Welcome to our worship service for this 2nd Sunday in Lent, landing on March 13, 2022!
The bulletin for this service can be found here. The bulletin will have the order and words for worship, the hymn and page numbers out of the ELW, and the full sermon manuscript. You may download the bulletin and use it to follow along, or you can follow along with the words on your screen. The sermon is also included on this page after the video.
For a fuller worship experience at home, you can have a lit candle for the duration of the service that can be put out during the sending hymn, and something small to eat and drink for communion. Further instructions around communion will be given during the actual service.
May God’s identifying love and grace be upon you, now and always!
O God, open to us your Word by your Holy Spirit, that we, like our father Abraham, might believe in your promises and truth for us and the world, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
What in the world is going on in the world? A couple years ago when this pandemic started, people were saying that it was it, the end times are upon us, but we endured for another two years to this dumpster fire we have going on now. So if you thought things were bad then, things are definitely worse now. Wars for little to no good reason, dissention between and within nations, random acts of violence around our city, and gas prices through the roof. But hey, at least the pandemic mandates are easing up, right?
But as you all know, it is hard to live in a time like this. It is hard to see a world that we love so much, the only one we have, to be falling apart the way it is now. It’s hard to see our country so divided in ways that we never thought would happen in this so called peace loving and polite part of the planet. It’s hard thinking about what kind of future we’re leaving behind for our kids, what kind of climate they’ll inherit from the irresponsibilities of the past and present, and how they’ll even afford to live as the gap between the rich and the poor seems to grow exponentially with each passing year. It feels like in these past few years, for whatever reason the human race in general has regressed and all progress that we’ve made in how we live, how we care for the environment, and how we treat each other has just been thrown out the window.
And really? It’s depressing just thinking about it.
So I get Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem in today’s gospel lesson. You can just hear the pain in his voice, how he longs for a better world for these people that he loves so much, and how rejected he must have felt when they chose to turn away instead. That is painful for anyone, really, not just the actual Son of God. It’s painful to see a loved one go down such obviously wrong paths, it’s painful when such avoidable evils flourish throughout people’s attitudes and actions, it’s painful to watch whole people groups just flush their lives away over such nonsensical greed, selfishness, and desire for power.
That is the thing, isn’t it? This is what Jesus was trying to reveal to the people, this is why they were so angry, this is what ultimately got Jesus killed. This is what Jesus was hoping to protect them from, but they rejected him and rather wanted him dead. They thought that they were the only ones who mattered so their ways were the best ways. They took God’s promise to them that they will be God’s people to the next level and excluded those who they deemed as too different and felt justified in doing so. Their patriotism of their own nation took over their identity as God’s beloved and forgiven people and turned it into a kind of supremacy instead.
And if I’m honest, this is what I’m seeing happening around the world now. I see people claiming their country before their God, their politics before human decency, their exclusivity before any kind of inclusivity whatsoever. It’s like we like to draw lines between us and them so much that we can’t help but make up more lines, and these made up borders that we live behind just make it a bit easier for us. But for some that isn’t enough, so new borders are created even within our country, between provinces, political parties, and even religion.
All this division, and for what? What is gained in puffing our own chests and claiming that our city that we just happen to be born or currently live in, is best? What is the point in showing off the ways that where we’re from is superior to other places but ignoring all the ways that it’s actually inferior? For what reason do we need to draw these lines so deep and thick that crossing them becomes this impossible ordeal so daunting that we might not even bother to try anymore?
Well, the way I see it, I think it’s for protection, because somehow we think that those who aren’t like us or aren’t from the same place as us must be out to get us. So we need to be protected from those outsiders, those deviants, those enemies, and that protection can come from the group to which we feel most a part of, because there is safety in numbers. There is security in the affirmation that we are right and everyone else is wrong. And to keep receiving this protection from the greater sum, we have to make sure that we still belong. But of course to belong, we need to act right, talk right, and believe right or we might be identified as an outsider as well.
I think that’s why it’s so hard to have a rational discussion between any two people sitting at the polar ends of any kind of spectrum. When we hold so tightly onto our belief system and loyalty to our group, a difference of opinion isn’t just a different opinion that doesn’t really affect us at all, but it becomes a blatant attack on the group that we are loyal to, our ideals that we think define us, our very identity regardless of how misguided it might be. And when we feel attacked, those walls go up even harder and stronger, and the divide becomes deeper.
Why do you think Herod wanted to kill Jesus? He saw Jesus as a threat to his power and privilege. But Jesus’ response was very telling, he says he will continue his work, he will continue healing, he will continue loving these people that Herod and the powers that be would rather leave unloved. Jesus won’t fall into the patriotism, the false sense of security, he won’t stop being Jesus. He continued moving toward Jerusalem, the place of his eventual demise, with confidence in who he is, what he’s doing, and who has called him to do this work of compassion and charity.
And Jesus continues to do this in and through us. Jesus leads us to act with justice, compassion, and peace. Jesus empowers us to stand up for the lowly and to include and welcome the outcast, to love the unloved. Jesus brings us to places of truth and hope, that while things don’t look like they could ever get better, we can trust that we aren’t alone in them and that God holds us, loves us, and blesses us with endless grace and mercy.
This is the call that has been given to us as God’s people. This is who we are as God’s beloved. This is part of our DNA as God’s children, created to be compassionate and hospitable, blessed to be healed and forgiven, loved to be equally part of this great and grand body of Christ that spans all time and space.
See this love that Jesus has for Jerusalem wasn’t misplaced or in vain. The grace that God shows us isn’t for nothing. The leading of the Spirit, taking us out into the wildernesses of our lives, the difficult hardships that we often would rather not face, the frustrations and disillusions of the world, is to show us how we needn’t rely on the world and its constructed borders and safeguards to inform us of who we are, but rather we just need to look at God and all that God is and does for us and all people to see who we are and what true love really looks like.
So yes, the world is messed up. It is hard to not be angry or sad or frustrated at the way things are going and how it isn’t exactly as we think it should be. The divisions that we create between ourselves are discouraging and disheartening and so very disappointing.
But through it all, God remains our God. In all the pain and shame, God extends a hand of healing and wholeness. In all the constructed reasons to hate, God brings us in like a mother hen and covers us in love, grace, and belonging. This is the kind of God that we can be loyal to. One that doesn’t expect or command us to fight and protect our ideals, but one that strengthens us to live with one another, one that shows us by example how to forgive, one that loves us endlessly no matter how we might fall.
So as we continue through this season of Lent, this season of reflection and repentance, of contemplation and confession, of healing and wholeness, may we see where our misplaced loyalties might be and aim to put them back where they belong, on our God of endless grace and love. Thanks be to God. Amen.