(Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18, Psalm 27, Philippians 3:17-4:1)
(watch here: https://youtu.be/_X0SABOYuN8)
31At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to [Jesus,] “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32He 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. 33Yet 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.’ 34Jerusalem, 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! 35See, 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.’ ”
Aesop’s famous fable, “The Lion and the Mouse,” tells of a lion laying asleep in the forest, his great head resting on his paws. A timid little mouse came upon him unexpectedly, and in his fright and haste to get away, ran across the lion’s nose. Roused from his nap, the lion laid his huge paw angrily on the tiny creature to kill him. “Spare me!” begged the poor mouse. “Please let me go and someday I promise I will surely repay you.” The lion was much amused to think that a mouse could ever help him. But he was generous and finally let the mouse go.
Some days later, while stalking his prey in the forest, the lion was caught in the toils of a hunter’s net. Unable to free himself, he filled the forest with his angry roaring. The mouse knew the voice and quickly found the Lion struggling in the net. Running to one of the great ropes that bound him, he gnawed it until it parted, and soon the lion was free. “You laughed when I said I would repay you,” said the mouse. “Now you see that even a mouse can help a lion.”
Perhaps you heard this familiar little story as a child. And when you heard it you were probably amazed at a couple of things in it. It’s always funny to hear stories about animals talking to each other. But once you suspended your sense of disbelief for that part, you probably found it hard to believe that a lion, king of the jungle, would let a tiny mouse live after it ran across its nose. Surely the lion knew the likelihood of the mouse ever being able to repay his kindness…slim to none! But let’s say you gave the lion the benefit of the doubt. What are the odds of a mouse gnawing through the hunter’s net to save the trapped lion? Again, slim to none. In reality, the lion would have never spared the mouse’s life. Even if it did, the mouse would have never gone back to save the trapped lion. And, um, there wouldn’t be any words exchanged between the two animals! But it’s a story, not reality, and it seeks to teach us a lesson or moral. Many of us are told the moral is to not discount those in our life who are smaller and weaker than us. Perhaps one day they, too, will unexpectedly help us out of an awkward situation. Help can come in least expected forms at least expected times so be sure to keep your faith even in the direst of situations. I like to think there is an aspect to the story that is equally important. The mouse went against his nature, overcame his fears, ignored the lion’s doubt, and saved the lion in a noble effort to keep his promise. It was important for the mouse to keep his promise. The mouse understood the value of a promise. The mouse understood integrity. If the meek little mouse can keep his promises then surely we can keep the promises we make with each other. It is important to keep our promises.
Do you think God keeps His promises? Of course He does…God always keeps His promises! God keeps His promises during times we expect Him to but also during times we least expect Him to. God has the same integrity as the little mouse in Aesop’s fable. God finds unique and unexpected ways to keep His promises. We heard an example of this in our 1st reading. Abram, a man of desperation and despair, didn’t think God would ever provide him with a legitimate heir. He was getting old, beyond the age of having children. Into such a dire situation God offers hope and promise. God tells Abram he will not only father a son but an entire generation. He says, “Look toward the heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to Abram, “So shall your descendants be.” God speaks words of hope. God speaks words of promise. God speaks words of unimaginable hope and promise! Abram simply wanted an heir, not an entire generation! But this is the God we know and worship. He is a God of unimaginable hope and promise. Our God is an awesome God! God promises and finds unexpected ways to deliver on His promises. God has an integrity the likes of which you or I couldn’t possibly comprehend. God speaks promise and hope and God makes good on His words as time and time again we hear of in scripture. God blessed Abram, later named Abraham, with a legitimate heir, Isaac and from Isaac came an entire generation.
David continually sought out God’s promises. We heard in our psalm for today, “One thing I ask of the Lord; one thing I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek God in the temple.” David offered God his praise and thanksgiving and was blessed with knowing God and being sustained by God. God’s promise and hope was felt by David in both his joyful times and his sorrowful times. David knew God and God’s peace. He sang, “For in the day of trouble God will give me shelter, hide me in the places of the sanctuary, and raise me high upon a rock.” David found hope and promise in God.
In our gospel reading, we heard an encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees. The Pharisees tried to intimidate Jesus into quitting his ministry with threats that Herod would kill him. But Jesus wasn’t easily intimidated. Jesus defied Herod and the Pharisees and kept on casting out demons and performing cures. Jesus kept “gathering [the children of Jerusalem] together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.” Jesus kept speaking words of hope and promise in spite of the mounting resistance he was receiving from the religious sects and governing authorities. God isn’t easily intimidated by the powers of this world. God simply finds alternative, unexpected means of speaking His words of hope and promise into our world of sin and death. God is a promising God and God delivers on His promises.
Many of us have experienced dire situations in our own lives. We’ve felt that the cards were stacked up against us. We’ve despaired and lost our hope in anyone or anything being able to help us. Yet God somehow finds a way to speak words of hope and promise into such situations. God doesn’t want us destroyed by the powers of this world. God wants to hold us up and sustain us through life in this world. God does this through words of hope and promise. God does this by assuring us that the struggles and suffering of this world are only temporary and that His love for us is everlasting. God promises to be with us and God only wants good for us. God wants to protect us from the evils of this world. God wouldn’t have sent His Son to “gather us as a hen gathers her brood under her wings” if He didn’t want to protect us. God knows the suffering we have to endure in this world. God offers us words of hope and promise to sustain us in our earthly pilgrimage. God seeks to protect us by sending us His Son to love and teach us.
As we continue our Lenten journey, let us take comfort in God’s words of hope and promise. Let us take comfort in His desire to sustain and guide us. We walk with Jesus as he stumbles towards the cross. Know that he stumbles for us and for our sin. Our world, a world fed by our sin, needs a savior, someone willing to maintain integrity and keep promises. We need someone who is willing to protect us from ourselves and our sin. This Lenten season let us boldly cry out to God, “promise us and protect us!”
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.