17th March – Sermon by Ole Skjerbæk Madsen

Bible readings: Genesis 15:1-12.17-18; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus!
In the Lenten season we look upon ourselves and upon our lives in the light of God’s holiness as reveled in creation and in Jesus Christ, and we look upon ourselves in the light of God’s compassion and mercy.

When we look at God’s creation we are filled by awe, as David wonders (Psalm 8),
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?

Ash Wednesday we were reminded that we are dust from dust. We recognize that we are like clay in the potter’s hands. We know that we are corruptible and mortal as any other created entity. Yet we are also created in God’s image – created for knowing God and sharing God’s immortality. And we are reminded that we fell out of this grace bestowed on us, because our self-interest and appetite for consumption and success was more important to us than knowing God and having fellowship with him.

In this state of sin, our awe of God may turn into a fear of God’s wrath.

Looking to Jesus we are at new filled by awe in the presence of God. We are overwhelmed by his good works and his life-affirming words. As Jesus himself says, “I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal”. We are still more overwhelmed by the content of Jesus’ reaching his goal – to die in serving love on the cross in the uttermost unity with us in our alienation from God – and to rise from the dead to share his immortal life with us once more as on the time of our creation in his image.

To day we understand that even though we experience our life alienated from God as being under the wrath of God the underlying motive in God’s heart is compassion and love – in Jesus’ words, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

Jesus affirms the words of God through the Prophet Ezekiel 18:23, “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”

Jesus grieves for Jerusalem, because they do not open themselves to God’s love but follow their own ways; he is filled with sorrow because their house will be left desolate. God is a sorrowful God because he desperately wants us to share his life, yet God won’t force us. An yet as we and all of humankind are experiencing the fruits of following our own ways, the ways of sin, we’ll all look to him we have pieced and brought to the cross, and there we’ll find God’s compassion and love and grace underlying Jesus’ crying out as under the wrath of God, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Overwhelmed by God’s radical love in Christ we’ll bless him as he comes to us: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” This by the way is why many churches at the Eucharist sing this verse from Psalm 118 after praising God as the thrice holy God.

Awed by God’s holiness and compassion, awed by God’s presence to us in Jesus Christ, we are called to a life shaped by the serving love of Christ. This involves repentance and asking for forgiveness for our old ways of life. This involves a life that in hope reaches out for the kingdom of God, present to us now and yet coming in fulness. That why Paul writes, “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” If we in this Lenten period are seeing ourselves with the eyes of Christ, we may be overwhelmed by the fact that we in many ways have lived and live estranged from God, but our hope is also awakened because of God’s compassion to us in Jesus Christ. By the grace of the Holy Spirit we thus might begin to live Kingdom of God lives.

“Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” As we believe God’s promises in Jesus Christ, this also is credited to us as righteousness. In stead of living according to our own standards we’ll live according to the standards of serving love – not in our own power, but in the knowledge and assurance of Jesus walking with us so that we live in right relations to God and one another.

We’ll enter a period of reflection in the presence of God’s compassion in Christ Jesus…