Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you
and also with you.
Prayer of Preparation
to whom all hearts are open, all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord
We say sorry for the things we have done wrong and ask for forgiveness.
As I started to write this talk the war in Ukraine was starting to intensify and it has been getting worse ever since. A 40 mile long column of Russian armour was approaching Kyiv, cities, including civilian areas, were being bombed by weapons like cluster bombs that are banned by international law (That Russia doesn’t recognise) and the Russian army was preparing for a siege of many cities. I thought by the time I actually spoke to you things might be different . The invasion though hasn’t been as swift and orderly as the Russians appeared to think it would be and are now resorting to their old methods of siege and bombardment, in addition we now have murmurings about the possible escalation of the conflict through talk of chemical weapons. And still people are desperate to avoid the fighting – refugees were, and still are flooding out of Ukraine to find kindness and humanity in neighbouring countries whilst men stay to defend their homeland.
As with other recent wars, we have a front row seat thanks to news crews on the ground and our instant communications of today. We look at the bombed out buildings and the scarred earth of Ukraine as though it is some kind of movie – almost like it is unreal. This is a war that is on Facebook, twitter and TikTok. But it isn’t fake, this isn’t a movie we are watching. We are watching war come back to Europe after a period of relative calm, at least for our part of the world. Since the Berlin wall came down many former Russian states have been gradually opening up and looking outward, embracing relationships with other countries and transforming to modern economies. Some of those former states have moved so far away from their former Communist masters that they are appear to be like any other modern European state – one friend told me last week that when he visited Kyiv a few years ago it had become a modern, European style city, vibrant, successful and proud.
And that’s what is new for us, at least for most of us. We have regularly heard on and off about far off wars but this one is very close to home, whether it should feel different or not this one does. This is on our continent and these people are Europeans. This war does not involve two small groups fighting with small arms, this is serious and the aggressor has the ability to obliterate much of the world if he feels like it. “Will there be a nuclear war?” my children ask me, fortunately without really knowing what that would really mean.
As Christians we cry out to God to stop what we see as Putin’s aggression. We pray for an end to the death and destruction that appears to us to be for no reason. We find ourselves asking “Why?” In this day and age have we learnt nothing?
Sadly there have always been people who seek power at the expense of others, there have always been leaders that seek to destabilise for their own benefit, there have always been leaders who do things without any thought to the consequences of their own people. In-fact our history books seem to contain many more tyrannical and brutal leaders than they do benevolent ones. In Jesus’s time things were no different, just think of what happened to the Jews at the hands of the Romans, what Herod and then Pilate did to Jesus
Today’s passage from Luke is part of a section of Luke’s Gospel that covers Jesus’s journey to Jerusalem. Starting back in Chapter 9 v51 “As the time approached for him to be taken up to Heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” Jesus knew how the journey would end as he says in Chapter 9 v22 “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Jesus knew how it would end, he knew he would die and yet he knew that’s what he had to do. On the way to Jerusalem he doesn’t act like a man who knows he is doomed and therefore gives up. He continues to heal and to teach, to pack in as much as possible both with his disciples and with the general public. We know that news of him began to spread and by the time of his arrival in Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday his fame had grown and people were queuing just to get a glimpse of him.
In Todays passage we get some Pharisees trying to get rid of Jesus from their local area – they pass on the news that Herod wants to kill Jesus. We don’t know if they had any dealings with Herod and therefore knew personally that he wanted to kill Jesus or whether they are just saying that to get Jesus to move on from their area – we don’t know. Maybe the Pharisees just wanted Jesus out of the way and they use the threat of Herod to do that. Either way it was pretty common knowledge that Herod was a particularly nasty man that would stop at nothing if his throne (the one propped up by the Romans) was threatened – this is the man who is supposed to have ordered all first born sons killed after meeting the Magi and even had his own sons killed to ensure they didn’t take his throne. Also just after the time of Jesus’s baptism by John the Baptist, Herod had John thrown into prison for criticizing him and subsequently had him beheaded.
