The Second Sunday in Lent (C)
“Patterns to Follow”
March 17, 2019
Peace be unto you from the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, Christ Jesus. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
I hardly have to convince you of the importance of patterns in our lives… the importance… the necessity, many times, of following a pattern… of using… referring to… an exact diagram, model or template if you want something to turn out just right… in a desired way.
For example, without a pattern, one can easily ruin an expensive piece of material and even jeopardize a whole project… having nothing to follow… nothing to guide one’s eye… one’s hand… or even one’s heart and mind in the right direction.
What this morning’s lesson, taken from all three Scripture readings for today, reveals to us is that there are very important and essential life patterns, divine patterns for us to follow… patterns that will make all the difference in our life.
We begin by turning our attention to today’s Old Testament lesson from the book of Jeremiah. To set the stage, Jeremiah has just shared with the people of Judah all that the Lord God said would happen to them because of their sinfulness and selfishness… because of their disobedience… because of their having turned away, again and again, from the Lord and from His Word… because these stiff-necked, thick-headed, hard-hearted people had refused over and over again to listen to the warnings of God’s prophets.
Prior to our text, Jeremiah told the people, “For twenty‑three years … the word of the Lord has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened. And though the Lord has sent all his servants the prophets to you again and again, you have not listened or paid any attention.
There is clearly a pattern here… one of sin…one of men, women and children… generation after generation… again and again… turning away from God and turning toward the world and their own selfish ways.
But we also have here a pattern of God… speaking through His faithful servants…. telling the people over and over again to repent of their sins… repent of their evil ways and return to Him and therein find life.
Jeremiah was following this very pattern. He was, in fact, part of the pattern. Empowered by God…. enabled by the Holy Spirit… this man had the guts… the intestinal fortitude… to boldly tell the people what was ahead for them if they continued in their evil ways and did not repent… and it wasn’t pretty. Jeremiah was called upon to tell the people that they were about to be led off into captivity… for some seventy years no less!
In reality though, the people were already in captivity to sin and Satan.
And now turning to our Old Testament text, we read, “When Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city [referring to Jerusalem] shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.
And then a little farther in our text, we read, “Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, ‘The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you. But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.’”
The pattern, dear brothers and sisters, is clear. It is a pattern of being called to repentance and receiving the assurance over and over again, from God Himself, of full and complete forgiveness to those who indeed turn from their evil ways and wicked patterns. Jeremiah said, “Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you.”
Indeed, the Lord’s mercies are new every morning. Every day, in the Lord… through the Lord…. we can start with a clean slate… a clean heart… a clean conscience.
We now jump almost 700 years into the future… some 700 years after Jeremiah’s time… to our Gospel lesson… and what do we see… but remarkably, the same pattern. The pattern of sin in action… sinful men who would love nothing more than to see Jesus dead… love nothing more than if this Jesus of Nazareth was out of the picture so that there would be no more teaching and preaching with power and authority… no more healing… no more miracles of any kind… no more winning the hearts and minds of the common people… the sick… the down-trodden… the guild-ridden.
Make no mistake about it. Jesus was… and still is… a threat to many people… people who live under sin’s influence… under Satan’s influence… and who blindly do his bidding.
Our Lord is told that Herod wants to kill Him… that Herod himself wants Him dead. Again, the pattern is the same… sin in action… and the desire of sinful man to squelch the Truth… to stop God’s Word from being spoken and to stop God’s will from being done… including the will of God the Father that His Son go to Jerusalem and to the cross… and the will of God the Son to, in fact, allow Himself to be nailed to that tree.
But there is another interesting pattern that we should be aware here and in our lives. Try as Satan might… try as sinful mankind might to prevent God’s Word from being spoken in all of its glorious truth and entirety… try as they might to prevent God’s will from being done… they will not prevail.
To the warning that He should leave because Herod was out to get Him… to have Him killed… our Lord boldly responded, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, [His way to the cross that is] for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’”
Notice, too, that we see again the pattern of God graciously, lovingly, calling the people to repentance. Our Lord continues in our Gospel text, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
In these words, one senses our Lord’s heart breaking… His yearning for Jerusalem and all its inhabitants… for all people… for you and me and all of mankind… how often… how often has our Lord… in both Old and New Testament time… throughout time, right to this very time, this very minute sought to gather all people to Himself… to hold them… to hold you and me… ever so lovingly… so securely and protectively… to His breast as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.
Finally, we turn to our Epistle lesson where St. Paul urges us to keep our eyes on “those who walk according to the example you have in us.” In other words, the “pattern you have in us.” The pattern of the Prophets, the Apostles, and all of the faithful down throughout time.
It is the pattern of repentance and receiving holy absolution.
It is the pattern of love… the pattern of mercy in Christ Jesus. Receiving it. Giving it.
It is the pattern of the cross where the Lord performed the greatest act of love and from which flows His mercy upon us… upon all. Amen.
And now may the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding and worldly wisdom, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and on the pattern of the cross unto life everlasting. Amen.
“Patterns to Follow” 3/17/19 The Rev. Mark H Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL.