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Stand Firm: Spiritual Practice

. 3 min read

2016/02/21 Christ Church,
Mountain Top; Lent 2
Call to Worship, Psalm 27
Children, Genesis
15.1-18
Additional
reading, Philippians 3.17-4.1
Message, Luke 13.31-35
Great Brain and the Tug-of-War
      Stand
firm, hold fast
Our cultural focus on strength,
whether the underdog or top dog
Douglas MacArthur, “I shall
return”
John Wayne
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Theme for the day: Stand firm
(Php 4.1), Hold fast (Php 3.17)
It can become a trap for us. We may
stand firm all day long, but in reality we are rigid and irrational.
      Popcorn
on the throat
Rigid traps when the focus is all
wrong
  • Assumptions (inaccurate ones):
    “I’ve made up my mind. Don’t confuse me with the facts.”
  • Perceptions (imagined ones): “If
    I … then I’ll look weak/strong to my friends”
  • Adversaries: Allowing our
    adversaries to control us by letting them define the terms of our conflict

With this in mind, this short
passage from Luke’s gospel has some interesting twists.

      “Get
away from here, for Herod wants to kill you” (13.31). And Jesus responds that
he’ll stay for a while and then head off to Jerusalem, “because it is
impossible for a prophet to be killed outside Jerusalem” (13.33).
      In
reading this passage, I have always been blinded by the confrontational
language and our cultural heritage, and perhaps by my own rigid reaction to
conflict. “I never start a fight, but I sure as heck finish one.”
      Jesus,
as this story takes place, is in Galilee, a province in northern Palestine, and
he is preparing to head to Jerusalem to die. Herod (this Herod – there are
several in the family) is not the ruler of Jerusalem. He rules Galilee. And
Jesus is leaving.
      Jesus
will be leaving town, on his schedule, and leaving the jurisdiction of a man
who wants him dead. He makes clear, however, that Herod has no impact on his
ministry, that Jesus is pursuing his own destiny, his own “ends” (13.32,
“finish my work”, telos).
      Furthermore,
Jesus shows no concern for the perception issue, for appearing weak, or for responding
to Herod’s power with power of his own. He calls Herod a fox, but doesn’t label
himself a wolf or lion. Jesus calls himself a chicken! No, not a “sky is
falling” Chicken Little, but a hen that is desperate to shelter her unruly
young. That makes no difference. Once a fox is in the henhouse, they’re all
dead.
For Jesus to stand up to Herod,
to stay in Galilee and organize a resistance, would have been “standing firm”,
for sure. But it would be a rigid trap, keeping Jesus from his destiny.
      For
Jesus to respond to threatened power with threatened power of his own, to play
into the perception game of intimidation, would certainly be “standing firm”.
But it would be a rigid trap, keeping Jesus from his own purpose in the world.
      A
side note: There are large sections of the church in North America that pay
attention to changes in society and conclude – erroneously, I believe – that we
are being persecuted. Taking the assumption, for a moment, that we are under
persecution, I believe that all attempts to respond to power with power only
keep us from our destiny and deny our call as followers of Jesus, who responded
to strength with weakness.
      What
does Paul say in his section on “hold fast” and “stand firm”? “Many live as
enemies of the cross of Christ; … I tell you even with tears” (Php 3.18). Just
because they are enemies of the cross of Christ, don’t make them your enemies.
Weep for them, pray for them, and stand firm in what Paul calls our “body of
humiliation” (3.21).
We are called to stand firm. Like
the wilderness experience we discussed last week, standing firm can be
dangerous. We can stand firm in all the wrong ways, with inaccurate
assumptions, imagined perceptions, and adversaries that we’d do best to ignore
– at least when it comes to our own calling and identity.
      As
followers of Jesus, what matters is standing firm in the right place. And
today’s text invites us to do so in weakness, not in power. Today’s text
invites us to stand firm under the wings of the Chicken, to take refuge under
the outstretched wings of Jesus our Lord.
Resources:

Joseph A. Fitzmyer. The Gospel According to Luke X-XXIV.
Anchor Bible Commentaries 28A. Garden City, New York: Doubleday. 1985.