As we journey through the 2nd week of Lent with Christ, the Holy Spirit is now taking us to places of emptiness, descending into our own dark wilderness. Here we should take time to think about who we are and what we are doing with our lives. It is here, in such places and in such times when we sit still in the presence of God, we can hear most clearly, the open declaration of Jesus:
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. (Luke 13:32-33)
We are asked by God to consider if we are willing to travel with Jesus to the cross, to be killed because of God’s love. It is a question each of us must consider. What might such a journey look like and be like, we ask ourselves and God? Are we asking fearfully or appreciatively? We find a possible answer in Genesis, as Abram responds to God’s covenantal promises and commitment to the future people of Israel as the chosen ones of God.
As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him. (Genesis 15:12)
I’ve been thinking about God’s enduring love for human beings and all of God’s creation and our own response to God, so often filled with rejection, fear, denial, betrayal and death of self. As greed consumes our lives with selfishness and hypocrisy, we are blinded to the life-giving love generously poured out by God because we no longer see it or understand it. Yet I am reminded of other responses we also generously make, of love, kindness, patience, endurance, sacrifice and honesty. We are confronted always by the need to make a choice. Is it a choice in God’s name or in our own?
I’ve had a couple of conversations this week which have highlighted the casual acceptance of hypocrisy, displayed in strongly held beliefs supporting entrenched racism and discrimination; the certainty white people are better than the First Australians who apparently should be grateful we have occupied their country and brought all the benefits of white colonial laws, health, education and justice to them, ignoring the imposition of slavery and genocide, abuse and ignorance.
I’ve been reflecting on Poland’s refusal to take in non-white refugees, African and Indian students and citizens fleeing the violence of the war between Russia and Ukraine and our outrage at such an act. Yet, this is a refusal which is matched by Australia’s as we lock up our own refugees in concentration camps, refusing them access to international justice and to life.
Some of the journalism this week has reflected on other views of the invasion of Russia into Ukraine which are not American, European or white, which speak to the hypocrisy of the nations which invaded and then abandoned Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Myanmar but which only now are being stung into action with violence now on the doorstep of Europe.
Jesus reflects on his own lack of safety because of such rampant hypocrisy which is clearly highlighted in this story in Luke’s Gospel 13:31-35 as Jesus casts out demons and performs cures, preaching and teaching. Jesus has apparently provoked Herod, like his cousin John whom Herod murdered for pointing out Herod’s hypocrisy in marrying his brother’s wife. Jesus’ response to concerns for his safety openly shows his acceptance of his death, as he knows he is not safe. Jesus knows he will die because of people’s inability to face into their own hypocrisies, and his death will happen in Jerusalem.
‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! Luke 13:34
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Paul too recognises this very human unwillingness to examine our own behaviour:
For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ: I have often told you of them and now I tell even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. (Phil. 3:18-19)
In writing this sermon, I wondered about my own hypocrisies, small and large. Sometimes it takes a good friend to point it out to me, to shine a kindly light so I can see where I have mis-stepped or chosen willful blindness for convenience while hanging onto a hope I can ignore it so it might go away and be missed by others too.
What might your hypocrisies be? How do they affect your decisions? The deep and terrifying descending darkness which overtook Abram as he made his choice to trust, overtakes us too when recognition and horror at our hypocritical choices are revealed. Yet, we are reminded, and reassured God is present in the darkness. God is the light we can choose to follow and God’s covenantal promise and love for all of us is revealed. We do not need to give up hope or give into the darkness. Jesus’ love is real and present for all of us, regardless of our failures and blindness. We need only remember Jesus’ words:
How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing. (Luke 13:34)
In choosing willingness to trust in God, let us remember the wonderful, hope-filled lines in Psalm 27:13-14
I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord: in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage: and wait for the Lord.
The Lord be with you.