Posture for Living

Psalm 27
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes—
they shall stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
yet I will be confident.

One thing I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the LORD,
and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will set me high on a rock.

Now my head is lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the LORD.

Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
“Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!”
Your face, LORD, do I seek.
Do not hide your face from me.

Do not turn your servant away in anger,
you who have been my help.
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
If my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will take me up.

Teach me your way, O LORD,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they are breathing out violence.

I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!

Luke 13:31-35

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”
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.
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.’
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!
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.’”

Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem, teaching along the way.
His march to Jerusalem is with purpose. He knows what will happen there. He is walking to the cross, seemingly without fear or hesitation.
And some Pharisees warn him about Herod, which seems odd, because they are always trying to trap Jesus. You’d think they’d be cheering for Herod here, because they never cheer for Jesus.
But maybe this is an indication of how unpopular Herod was. Not even the Pharisees want to be on his side. The Herod in this passage is Herod Antipas, the son of the Herod who was on the scene at Jesus’ birth.  The family of Herod ruled at the pleasure of the Roman authorities, and were seen primarily as collaborators by the Jews in Palestine.
And Jesus has no use for Herod.
Tell that no good fox that there is nothing he can do to me.
Jesus is heading to Jerusalem, for his crucifixion and resurrection, and so a threat from Herod Antipas is not even on his radar.

I wonder what his disciples were thinking as Jesus insulted the ruler of Galilee. Because we know the ending of this story. We know that he is right, and that Herod has no control over Jesus’ destiny and glory.

But the disciples haven’t seen the end of the story yet. They are still living in the present, where agents of Rome have a lot of power and most definitely have the ability to ruin your life.
This particular Herod is responsible for killing John the Baptist, remember. John the Baptist was publicly critical of Herod for divorcing his wife to marry his widowed sister-in-law, so Herod had him imprisoned and then beheaded. And that is probably on the minds of the disciples as they hear Jesus dismiss him as a fox.

Because here’s the thing. We, like the disciples, have seen the way the powers of this world can hurt us. We know that things can happen. And we, like the disciples, live as if it is the things of this world that are ultimately in charge. Whether it is Herod Antipas, or an eating disorder, or addictions, or earthquakes, or cancer, or whatever, we let our fears and worries of this world get in the way of our Kingdom living.  We let our concerns keep us away from where God is calling us to go.

But Jesus doesn’t do that.

I admire that in him.

I am frustrated about that in him. I try to be the most faithful disciple I know how to be, but I confess to you that I am certain I would have tried to “shush” Jesus when he started insulting Herod.

Ummm, Rabbi, Herod already hates you and is threatened by you. You know these Pharisees are threatened by you and would be more than happy to go back to Herod with this report. We have things for you to do. We need you here. Your triumphal entry is just a few weeks away. Don’t go getting yourself in trouble. Let’s just keep a low profile and get you through Passover so that you can go about the work God has called you to do.”
So I say a little prayer of thanks that I wasn’t there to say that to Jesus. And I say a little prayer asking God’s forgiveness for being faithless and for not understanding.

Because we are called to live as faithful disciples who follow Christ into all of the corners of the world, into all of the places where people need healing, even into the places where Herod is laying traps for us.
“O Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief,” I cry.

Thankfully, Jesus sees things more clearly than we do.
He recognizes that while we are in this world, and subject to the powers of this world, we remain in God’s hands.
I know Jesus didn’t have an ipod, but I do. And I use music to help me through difficult things. Like exercise. I was at the gym the other day, listening to music as a way to forget that I was at the gym, and I decided I knew the song that Jesus would have been listening to, if he had an ipod, when he heard about the threat from Herod. Here it is, by Buddy Miller, “Shelter Me”.

SHELTER ME by Buddy Miller (on the album Universal United House of Prayer on New West Records)
the earth can shake the sky come down

the mountains all fall to the ground

but I will fear none of these things

shelter me lord underneath your wings

dark waters rise and thunders pound

the wheels of war are going round

and all the walls are crumbling

shelter me lord underneath your wings 

(shelter me lord)

hide me underneath your wings

hide me deep inside your heart

in your refuge – cover me

the world can shake 
but lord i’m making you my hiding place

the wind can blow

the rain can pour

the deluge breaks

the tempest roars

but in the storm

my spirit sings 
(when you)

shelter me lord underneath your wings….

This song is a reminder that even in the midst of the storms in this world, God gives us shelter from the worst of it.
Even though Jesus didn’t have the benefit of an IPod to get him through his conversation with the Pharisees, he did have a soundtrack, of sorts, that could have given him comfort as he thought about what was ahead for him in Jerusalem—the Psalms.

And some of you may have even recognized that the song I just played you quoted the Psalms.

Psa. 57:1     Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
until the destroying storms pass by.

Psa. 36:7      How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

Or, perhaps even the Psalm we heard this morning:
Psa. 27:5    For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will set me high on a rock.

When I am feeling like I can’t face what the world is throwing my way, it is to the psalms I should listen on the IPod of my soul—

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
yet I will be confident.

Jesus, being the good Jewish boy that he was, knew his scripture. And while he doesn’t explicitly quote this psalm, his behavior makes me think that he’s internalized the message of these psalms, that they were playing on the soundtrack in his head, as he bravely faced the road that was ahead.

One of the reasons I wanted us to read the Bible this year is because most of us don’t have that grounding in scripture that Jesus would have had. We are losing scripture as a resource because Bibles gather dust on the shelf. One comment I hear often from you as you’ve been doing the Year of the Bible readings, is that you are surprised by how familiar some of the language of scripture is—but you didn’t know it as scripture. So much of our cultural language comes from scripture, but we have to work to regain our scriptural literacy so that we don’t lose those connections.
And the psalm, especially, deserves to be read again and again. “It is a prayer, even a plea, for patience, for trust, for the ability and the endurance to wait for the Lord, even when there is no sign that prayers may be answered, when the Lord’s arrival is a long, undetermined way off.”(Richard Stern in Feasting on the Word, Year C Vol 2, Page 59)

This psalm gives us the good news that even when armies encamp against us, they will not prevail. Even when evildoers assail us, they will stumble and fall. This psalm gives us a “posture for living” that is hopeful and confident that the God who created us will continue to care for us all the days of our lives.

That is why Jesus was able to disregard Herod Antipas—what is a Roman flunkie against the awesome power of God?
I pray that as we journey deeper into Lent we will recommit ourselves to adopting this “posture for living”, of trusting that the God who has called us here will not abandon us, but will shelter us underneath God’s wings.

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