O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
teach us to be faithful
in change and uncertainty,
that trusting in your word
and obeying your will
we may enter the unfailing joy
of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Psalm 144.1-2, 9-11
Blessed be the Lord my rock,
who teaches my hands for war and my fingers for battle;
My steadfast help and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield in whom I trust,
who subdues the peoples under me.
O God, I will sing to you a new song;
I will play to you on a ten-stringed harp,
You that give salvation to kings
and have delivered David your servant.
Save me from the peril of the sword
and deliver me from the hand of foreign enemies,
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
Reading: Luke 13.31-35
Some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’ 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. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed away from Jerusalem.” 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! 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.” ’
Today’s reading opens in an interesting way: Jesus is being warned of Herod’s murderous intentions by some Pharisees. Up to now, and certainly throughout last week’s readings, we have heard Jesus criticizing the ways in which the sect of the Pharisees controlled the daily lives of faithful Jews. Then, today, we read of some of those Pharisees trying to protect Jesus from Herod, their earthly ruler. Of course, many differing motivations could be explored regarding the actions of those Pharisees, but that would mean avoiding the main challenge in today’s reading.
Some Pharisees knew of Herod’s intentions and they clearly did not support them. Herod was a political convenience to the occupying Roman forces. Herod, like his father before him, only enjoyed power because he was useful to the Romans. Herod, like his father before him, was a violent bully who used brutality to keep the Jewish population under control. This aspect of his character is captured by Jesus when he calls him a ‘fox’. As anyone who has ever kept chickens knows, a fox does not need to be hungry to kill. Unlike most of nature’s predators, the fox kills for sport. The fox kills what is weaker than itself simply because it can. Such behaviour would have scared and appalled decent members of the Pharisee class.
We have to presume that the warning of the Pharisees was well intentioned, but Jesus was not to be deterred. Jesus knew that his earthly mission had to be brought to its conclusion in Jerusalem. Even the violent Herod, that fox, could not change that.
Yesterday, Jesus warned us of the persecution we may have to face because of our faith in him. Today, Jesus is declaring his determination to lead from the front. Yesterday, Jesus urged us to erect a protective barrier of love around ourselves. Today, Jesus is reiterating that message, in the context of the farmyard.
All who profess the faith of Jesus Christ live under the threat of the fox, that predator which kills on a whim. But … Jesus promises the protection the mother hen provides for her chicks. When there is danger the hen gathers her chicks under the shelter of her wings, thus offering herself before her children. Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem can be seen as our being gathered under his wing. Jesus will die a violent death to save us. Let us praise and thank God for this action of divine love. Let us show our gratitude to God by going out and loving others in the name of Christ.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray to the Father whose Son died and rose on the third day for our salvation.
Keep your Church steadfast in faith, trusting in the cross of Christ. May we always rest under your protection and be ready for your coming in glory.
Have mercy on the world where so many follow their selfish ways and seek false goals. Enlighten them and bring them to knowledge of the truth.
Grant us perfect trust in your promises for our families and all whom we love. Free us from anxiety for the future. In all our relationships grant us the fellowship that is in Christ.
Have mercy on those who are persecuted for their witness to the truth. Give them courage and turn the hearts of those who treat them unjustly.
Receive the souls of the departed, changing their mortal bodies into the glorious bodies of resurrection. May they rest in peace and rise in glory.
Rejoicing that we are gathered safely in the love of Christ, we make our prayers through him.
Prayer for the week
We thank you, Lord,
for calling us to be your witnesses:
grant us the courage and the love
to be obedient and faithful to that calling.
We pray that our lives may bear witness
to your love shown in Jesus Christ,
and that our witness may reflect your light
in the communities in which we live and work,
to the glory of your name.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Through the night of doubt and sorrow
onward goes the pilgrim band,
singing songs of expectation,
marching to the promised land.
Soon shall come the great awaking,
soon the rending of the tomb;
then the scattering of all shadows,
and the end of toil and gloom.
Igjennem Nat og Trængsel
Bernhard Severin Ingemann (1789–1862)
translated by Sabine Baring-Gould (1834–1924)