St. Matthew’s Sermon 03-17-2019

St. Matthew’s Sermon 03-17-2019

What do YOU Want

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18, Psalm 27, Philippians 3:17-4:1, Luke 13:31-35

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

A little way back, in chapter 6 of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is in the synagogue and there was a man there with a withered right hand and, we are told, “The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him”. Of course Jesus did heal the poor man and the scribes and Pharisees “…were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus”. (6:6-11)

A bit farther toward today’s reading in chapter 11 Jesus gets invited to dinner at a Pharisee’s home; the Pharisee picks a fight with Jesus over cleanliness laws, Jesus rebuts him and, just like before, we read that “When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects, plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say”. (11:37-54)

These are only two of the many times when Jesus wasn’t on good terms with the scribes, lawyers and Pharisees and when they became a threat to him. So it might seem peculiar that this time, in today’s reading, they come to Jesus with a warning; “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”

Why would Jesus’ enemies, those plotting against him and trying to trap him suddenly be there to defend him? Many have speculated; they’re just trying to scare him off to get him out of their hair; or they’re trying to get Jesus to threaten Herod so they would have a case against him; or they want him to flee faster than the crowds can keep up with him so they can nab him without notice nor resistance; or, maybe they’re actually having a moment of compassion and really do want to protect Jesus.

Personally, I believe that if Luke wanted us to know their motive he would have explained it clearly, which also leaves me to believe that it’s not the part of the story he wants us to pay close attention to, which is the part of Christ’s response and reaction.

Immediately after the incident over healing the man with the withered hand Jesus left them, went to the mountain to pray, selected the 12, continued healing, and began the Sermon on the plain; all within nine verses.

Immediately after the unpleasant dinner in the home of the Pharisee Jesus continued preaching to the crowds and to his Disciples

 Within today’s reading Jesus states very clearly that he still has work to do and has every intention of doing it regardless of what Herod would want.

And immediately after today’s reading Jesus is at dinner with the leader of the Pharisees healing and preaching.

In these and so many other instances Jesus continues his work, undaunted by the criticisms and threats. This alone is a great example for us, as followers of Christ, to enact in our lives. But greater still is the example made by what Christ does not do; not in these cases nor in any other. And that is, Christ doesn’t respond with retaliation of any kind and certainly not with violence.

The scribes, Pharisees, and lawyers are out to get him; now even Herod is after him (and we all know what happened to John the Baptizer when he got on Herod’s bad side). Yet Jesus simply, emphatically, goes about his business of correcting the misguided, healing the sick, and preaching the Good News of God’s love.

Even when he and the Disciples are turned away from the Samaritan village and James and John suggested that they “command fire to come down from heaven and consume them” Jesus said no. “And they went on to another village”. (9:52-56)

In the fateful night in the Garden of Gethsemane when the Disciples stood up to defend Jesus and “one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear” Jesus said, “NO MORE OF THIS!” and then he healed the wounded man. (22:47-53)

And even on the cross Jesus prayed “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing”; and told a criminal “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (23:33-34, 43)


Jesus had the 12 by his side at all times. He also had many other Disciples and attracted huge crowds wherever he went. With all those followers and all that popularity he could have responded to his critics with retaliation and his enemies with violence and, no doubt, been successful. But doing so was not his God assigned mission of bringing change for the better; changing a world that reacts with hate and violence to one that resolves its problems with love and peace.

Sadly, Christ’s critics and enemies didn’t understand that message. They saw the power of God that he held; they saw the crowds of supporters and they reacted with fear; fear based on perception, not fact; fear based in knowing what they would do if they had all that power and all those people behind them.


We all want to feel secure in our lives; we want to feel safe in our homes, on our streets, and in our nation. That desire is universal; all people in all places want to feel safe and secure. But when we look for our security in how well we can fight against our perceived threats we make others feel insecure which only perpetuates the perception of insecurity and escalates the response to fear.

A few months ago a man killed 11 worshipers in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh; believing that “Jews” were a threat to him, our nation, and our way of life.

This week a man killed 49 worshipers in two Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand; he believed that “Muslims” were a threat to him, his land, and to his European heritage.

And, just in the time between those two, countless hate based murders have occurred worldwide and I’m not even including the tens of thousands of innocent people killed in military actions.


I think you’ll agree that we obviously need more Jesus in the world. The Jesus who loves all people regardless of faith, language, or nationality; more Jesus who used the spotlight to promote peace, not conflict; more Jesus who uses his popularity and the numbers of his followers, not to tear down, but to lift up! We need more Jesus followers using their voices to join him in saying “NO MORE OF THIS!”




Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
15:1 After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”
15:2 But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”
15:3 And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.”
15:4 But the word of the LORD came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.”
15:5 He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”
15:6 And he believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.
15:7 Then he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.”
15:8 But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?”
15:9 He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
15:10 He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.
15:11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
15:12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.
15:17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.
15:18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates….”

Psalm 27
27:1 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?
27:2 When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh– my adversaries and foes– they shall stumble and fall.
27:3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.
27:4 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.
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.
27:6 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.
27:7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me!
27:8 “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, LORD, do I seek.
27:9 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!
27:10 If my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will take me up.
27:11 Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.
27:12 Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence.
27:13 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
27:14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

Philippians 3:17-4:1
3:17 Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us.
3:18 For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears.
3:19 Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things.
3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
3:21 He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.
4:1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

Luke 13:31-35
13:31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”
13:32 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.
13:33 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.’
13:34 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!
13:35 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.'”