Jesus though says he isn’t going anywhere – “Go tell that Fox” I will keep going until I reach my goal. Jesus characterises Herod as a Fox in this story and himself as the protector of the hens. If you have ever had anything to do with keeping chickens you will know that the biggest single threat to your chickens are foxes – particularly at night. People who own hens and chickens make sure that before night fall the birds are all safely locked away in their coop, they are gathered in and secured for their own protection as they cant protect themselves. Jesus implies here not only that Herod is a cunning, devious individual that cant be trusted but that we need looking after, protecting from the fox, and other predators.
Jesus goes on resolutely v32-33 “I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!” Jesus responds this way because he knows what he has to do – he knows how it will end as we have seen but he knows that he has a God given mission which he intends to finish. He also indicates that he sees himself as another in the long line of Hebrew prophets many of whom died in Jerusalem.
Hebrews 11 describes the prophets this way:
[They] were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. (Heb. 11:35–38)
Because these prophets had hope in the resurrection, they were willing to give their lives for God’s cause, something much more important than their earthly life. And because they were willing to give their lives, they had little regard for the power of kings because all the kings could do was take away their earthly life..
The prophets were not afraid to stand up to kings – take Elijah for example. When he heard King Ahab was trying to kill him he went straight to him to confront him. Prophets were fearless people who stood up for the truth and what was right no matter how powerful the person was that was abusing it and Jesus includes himself in that category of prophets by the way he dismisses Herod – “That Fox!” he says.
Much has been made over the years of what the bible says on respect for leaders but there is clearly a difference between fear and respect. We are taught to respect all people but we should only fear God
Peter makes this clear in one of his letters when he writes: “Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king” (1 Pet. 2:17).
Peter writes that we should respect the king after just writing that we should respect everyone. In other words, we don’t give some kind of special deference to leaders just because they are leaders. We treat them with the same kind of respect that we should give every human being.
Our leaders deserve our respect, when they earn it – to be a leader without respect is to be no leader at all and here Jesus is certain Herod has not earned it.
In our own world we see plenty of leaders that lose respect despite having great power. Leaders throughout history that have used their power in ways that shame them and show their ideals to be fake or unjust. This is not new and sadly at the moment we are seeing just such a person in Mr Putin
Jesus continues our passage today with a lament – a cry of grief to God – on the state of play in Jerusalem – another symbolic act for someone who was saying he was the next in a line of prophets – not only were the prophets not afraid to challenge authority but they would lament the state of things, they would cry out to God. Here Jesus’s lament combines the imagery of the Fox chasing chickens with his love for us his people , he likens himself to a mother hen trying to protect the chicks which unfortunately keep running off to the fox. Jesus chastises the fox, but he cries over the chicks – he laments that the people will not accept the word of God – “How often have I longed to gather your children together ,as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” Not that the people of Jerusalem didn’t understand – they were not willing. As often we are not.
Jesus here is talking about the people of Jerusalem being “not willing” because they have had plenty of opportunity to hear God’s word, they knew scripture, they have had ample opportunity to “get it” – to understand God’s message for them and for whatever reason they chose to ignore it. If we jump forward a little to Palm Sunday, where the whole of Jerusalem did seem to “get it” just for a very short time, enormous crowds came out to hail Jesus as King – but this lasted only a few days before the crowds changed their minds and were soon against him again, were soon chanting “Crucify Him”
Finally Jesus resolves to go through to the end – he knows that only by making the ultimate sacrifice will the people of Jerusalem finally say “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”
This image of Jerusalem – the Jerusalem that killed prophets , stoned those sent to bring it the good news is not just a description of the state of play at that time in Jesus’s journey – it’s a metaphor too. It’s a metaphor for the ways in which people can be deaf and blind to the promise that Jesus has for us. Lets be honest – sometimes this is us. We miss the call when we bear grudges, when we refuse to forgive, refuse to welcome someone in. It may be that we are in a rut , just trying to get through life and we do these things without thinking – only to look back later and see where we have refused the opportunities God gives us to love one another.
