That Which We Do Matters!

Rev. Katherine G. Dougherty
Sermon Text: 

2nd Sunday in Lent – Year C

March 17, 2019

Luke 13: 31-35

That Which We Do Matters!

         Have you ever noticed  just how long it takes Jesus to get to Jerusalem?  Two Sundays and four chapters ago was the Transfiguration when we hear that Jesus has “set his face to go to Jerusalem.”  This is a turning point in Jesus’ life and ministry.  After traveling all over the Galilee and beyond, Jesus makes a beeline for Jerusalem and the cross. 

         But from when the gospel writer of Luke states that Jesus has “his sight set on Jerusalem” and when he and the disciples actually arrive is approximately 10 whole chapters  later.  That is a lot of time and a lot of stories.  Clearly the gospel writer wants us to hear about all that Jesus did. In Lent, so much of our focus  is on Jesus’ death and resurrection and for good reason, yet let us not overlook this period of time where Jesus is working hard teaching and ministering to others.

         If we slow down and pay attention to these ten chapters, it’s impossible not to notice that no matter how determined Jesus may be to get to Jerusalem, he takes time along the way to do the work of ministry.  Throughout those 10 chapters are stories of healing those who were ill, blessing children, and teaching his disciples and the others who followed him  about love, grace, forgiveness, and God.  He spent time engaging his opponents and restoring to the community  those who had been ignored, rejected, and discriminated against.  He spoke time and time again  about caring for the poor  and welcoming the stranger.  He shared stories about God’s unending love.  He spoke and showed through his actions   the importance for persistence in prayer, for time of rest, and the value of breaking bread together.  He preached repeatedly about the importance of justice and lamented for all those who turned away from God’s love and clung  to the prizes  of this world. 

         ALL of this matters!  Jesus shows a determination and courage that is inspiring even as his heart aches for those who refuse the way of love.  He has done so much already, and he will continue on with his work  until the end.  As we hear today in the Gospel, it is not yet the third day, and he will continue “casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow”

         What Jesus does throughout his life and over the span of his journey to Jerusalem  matters, and what we do - day in and day out - from our birth until our death, matters too!  The time we take to hug our family and friends, greet our neighbor, or welcome the stranger matters.  The words we speak to one another, regardless of our mood, matter.  The time we spend honoring the lives of everyone matters.  The time we take standing up for those who are being overlooked, excluded, or discriminated against matters.  And like Jesus, the time we take reaching out to one another in kind and loving ways matters!  ALL of these things matter.  A lot! 

         Without all these stories of Jesus’ life before he arrived in Jerusalem, we might imagine that Jesus was just one more prophet, one more social activist who died a tragic, senseless, and unjust death.  But Jesus was no accident!  He died because of his actions.  He died because he was focused on those who society deemed insignificant and disgraceful.  He died because  he spoke of a God who welcomed everyone  and  loved all.  Similarly,  Jesus’ resurrection  is a story of the triumph of love over hate, injustice, bigotry, and fear.   Jesus’ resurrection is the moment when all that stands against the will of God fell and the beauty of God’s grace and love won!

        IF all of it matters – if Jesus accomplished so many great things  in his lifetime, if by dying and rising from the dead, Jesus overcame the darkness of evil, then why is there so much pain and hurt in our world.  Why, though I want to believe in God’s love, do I feel doubt?  And if God is about love  then why is God not stopping the pain  and rejection and hurt?

         Over time I have heard from others some incredible questions about faith and some very hard questions.  I’ve had plenty of questions myself and still do. I’ve cried out to God in pain and anger when I’ve heard of another senseless attack in our world.  My eyes have filled with tears, and I’ve raised my hands to God when I once again hear of a synagogue, or church, or mosque, and its people being torn down by weapons of anger and destruction.  My heart aches and my anger boils, when I see hate-filled protestors calling themselves “people of faith,” yet they hold signs with words I will not repeat and with messages of shame, fear, blame, and anger.  No wonder so many people in our world question the existence of God, the message and life of Jesus, and turn away from any faith tradition at all. 

         This is not new.  This type of hatred and evil have existed throughout our human existence, but this is our time – our piece of history, our pain to bear and our actions to take. What Jesus did as he journeyed towards Jerusalem – and what we do now - not simply during the weeks of Lent but during our whole life matters.

         Why?   We get to choose – and we get the chance throughout our day - every day - to either allow evil to work through us by what we do and how we treat others, or we can choose to open our hearts to God.  Our actions and words can tear down or lift up.  If we truly open our hearts to God, we can be both witness to and inspired by the love of a God who will not give up on God’s people.  Ever!

         God is here!  God is NOT in the violent acts that happen throughout our world…or the angry, horrible messages of fear-filled, loud people. God is NOT in the faces of those who turn away from love and shun others.  THAT is not God!

         Why did all those things Jesus do on his journey to Jerusalem matter?

         Why do the kind, loving, and gentle things we do matter?  Because it is through those actions that God is working.  That’s right! God works through us!!  God gave humankind freewill – freedom to act and to choose –freedom to do horrible, mean, painful things…AND…the freedom to do beautiful, loving, generous, kind things.  When we refuse to be overtaken by the negativity in this world, and we act  in ways of love - we are witnessing to  the love of God, and God is working through us.

         “It’s amazing to think that in the small and large things we do out of love, the God who created the heavens and earth from nothing and raised Jesus’ from the dead,  is still at work in us and through us  for the sake of the world.”[i]  That which we do does matter.    Amen+[ii]

[i] David Lose, Meanwhile…, March 2019.

[ii] Ibid.

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