Rev. Lyle McKenzie Lutheran Church of the Cross of Victoria
Gen.15:1-12,17-18; Ps. 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35
Last week, the first Sunday in Lent, a time of wilderness disruption as Pastor Lyndon described it, was a day of temptations for Jesus. Jesus was tempted to pursue self satisfaction and preservation, self interest and power, and to test, not trust in God. Jesus didn’t give in to temptation.
Today is another day of temptation for Jesus. The temptation to run from the powers that want to kill Jesus. The temptation to stay alive, to escape death. But Jesus won’t.
This week the temptation to run from powers that kill, to run from death, is a temptation for all of us. Thank God Jesus doesn’t. In the strength and grace of Jesus’ Spirit, God help us not run from powers that kill, from the power of death.
I don’t need to go into details about the killings and death this week. A plane crash in Ethiopia, shootings in New Zealand Mosques, are omnipresent. Not as prominent in news cycles, deaths of oppressed and starving people, refugees and indigenous people, continue, as do deaths of people and God’s creatures affected by environmental depletion and disasters. We know about the threat and reality of death, 157 travelers from around the world, and for now 50 Muslim sisters, brothers and siblings gathered to pray in New Zealand. (silence together)
It is tempting to run from the deaths and killings, to save ourselves from grief and sadness. But we can’t, especially from powers that kill, from the powers of death. Because as followers of Jesus, we must confront the powers of destruction and death, and pray that God give us all the grace and strength that we need to do so together.
I love what Jesus says in response to those who tell him to run from Herod who wants to kill him. “Tell that fox,” I will keep doing what I am doing, casting out demons, curing people of all that is killing them, today, tomorrow, and on third day, until I am finished my work, to die in your city of Jerusalem because that is where you kill God’s prophets and messengers. A student hearing this said with great admiration, “Jesus is really bad ass!” Sorry if that offends, it was the student’s highest compliment.
Jesus doesn’t give in to the temptation to run, but instead calls out Herod and the fear and power of death for what they are. Isn’t the boldness and courage of Jesus’ truth telling inspiring! It is meant to be. It is to give us courage and trust not to give in to the temptation to run and hide but stand with and speak out together.
I think there are examples for us this week. It is why our sign says, “with our Muslim neighbours and against Islamophobia!” It is a small but important public expression of our support and our confronting powers of hatred that result in harm and killing. It became especially important when my sons forwarded a tweet of a Canadian professor and author, Jordan Peterson, who during a February book tour in New Zealand, is in a picture with his arm around a young white man wearing a t-shirt that says, “I am an Islamophobe” followed by a listing of prejudicial statements about the Islamic faith and its beliefs and practices. Our sign and actions against this hatred is critical.
I recall 15 or so years ago meeting a man who came to the church to see our then church administrator, Christina. I learned she crocheted (I believe) a Muslim style head covering that he wore. I asked him about it. He said he was not Muslim, but he wore it in solidarity because he had witnessed racial slurs and the prejudice that Muslim friends of his experienced. It was a way to stand with them and against the prejudice, he said.
This week there were many expressions of solidarity with our Muslim neighbours in Victoria, across Canada and around the world. Statements from the University and Multifaith Services at UVic, including gathering with Muslims who joined in Friday prayers together at the Interfaith Chapel; a statement from the Victoria Multifaith Society and a vigil in downtown Victoria to light candles and remember; messages of support sent to the Mosque including a card that Pastor Lyndon dropped off; all good and important expressions of love. But we also need to stand up and our voices need to speak out against hate and racism in all forms, so that it gains no hold, no legitimacy, no following in our lives, families, communities and world.
This is Jesus’ response to powers of hatred and death. To tell the truth and to offer the embrace of God’s love as an alternative way of being in the world. At the recent ELCIC National Church Council meeting, the Council recommended adoption by the upcoming National Convention the recent World Council of Churches Arusha Call to Discipleship.(https://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/commissions/mission-and-evangelism/the-arusha-call-to-discipleship)
At that same meeting, following up on a Statement to Muslims that the ELCIC adopted in 2017, the Council is recommending to Convention becoming a signatory to a Muslim initiated document titled, A Common Word Between Us and You, and a process for Muslim-Christian dialogue used recently by Anglican churches and Mosques in Edmonton. It is a further step and encouragement to all of us to be good neighbours together and examples of a more loving, just, peaceful, world.
An equally critical issue offers another example from this week, with a world-wide student strike for the earth and its climate held on Friday. I listened to interviews with students from Canada and around the world offering their reasons for joining the strike. One young Indian youth speaking on CBC radio, spoke the truth of pollution that is devastating the air and waters and changes to the climate and weather and the urgent need for action. The passion of their witness was inspiring.
Jesus tells the truth, confronts the powers of death, and then speaks with longing for Jerusalem, and says, how often I have desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! It is a beautiful image. Beautifully expressed in the Hymn of the Day that we will sing. And a poignant witness to God’s ever present desire to gather all beloved children under the protection of God’s wings of love, children and everyone on flights that fall from the sky, Muslim children and families and a global community that grieves together; those who hate and kill that they might be transformed by love and hope; the hungry and hurting in our own communities including indigenous friends and neighbours, that reconciliation would be more than a word, but a new way of greater equity, justice, compassion and care for the earth, our home together. Jesus, how you desire, how we desire this to be so for all beloved children and this world.
Let it be so, in all our relations. Amen.