When Jesus finally gets to Jerusalem as Luke tells us in chapter 19 – “he wept over it” Jesus is distraught at the failure of Jerusalem as a place, as a people to grasp the message that has been coming to them for a very long period of time, he knows what must happen to him because of the inability of the people to understand despite all the opportunities they have had to do so. And just as Jesus still went to Jerusalem anyway, just as he kept travelling there knowing how he would ultimately be received, he keeps coming to us – he keeps trying with us keeps hoping that we will hear and receive the message he has for us.
The people of Jerusalem were not willing to act on God’s message even if they understood it so Jesus knew he had to pay the ultimate price in order for them to believe in him – for them to be able to say “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”
And he did that for us too. The people of Jerusalem had the scripture to suggest this would happen – we KNOW it has happened, Jesus made that journey for us and all that come after us. We don’t have the excuse that those in Jerusalem had. We can’t say “no one ever died for me” because we know that Jesus did die for us. Jesus has already paid the price for us in the hope that we too would say “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”.
But of course a lot of people in this world don’t acknowledge that just as sometimes we don’t.
In these dark times we look up to God and ask “Why?” Today’s modern lament is for Ukraine, for a peace shattered so needlessly, for a country seemingly under attack for doing very little wrong. But our lament is also for the leader of Russia – why, we ask, can he not see that killing innocent people achieves nothing other than more resentment. We must pray that hearts would be opened – minds changed. Jesus suggested that things in Jerusalem would not improve until people were prepared to say “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”, they had to change, they had to stop their old ways and turn to him. Until people were ready to acknowledge Jesus for who he was Jerusalem was not going to improve. And so it is with our lament over the situation in Ukraine – we pray that hearts would be opened to the reality that Jesus taught us; Love, not hate, peace, not war, leads to a better world for all.
Phil Woodcock, March 2022
The Collect for Today
you show to those who are in error the light of your truth, that they may return to the way of righteousness:
grant to all those who are admitted
into the fellowship of Christ’s religion, that they may reject those things
that are contrary to their profession,
and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same;
through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
• The Lord is here
His Spirit is with us.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give thanks and praise.
It is indeed right,
it is our duty and our joy,
at all times and in all places to give you thanks and praise, holy Father, heavenly King,
almighty and eternal God,
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.
And now we give you thanks because each year you give us this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the passover mystery with mind and heart renewed.
You give us a spirit of loving reverence for you and of willing service to our neighbour.
As we recall the saving acts that give new life in Christ, you bring the image of your Son to perfection within our hearts.
Therefore with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven,
we proclaim your great and glorious name, for ever praising you and saying:
• Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.
Accept our praises, heavenly Father, through your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ,
and as we follow his example and obey his command, grant that by the power of your Holy Spirit
these gifts of bread and wine may be to us his body and his blood;
who, in the same night that he was betrayed, took bread and gave you thanks;
he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.
In the same way, after supper he took the cup and gave you thanks;
he gave it to them, saying: Drink this, all of you;
this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it,
in remembrance of me.
Therefore, heavenly Father, we remember his offering of himself made once for all upon the cross;
we proclaim his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension;
we look for the coming of your kingdom, and with this bread and this cup
we make the memorial of Christ your Son our Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus:
Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life:
Lord Jesus, come in glory.
Accept through him, our great high priest, this our sacrifice of thanks and praise,
and as we eat and drink these holy gifts in the presence of your divine majesty, renew us by your Spirit,
inspire us with your love and unite us in the body of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Through him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
with all who stand before you in earth and heaven,
we worship you, Father almighty, in songs of everlasting praise:
Blessing and honour and glory and power be yours for ever and ever.
As our Saviour taught us so we pray:
The Lords Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Jesus is the Lamb of God
who takes away the sin of the world.
Blessed are those who are called to his supper.
Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.
Prayer after Communion
we thank you for feeding us
with the body and blood of your Son Jesus Christ.
Through him we offer you our souls and bodies
to be a living sacrifice.
Send us out
in the power of your Spirit
to live and work
to your praise and glory.
Blessing and Dismissal
The peace of God,
which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds
in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.
The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.
The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.
“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”