Fruitful Life @ Trinity
Mission Mindset: How to Handle Resistance, Luke 13:31-35, 2nd Sunday in Lent C
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  • Prise Ye the Lord, the Almighty
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      • Psalm 27NRSV

      • Luke 13:31–35NRSV

  • This week, we all are saddened by the act of terrorism in New Zealand over two Muslim mosques claiming 50 lives and wounding many that are still at the hospital. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all Muslims and those in our community that are mourning.
    Terrorism is a crime against humanity. As John Donne said in his powerful poem, For Whom the Bell Tolls, “Each man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind. Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” That is the essence of the second part of the Great Commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
    Now, let’s understand the nature of violence and terrorism. The day after 9-11, friends around the world called me to make sure I was safe because they thought I was still living or working in New York City. A friend from Taiwan called me and then asked me, “Why did this happen?” I knew she was asking me because I am a pastor. She wants a spiritual interpretation of the situation. Even though she lives in the other side of the world, she was obviously shaken by extent of this atrocity. It was beyond comprehension. I said, “It’s happiness under attack.” To most people around the world America is a symbol of happiness.
    The core reason for all crimes of violence is unhappiness. “Misery loves company.” Unhappy people want to make other people feel miserable so that they can feel better. It’s an attempt to take away the human sense of humor. As I’ve mentioned, humanity, humility, and humor came from the same root word “humus.” Therefore, a crime against happiness is a crime against humanity, or vise-versa.
    This leads to today’s scripture lesson, where it says Herod was plotting terror against Jesus. We know that Herod just beheaded John the Baptist not long ago. Herod was a miserable man and he couldn’t handle Jesus’ message that brings people happiness. The grassroots in Jerusalem was excited because of Jesus was there, except Herod and the religious leaders. This is a scene of a power struggle between misery and happiness.
    The Pharisees came to tell Jesus and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” You know the Pharisees were hardly on Jesus’ side. It sounds like they came to inform Jesus to save Jesus from trouble, but their purpose is obviously to make Jesus go away, at least during this crowded season of of Passover. They don’t want Jesus to continue spreading the good news of happiness.
    After receiving baptism, Jesus went to the wilderness and fasted for 40 days, then he returned and preached his first sermon, known as the Sermon on the Mount. He began with the beatitudes. Even though our modern translation used the word “Blessed” as in “Blessed are poor in spirit,” the literal translation is “Happy are poor in spirit.” If you look at the Good News Translation and Young’s Literal Translation, the Greek word “μακάριος” is translated as “happy”. However, it’s not some shallow happiness, but a type of transcendent happiness, or a “bliss”.
    There are three foundational elements of true happiness:

    Calling - A Calling Worth Dying For

    Jesus then said to the Pharisee, “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.’” Jesus is saying I still have a calling to fulfill. I am casting out demons and curing diseases. That’s his mission, his purpose, and his calling.
    Psychologists say that in order to be happy, you must have a sense of purpose which makes your life meaningful. In Christian term, it’s a calling. Such calling comes from listening to God’s word. So reading the Bible and meditating on it allows us to hear God’s calling. That’s what Jesus did in his 40 days of fasting. He said, “One does not live by bread alone but by every word of God.” Our calling become clear as we feast on God’s word and fast from physical food.
    If we don’t have a sense of calling, or purpose, we will be hungry for purpose and become unhappy and meaningless. Then we will make up a purpose, including committing violence to fill the void of purposelessness. On the surface, it seems that racism and white supremacy was the cause of the crime, these are just false purposes of an unhappy man thinking it would make his life meaningful. A happy person is humble, and they don’t need to feel superior or to look down on others. A happy person would life others up.
    This Lent, we must also heed the calling to distribute happiness to the world because that’s the only way to end violence, terrorism, and crime. The tragedy this week should remind us our calling. Our world is seriously suffering from unhappiness.
    Jesus says, “Go and tell that unhappy fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.’”
    You know that his mission is our mission. We also have demons and diseases in our society—the demons of unhappiness and the diseases of mental illness.
    Talking about mental illness, recently I read an article about the Church of England declaring itself to be a sanctuary for mental illness, which is similar to the “Stigmas-Free Zone” that our church is part of when Paramus declare itself as the Stigma-Free Zone. I’m sure you remember that we have a Stigma-free sign in front of our church.
    The director of the New Bridge mental hospital told me that the church can be a tremendous healing place for mentally ill people because the problem is beyond the hospitals can handle. They can only provide treatment to certain extend but belonging to a supportive church community adds to the solution significantly because the message of Jesus Christ has a healing power. Trinity will continue to be a stigma-free zone. Now, Bergen County has also declared itself as the stigma-free zone. That’s good news.
    Regarding casting out demons, we have demons of unhappiness, misery, and suffering in our society. Every time I heard a terrorist attack, my heart sinks, may it be against a church, a synagogue, a mosque, or a public square. I hear the cry for happiness.
    We must respond to the calling because we cannot wait until the governments to do something about it. If you watch the news these days, you know that our congress is like a war zone. There’s no happiness there among our leaders. They are killing each other like hungry foxes. If Jesus were here today, he would be very upset to see the fox fights in Washington.
    There’s an epidemic of unhappiness in our society, which includes our government. People are crawling in the desert toward the mirage. When they don’t find water there, they drink sand. Jesus has given us the living water and we must drink it as well as deliver it. We have a moral imperative to distribute the living water of happiness.
    When John Lennon was in elementary school, his teacher asked his class what they wanted to be when they grew up. Each one stood up and gave their answer. I want to be a doctor, I want to be a lawyer, I want to be a teacher, etc. etc. When it comes to John Lennon’s tern, he stood up and said, “I want to be happy.” The teacher looked at him and said, “John, you don’t understand my question.” John said, “Yes, I do, but you don’t understand my answer.” Out of the mouths of babes!
    The hunger for happiness today is as profound as Jesus’ time. Maybe we feel powerless to do anything about it because we ourselves are struggling with unhappiness. Someone once told me that evangelism is like a homeless telling another homeless where they found the bread. As we enjoy the bread of Jesus Christ, we should tell others where we find the bread. We don’t have to feed the world, but we have a moral obligation to tell others where we get it.
    Our calling is to tell people where we found happiness. The amazing thing is, having that calling itself will make us happy or happier.

