“Let Your Heart Take Courage”
Psalm 27    Luke 13:31-35
Second Sunday in Lent

    Jerusalem.  The city that Jesus wept over.  The city he described as a place that killed prophets.  The city whose inhabitants Jesus wanted to gather under his care as a hen would gather her chicks.  Jerusalem was perhaps one of the most threatening places to Jesus and his ministry, and yet his attitude toward the people there was nothing but compassion.  He wanted to bring them into safety, his safety and his care.
    Jesus had an enormous heart.  I think this is something we can agree on pretty easily.  Even though his ministry was fraught with tensions and he himself was surrounded by people who were looking for ways to stab him in the back, Jesus’ first response was compassion.  He offered compassion to anyone with whom he came into contact.  He was willing, in essence, to play the fool for the sake of his love.  Most people protect themselves first, and then if they feel safe, if they think people are really listening to them, then they might speak their mind; they might speak what is on their hearts.  But Jesus’ method of ministry and preaching, teaching and healing, was simply to meet the needs he saw right there in front of him.  It did not matter if the person he was caring for would have been deemed by the religious authorities or anyone else for that matter as “deserving” his attention or his respect.  He offered what he had to whoever needed that gift.  There is a wonderful story about Jesus asking a woman for a drink of water from the well.  She assumed that if he knew who she was - a Samaritan woman of the lowest rung in society - that he would dismiss her as not being clean enough to get that drink for him.  But jesus shocked her by saying he didn’t care what caste she was, he just wanted a drink of water.  It wasn’t that he was so thirsty he couldn’t wait for a more suitable server to come along, it was that he wanted to offer her compassion.  As we well know, the compassion he offered went far beyond simply speaking to her and accepting a drink from her.  As a result of his interaction with her, this Samaritan woman became one of Jesus’ most vociferous proponents.  She ended up bringing most of the town out to the well to meet him and hear him speak, and many found a totally new relationship with their God as a result.
    One of the things I respect most about Jesus is his willingness to break the rules for love.  The wisdom he valued most had little to do with scholars, although we hear that he was bright enough even as a child to teach the temple elders.  The wisdom he cherished was a wisdom that reached deep down into the heart and drew forth answers from the heart itself.  As a case in point, it made no sense at all that Jesus would lose any sleep over the people of Jerusalem.  They were, after all, the fickle folks who would condemn him to death shouting “crucify him!”  And yet, he wants to gather them as a mother hen would gather her chicks.  He wants to care for them and tend to their needs in the most basic and beautiful of ways.
    When we attempt to call on the kind of compassion that Jesus had, we usually fall short - way short.  We do not tend to be easy-going when it comes to people who have hurt us.  We find it difficult to trust someone who has proven themselves to be untrustworthy in the past.  Maybe some of us have even been known to hold grudges once in awhile.  And so when we contemplate caring about people who have hurt us, we find it difficult, and even impossible at times. 
As Christians, we may be charged with the responsibility to see the best in everyone, we may still have a very hard time accepting people who have said or done something hurtful to us or to one of our loved ones.  It almost seems as if Jesus was loving from a different part of himself when he loved folks who were not kind to him.  It almost seems as if he rose above his own very personal hurts and wounds, and saw things from God’s perspective.  The love that he held them in may very well have been a love that came from God, had God as its source rather than the very human heart that beat in Jesus, the man’s, chest.  I wonder if his ability to do this had anything to do with his seeing everyone as God’s children?  Did he see everyone as God’s children?  Was he able to wrap his mind around that in a way that made sense and seemed real?  And could this be where his compassion had its origins?
    It is very challenging for us to live as Jesus lived.  Young folks these days like to wear those plastic bracelets with WWJD (what would Jesus do?) imprinted on them.  Many who wear them have told me that they do it as a reminder to think differently first, before they act on their own impulses.  It’s a great idea, to try to put on the mind of Christ, which is, after all the very mind of God.  Paul in several of his writings, encourages people to do just this.  In his letter to the Romans, he urges, "Be transformed by the renewal of your mind" (12:2). This transformation of the mind takes a person outside of the human ways of doing things and gives insight, perhaps, into the mind of God.  In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul says, "We have the mind of Christ" (2:16). In writing to the Philippians, he urges them, "Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus" (2:5). 
    Even though there is precedent for it in Jesus, and even though Paul advocated it, the whole possibility of thinking from the divine perspective is challenging enough; loving from that perspective is even more difficult.  Offering compassion to those who hurt us definitely takes us outside of ourselves and outside our normal ways of being in the world.  For something this challenging, we need to take it easy, work our way up to it, maybe.  A first step is seeing that there is a different way than that of reacting out of our own hurt, our own rather limited perspective.  Open our minds and hearts to an alternate possibility.  Take a deep breath before responding when someone triggers a negative reaction.  Put some space between yourself and your feelings, so that God can slip in.  Once we let God into a situation, then the whole thing changes.  It may not go as far as Jesus was able to sustain it, but we can at least start down a more positive path.  We can at least begin to imagine what the situation might look like if our hearts and others’ hearts, and most of all God’s heart were guiding us.  And from there anything is possible, even feeling the first stirrings of compassion for those we might have seen earlier as our enemies.  We are at least on a good path, as the psalmist says, “Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies. Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.  I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.