31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 Jesus said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I complete my work. 33 Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is not possible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34 O 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 babies under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 But see, now 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.’”
Please pray with me this morning, church:
God of refuge,
Like a mother hen, you desire to draw your children close.
Draw us close to your heart this morning.
Help us to trust in the midst of life’s difficulties.
Give us courage and boldness
To carry that trust and hope for our neighbors.
1 year, 11 months, 26 days, 22 hours, and 46……47 minutes…
2 days and 2 hours shy of 2 full years.
It was nearly 2 years ago this morning—730 days—that we were sitting over in the Community Center, in Room 3, our Jr. High/Confirmation room, with our Capital Campaign Leadership Team, plus a couple of folks from our Church Council, planning what was supposed to be the kickoff and launch of our Capital Campaign the next day.
Instead, my mind was split. Our Council President at the time, John Tipton, and I had both been poring over news reports and data and this new tool that Fort Bend County had come out with to begin tracking this new virus that no one had heard of before but was apparently spreading very rapidly.
So instead of launching our Campaign the next day as originally planned, we finished our morning of planning and John and I got on a call with as many Council members as we could rustle up and made the excruciating decision to cancel in-person services the next day, to go “virtual” (whatever that means, we thought at the time), and to just play it all by ear as we were reluctantly dragged into a global pandemic, the ramifications of which we certainly didn’t understand at the time, and I would argue, we’re still learning more and more each day.
It’s been a long 2 years, friends…
And by the way, a pandemic isn’t the only thing we’ve been dealing with in our lives, right? Conversations about racial justice, fights for equality, divisive politics, stock markets going wild, economies all over the place, extreme layoffs, hiring freezes, now-record job numbers, inflation, recession, gas prices…you name it… We’ve been through the ringer, church.
And yet, if you’re like me, you still get up every morning, God-willing, wash your face, and try to put one foot in front of the other, and do the best you can with what you have…trying to be kind to as many people as you can and help as many people as you can, because certainly folks are fighting battles that you know nothing about.
“Oh Jerusalem…city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it.”
Once again, the author of Luke is trying to set Jesus up in line with the prophets, specifically probably Isaiah, but for the author of Luke, Jesus certainly stands in this lineage. Jesus knows the fate that awaits the prophets…Jesus knows the cost of speaking with a prophetic voice. Remember just a few weeks ago, “Very truly, I tell you, a prophet is never welcomed in the prophet’s own hometown.” And then right after that, the good God-fearing people of Nazareth ran Jesus out of town right to the edge of cliff to hurl him off. The hometown kid is cheered and celebrated right up until the hometown kid speaks a word of challenge or threatens to turn things upside down…even if by turning things upside down, God’s vision for the world gets turned right-side up.
What is it about challenging words that bristles us and makes us act out?
Maybe we could all just use some more hugs…
Now, look…I am fully aware that hugs are not for everyone. I’m serious in this suggestion, but I will say with full disclosure that my love language is touch…I love hugs. But not everyone loves hugs. Some of you are sitting here this morning thinking, “I swear to you, if you try and hug me, we’re going to have a lot bigger issues than how I feel about prophetic words…”
Noted. But…have you ever tried to be mad at someone or a situation when you’re being hugged? I’m just saying. I try to do this with Oliver when he gets upset, I try and hug him until he calms down……it doesn’t work. I get kicked and punched and walk away with bruises and black eyes and a crushed spirit… He’s like Tiffany…they don’t like hugs…clearly their love language is not touch.
But one of the things that has become a favorite pastime in the Michaelis house in recent months is building forts…or “schforts”…or, we’ve started calling them “yurts”… y’s are just easier than f’s at this point… So very much against my desire to have all the couch cushions and pillows stay on the couch, we’ve developed quite the elaborate way of getting these walls built up with doors and windows in them, and then covering the whole thing with a large sheet to act as a roof. Do you remember building pillow forts? Have you crawled in one recently?