    Consecration - A Consecration from Distraction

    The second foundation of happiness is consecration. Consecration is commitment to the max. Commitment is to take the calling seriously, but consecration is to immerse your entire being and give God everything you have to fulfill the calling. The Apostle Paul calls it “a living sacrifice.”
    Having a calling is not enough. The calling must be worthy of dying for. Some people have a sense of mission, but they are not willing to risk everything to fulfill it, so at the end of their lives, nothing got accomplished, leaving their world unfulfilled. Psychologists say that serious happiness comes from having a purpose worth dying for.
    The reason is we will face resistance from the haters, and distraction from other worthwhile things vying for our commitments. Each of us will encounter our own Herod the fox plotting kill us, or Pharisees telling us to change direction. If we are afraid of dying, the resistance will win. Jesus wasn’t afraid of the resistance. He is willing to die for his calling. He said,
    Yet 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.” (v.33)
    “Today, tomorrow, and the next day” is simply and ancient Jewish expression of business as usual. Jesus is saying, I will do what I am called to do as days go by. You cannot kill me as you wish because life and death is in God’s hand. God decides when I die and where I die. This is a message of predestination. He sounds like a Presbyterian. This verse tells us that we should not be afraid of murderous resistance or temptations to retreat because everything is in God’s hand. Nobody can do anything to us without God’s permission.
    When we have consecrated our life to God, we can be happy even when our life is in danger.
    When we have a calling, we might wonder how to fulfill it. When we consecrated our life to God, Providence comes. Knowing God is with us, protecting us, and empowering us boosts our happiness. Now, we also have the moral obligation to share this secret with others, so that we will leave this world a happier place to live.

    Confidence - A Confidence Beyond Sabotage

    The third foundation of happiness is confidence. Without confidence there’s no happiness because you will be overcome by doubts and fear. Now, you have a calling, and you have consecrated yourself for the calling, but sometimes the force of resistance can be overwhelming which makes us doubt whether we are doing the right thing. Even John the Baptist doubted when things got tough, when he was in prison waiting for the sentence.
    Doubt can cripple our happiness. Confidence is not about being cocky but being doubtless. Jesus never doubted about his calling even when he encountered serious resistance.
    Jesus said, “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!” (v. 34).
    Jesus compares himself with a hen trying to gather her brood under her wings. The chicks without the mother hen around are unhappy chicks. The chicks under the mother’s wings are the happy chicks. That’s Jesus’ desire, to provide happiness, but the leaders of the city were not willing to let him do the good deed. Herod rejected him. The Pharisee tried to deter him.
    He concluded this speech with quoting “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” (v. 35b).
    Jesus was confident that he will be blessed because he comes in the name of the Lord. In the same way, the sends us into the world in his name to continue his mission to make this world a happier place to live.
    The ultimate display of his own happiness is when he forgave his enemies when he was hanging on the cross. It’s all because of his transcendent happiness from fulfilling his calling with consecration, and confidence.
    Today is also St. Patrick's Day. Legend has it that St. Patrick drove out the snakes from Ireland. Just as he drove out the snakes from Ireland, we will drive out unhappiness from the world.
    Let us prepare our body, mind, and spirit during this Lent to renew and relaunch our calling by Easter. Amen!
  • Jesus, Lover of My Soul
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