“Let’s Keep on Our Way!”
I want to start with something funny. Two brothers are terrible trouble makers. They were always breaking things, stealing things, lying, and making all kinds of general trouble. The parents tried everything to get the boys to change, to no avail. Finally, they asked their pastor if he could help as they were out of options. He said he would talk to the boys, but only one at a time. The parents dropped off the youngest and went home, promising to return to get him soon. The boy sat in a chair across from the pastor’s desk, and they just looked at each other. Finally, the pastor said, “Where is God?” The boy just sat there and didn’t answer. The pastor began to look stern and loudly said, “Where is God?” The little boy shifts in his seat but still doesn’t answer. The pastor is started to get angry at the boy’s refusal to converse and practically shouted, “Where is God?” To the pastor’s surprise, the little boy jumped up out of his chair and ran out of the office. The boy left the church and ran all the way home, up the stairs, and into his brother’s room. He shuts the door and panted, “We’re in BIG TROUBLE. God’s missing, and they think we did it!”
It is the second week in Lent. Because the Lenten means for “forty days”, we say, “in Lent, not “of Lent.” With the imposition of Ash, we remind ourselves that “we are dust, to dust we shall return.” It is a meaningful rite that we repent and return to God. It is time to invite God into the center of our life. It is time we come closer to God and grow deeper in our faith. As a symbol, we decide on some sort of self-control or self-promise to give up something like during the forty days of Lent. But, this giving up should be for something toward hope. What did you choose to give up? I decided to fast one meal a day, save $5 for each meal, and send the money to UMCOR to support the Ukraine. I hope you join me, or that you do find a way to commit to being closer to God.
Today, I want to talk about “keeping on our way no matter what.” At times in our life we face sleepless nights. There are critical moments like walking through the valley of the shadow of death. It is like when someone hears the diagnosis of cancer for themselves or one of their family members; it’s like when you lose a loved one unexpectedly; it’s like when a relationship with your loved one is broken; it’s like when you lose everything due to a natural disaster; it’s like when we hear that our children break away and suffer with addiction, or that they have an incurable illness. How should we respond when faced with a crisis like one of these? No one can avoid crisis for their entire life. I assume you have experienced these or similar situations in your life. They never stop. It’s like one comes after the other. However, do we suffer so much more than Jesus had during his life on earth?
Jesus, from his birth to his teenage years, had experienced being a stranger. He was born in a manger in an inn in Bethlehem, traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem. As soon as he was born, his family became refugees in Egypt because they avoided being killed by King Herod. After he was back in his hometown, his life, perhaps, was not good enough, as we may guess. Many rumors followed him, and a poor environment might have force him to be uneducated. Instead, he had to work hard for his family. When he was thirty, he finally decided to do public ministry. He was baptized by John the Baptist to start the public ministry. But, as soon as he was baptized, the Holy Spirit led him to the wilderness and he was tested by Satan after forty days of fasting. He overcame all Satan’s testing in the wilderness. However, he faced many challenges everywhere while working on his ministry, healing the sick, teaching people, and proclaiming the good news.
Today’s scripture implies the difficulties Jesus experienced in his ministry. It begins, by saying, “at that very hour, some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’” Most Pharisees tackled Jesus’ ministry, but some Pharisees wanted to protect him. Perhaps some Pharisees might be at his side in today’s scripture. They worried that King Herod might kill Jesus. However, Jesus said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘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 a prophet can’t be killed outside of Jerusalem.” Jesus had a firm mission, which was healing the sick, casting demons out, and teaching people about the kingdom of God before he would die in Jerusalem even though king Herod blocked Jesus’ ministry like a fox did terrible things to people.
Therefore, Jesus said, “I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day, I finish my work.” Jesus knew how he would die, and on the third day, he would be resurrected. Even though he knew of his death, he said, “Nevertheless, today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way.” In other words, “because I must go to Jerusalem to die soon, but until that, I must keep on my way no matter what” And then, Jesus cried, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings!” Jerusalem is a kind of metaphor, which implies Israelites. God sent many prophets to bring His people back to Him, but the people of Israel stoned the prophets and didn’t listen to God’s Word. And then, finally, they would kill the only Son of God. However, Jesus loved them and died for their sins and our sins.
What about us? Can we compare Jesus’ suffering and ours? Can we be patient for our loved ones and our children, who would add to our suffering sometimes? Even though your loved ones are in addiction, don’t judge them, but embrace them with caring love and patience. They may need loving caring more than judgment. Even though sometimes your children go far away from what you expected, try to embrace them like a hen embraces her chicks or as Jesus loves us. Forgiveness and embracing love may bring miraculous healing and reconciliation as God’s forgiveness and everlasting love lead us to keep on our way today and tomorrow. Please show up for your loved ones and children and show them how much you care and love them before too be late. No matter what, let us keep on our ways in God as Jesus did so. No matter what, let us show we are Christians by loving acts of kindness. Thanks be to God. Amen!