The Second Sunday in Lent (Year C)

“Remember Jesus’ Love for You and Pray”

A sermon by Pastor Jane Jeuland

Today in our Gospel, we find Jesus at his wits end with the people of Jerusalem. As Jesus makes his way to Jerusalem, Pharisees approach him and warn him that Herod wants to kill him. Jesus explains that he must be on his way to Jerusalem, and then he utters this frustration:

“How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

I love my backyard chickens and the fresh eggs they produce for our family, but they are dirty, they will eat anything and everything, and when one of them is injured the whole flock will attack the injured bird. I don’t really have a lot of respect for chickens.. at least I didn’t until I looked into what Jesus meant when he described a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wings. When a hen and her chicks are out grazing and a predator arrives a mother hen will not run. She does not try to hide to protect herself. Instead as soon a predator arrives, a mother hen will stand tall, spread her wings out, and her chicks will run under her wings for protection. The hawk or the coyote will likely then dive in to grab the mother hen leaving the chicks behind. In the presence of danger, the mother hen willingly sacrifices her own safety and her own life to guard, protect, and defend her chicks.

This past Tuesday was international women’s day. On that day a group of Ukranian women who were dressed in army fatigues released a video of themselves that went viral. They said, “Our children are across the border. They have food, clothes, and safety. Now we return to fight for our children’s future.”

Moment of silence

Jesus said, “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.”

Over and over again Jesus wanted to gather the people of Jerusalem under his protection. Over and over again Jesus wanted to bring the people into his fold to follow the way of justice and peace. He wanted to guard and protect them from evil.

Sometimes I meet people who wonder what Jesus’ intention is for them. In this gospel lesson today, we hear Jesus share his intentions so clearly. Jesus wants nothing more than goodness for us. He would and does do anything for us, even give his own life to save us.

He says, “So many times I wanted to gather you under my wings, and yet he goes on… “you were not willing!”

In her course “The Science of Well Being”, Dr. Laurie Santos talks about this idea of mis-wanting. This is a term coined by Dr. Wilson and Dr. Gilbert, who define it as the act of being mistaken about what and how much you will like something in the future.

Dr. Santos explains how we often think that something will make us happy that in fact does not increase our happiness at all. We put a lot of time an energy into things that won’t actually make us happier and we neglect things that will increase our happiness. A group of researchers studied students happiness as it relates to grades. Students predicted that good grades would make them 2 points happier and bad grades would make about 2 points less happy, but in fact the study found that grades, good or bad, did not impact their happiness scores. The students wrongly predicted that good grades would lead to greater happiness. Those students were spending a lot of time getting good grades and often neglecting the love of learning, they neglected exercise, they even neglected their friendships. But we know that love of learning, exercise, and friendships do in fact increase our happiness scores significantly. The students were chasing after something that would not increase their happiness and neglecting the things that would make them happier.

Jesus came to the world to give new life to people, to guard and protect people from evil like a mother hen protects her chicks. But the people “were not willing.” Herod chased after power and control and neglected the thing that would make him truly full of joy. He neglected the gift of God’s only son, the gift of Jesus, who wanted nothing more than goodness for him and the people of Jerusalem.

Do you ever neglect Jesus and find yourself chasing after the things that ultimately will not give you joy? Do you ever find yourself mis-wanting everything but Jesus. These things may give you a sense of power and control, but ultimately they do not give you the goodness and joy that comes from God.

Our mis-wanting can make us unwilling to come under the fold of Jesus’ protection.

But here is the most amazing thing about Jesus. Even as we mis-want and resist Jesus, Jesus does not resist us. Even as we turn away from Jesus, Jesus does not turn away from us. Even as Jerusalem was unwilling to come under his protection, he still walked to the cross, opened his arms, and gave his life to save them and to save us.

Our salvation, our redemption, our eternal life does not solely depend on whether or not we get it all right. Our salvation depends on Jesus.

Paul writes in his letter to the Phillipians, “Jesus will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory.”

We don’t always get it right. We run away from Jesus who just wants to guard and protect us. We lose track of Jesus who just wants to give us life and peace abundantly… our actions, our mis-wanting can indeed sometimes be humiliating. Yet Jesus in his death and resurrection transforms our humiliation into glory.

Jesus guarantees us glory in heaven despite all our mis-wanting, despite Herod’s unwillingness, despite Jerusalem’s unwillingness, despite our own unwillingness.

So this Lent, If you find yourself mis-wanting… wanting things that won’t actually make you happy in the long run… wanting everything but Jesus… remember that Jesus is willing to give everything to guard and protect you from harm. Jesus wants nothing more than goodness and glory for you. Remember Jesus’ love for you and pray.

Like the little chicks, we must always know where Jesus is in our lives, and one of the best ways to re-orient ourselves to Christ is to pray. Let your thought life be directed toward Jesus. Right now the world is more stressed then ever. We just endured two years of the global pandemic, and now people half way across the world are being relentless and senselessly bombarded by bombs and gunfire. People all over the world are anxious, afraid, and tired. Take your worries, your sorrows, your feelings of helplessness to God and pray. Prayer is the best way to re-orient ourselves back to Jesus, the one who loves us and wants nothing more than joy for us.

But perhaps as you listen to this sermon, you are thinking so much of someone in your life who is mis-wanting, someone who has lost track of Jesus, I encourage you to pray for them. As you pray for them if you sense that God’s wants to give them peace, call them and say, “as I was praying for you today I felt that God really wants to give you peace in this area in your life.” And ask them how can I be praying for you right now?

This Lent. Pray… Orient yourself and others to Jesus. Know where he is in your life at all times and run to him. Because Jesus wants nothing more than goodness and glory for you and all his children.