At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He 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. 33 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.’ 34 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, and you were not willing! 35 See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
I don’t know about you, but if someone came up to me and told me to leave town because someone is trying to kill me, that would get my attention. I think getting away from there would be a given. At least.
This is what happens to Jesus in Jerusalem. Some Pharisees come up and tell him that Herod is planning to kill him. And he plays it surprisingly cool. “Go and tell that varmint,” he says, “that there’s nothing he can do that will deter me from what I came to do.”
Can you imagine being that focused, that clear about God’s call that even a death threat doesn’t dissuade you? Yet here Jesus is, deliberately going into Jerusalem in order to face down the mightiest powers on earth. Jerusalem is hardly safe, and yet he goes anyway. He’s that sure of his role, that sure of his mission, that sure of his purpose.
So what’s a little death threat from Herod? It doesn’t seem to bother him at all. He’ll just continue his work: healing, teaching, casting out demons.
I wish I was that clear about my call in God’s work. I wish I was so sure and confident that nothing could detour me.
But that’s not always the case. I know God’s mission is peace and reconciliation and compassion throughout the world. I know God’s vision is that the playing field be level for everyone so that everyone experiences complete love and grace as much as everyone else. And I know that I need to pay attention to that and work for those things as much as I can. But I’m not always clear about HOW to do that. In a way that is mine to do.
We are spending Wednesdays in Lent considering the Rocky Mountain Synod’s theme in 2016 of “Many Voices, One Song.” Last Wednesday we laid some of the groundwork and lifted up the metaphor of God’s mission being God’s song of love for the world. We talked about each of us having a voice to sing God’s song in the world. Each one of our voices in unique, and yet created to sing together with all the other voices too.
It’s a great metaphor, and we’ll have some fun with it in coming Wednesdays, but I have to confess I’m not always clear about my own voice in God’s song. Certainly not like Jesus is clear. It takes a lot less than a death threat to get me off track. The offerings drop or worship attendance declines and God’s mission of compassion gets tossed. One church program fails, whether it’s one I have anything to do with or not, and justice for the homeless just took a backseat.
I think the reason is that I’m not clear about my own role like Jesus is. He knows what he’s about, therefore he can move toward God’s vision through all the distractions instead of getting derailed by the distractions. It’s easy to be distracted, forgetting what the focus actually is. I went online to search for some help with today’s gospel text, got distracted and followed a link to another site, then to another, and another. Before long I had purchased a replacement side mirror for my car. It’s arriving Tuesday. Distractions from our clarity happen. And it’s frustrating that we’re not always so clear.
Then it occurs to me that my search for clarity, my frustration is not having certainty about my own voice and purpose is itself a distraction. I’ll never be completely certain. I’ll always be discovering more. My understanding of God’s vision for creation will continue to evolve. Therefore, so will my understanding of my purpose in it. Continuously evolving, ever changing, constantly growing. And it should, right?
So maybe I should quit worrying about it. Maybe, instead of seeking my own certainty, I should just follow Jesus. Maybe his certainty is enough. Maybe trusting him would be enough.
Jesus’ clarity was his journey to the cross in Jerusalem. He was not to be detoured or distracted from that. Not even Herod’s death threats could sway him. I’m thinking if that’s good enough to keep Jesus on track, it’s probably good enough for me too.
My clarity of my purpose, my certainty of my voice, isn’t to be found on its own. It is found with Jesus, actually. Since he reveals God’s vision and direction,I can’t go too far wrong it I follow him.
That will involve distractions, to be sure. It could involve death threats, possibly. It may just lead to a cross of sorts. I will have to die to lots of things—lots of distractions, detours, derailings—but that should be OK. Jesus can be my focus. Following him can be my purpose. The rest doesn’t have to bother me at all. I can continue my work: following, proclaiming, living. As long as I’m doing that, I can be quite confident I’m fulfilling my purpose. As long as I’ve got Jesus in my line of sight, I can be confident I’m contributing to God’s vision in the world. As long as Jesus is my melody, I can be confident I’m singing God’s song with my own voice.