I forgot how awesome they are. There’s a sense of hiding, a sense of imagination, a sense of security, and a sense of protection when you’re in this small enclosed space…at least, I find that for me. There’s a sense in which the outside world kind of melts away and you could just hide out in this little house, or yurt, or cave, or whatever you wanted it to be…
“How I have longed to gather you together like a mother hen gathers her babies under her wings…”
God’s desire is to provide shelter. To provide safety. To provide security. God’s desire is to cover her children, wrap them in her arms, and protect them with her wings. If I’m honest, most days I feel like I could use a little protection, a little safety and security. I’ve already told you, most days a hug wouldn’t be the worst thing I’m offered.
But here’s the other thing about being covered and being sheltered…when we feel safe…when we feel protected…when we feel secure…it’s then that we can drop our guard a little bit, let down our defenses, and maybe unload some of the heaviness we’ve been carrying around. As we talk about Unburden-ing this Lent, one of the ways we feel safe to do that is when we feel protected and secure. It’s from that place and feeling of security that we are free to be vulnerable, to name our fears, and to work out together how we’ll move forward from here.
It’s one of the things we haven’t been largely able to do as a congregation for 2 years. Being physically separated from one another, for the health and safety of all our members, we haven’t really had the opportunity to work through together some of the big things that have happened in our lives and in our world. We haven’t had the space to be vulnerable with one another, to look each other in the eyes and tell one another how we feel and how we wish things were different.
But church, we do have that opportunity now.
As we begin to make our way, God-willing, through the end of and out of this pandemic, we’re doing so at a time of critical importance to this congregation. Next week, March 20, will be the Commitment Sunday of our Building on Hope Capital Campaign. We’ll have a great morning of worship and then a celebration of the Grand Re-Opening of our Community Center. I so hope to see every one of you next week. In worship, we’ll pray together and fill out our pledges together, and offer what we can to help us continue Building on Hope.
It’s also when I feel safe and secure that I find that it’s much easier for me to trust God to do what God promises God will do. Like Abram, sometimes I have trust issues. But when I feel covered and protected, I find that trust comes a little easier. 2 years ago, right as we pivoted to virtual worship, right when we were about to launch our Campaign, Tiffany and I talked about what our response to this opportunity would be. How would we lend our help to help New Hope continue Building on Hope. “What if we just…doubled our offering?” I said. “Like, what if we just gave as much to the Capital Campaign as we do in our regular offerings to the General Fund?”
I got an eyebrow raise… Tiffany asked, “I mean, can we do that? Does that still work with our budget?”
“I think so…but…what if we just took this step in faith?”
I’m a numbers and data guy. I like to know something’s going to work out before I try it. But in this case, it felt like a very faithful thing to do. And so for the past 2 years, we’ve given as much to our Building on Hope Capital Campaign as we have in our General Offerings…and we’ll continue doing it for the next 3 years. Because what we’ve found for the past 2 years is that God has provided. God, indeed, keeps God’s promises. God does intend abundant life and flourishing for God’s people.
There has always been enough. Even when things were tough…there has always been enough.
My family believe in the mission and ministry of New Hope, church.
We believe in this church. I believe in you, church.
I believe in you because for 5 1/2 years, I’ve seen the ways that you provide shelter and refuge and safety and security for others, for your neighbors. This is the mission and ministry of New Hope Lutheran Church. This is the hope and vision for our Building on Hope Capital Campaign…to continue being a place of safety and refuge, a shelter from life’s storms.
This is the vision, church. And I’m asking for your help to do it.
I’m asking you…to step out with me in faith.
When we feel secure and protected, we trust God to do what God does…we trust God to keep God’s promises, we trust God to provide, and we trust God to help us out when we inevitably mess it up.
Good stewardship is recognizing that all we have and all we are comes to us from God. We give because God first gave to us. We are generous because God has first been generous to us.
It’s a relationship founded on trust.
Good stewardship is nothing more than trust in God.
It’s been a long 2 years, friends…
But I can’t wait for what’s next.
I’m so excited for all the years to come.