces hope and nightmares replace dreams. We can no longer see or hear the promise of new life. We close to our future, and where there is no hope for the future there is no life. We declare an ending and our house is left to us. 

When have you and I been unwilling to be gathered to life? In what ways have we closed to the future? When has our house been left to us?

Jesus is not accusing Jerusalem. He is lamenting Jerusalem. When he finally sees Jerusalem, Luke tells us, “He wept over it” (Luke 19:41). He is sorrowing and protesting the end, the death, the narrowness and shortsightedness, of Jerusalem. And yet, he continues coming to Jerusalem. He is always coming to the Jerusalem of our lives, always calling us to life, to more life, to new life. The promise never goes away, even when we do not respond. 

The event of life is always coming to us, in a thousand different ways, every moment of every day. The promise remains. Life never gives up on us. Life will be waiting for us when we reopen, when we are ready and willing to say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” 

Those are not just words to be spoken. They describe one whose eyes, ears, and heart are open to what is coming; a promise, a future, a life. What if it all is coming to us in the name of the Lord? Blessed is the promise that comes to us in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the future that comes to us in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the life that comes to us in the name of the Lord. 

In what ways are your eyes, ears, or heart closed today? What needs to happen, to change, to be let go of, for them to begin opening? What would it take for you to bless an unknown promise, an unforeseeable future, an uncertain life? That won’t change what is coming, but it will change us. 

I know that’s asking a lot and there is risk in all that blessing. That’s not the way we usually live, and that’s the point. But this is a chance for life, more life, a new life. And that’s a risk I want to take, don’t you?

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