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Sermon for March 13, 2022 — 2nd Sunday of Easter Preparation

Speaking Of Life 4016 | The Integrity of God’s Covenant

Have you ever broken a promise? Or maybe the other way around, has anyone broken their promises with you? It’s easy to lose our faith and trust in someone who will always be fallible. Just as God blessed Abraham, God’s promises of faithfulness, mercy, and love will always be available to us, in every circumstance.

Program Transcript

Speaking Of Life 4016 | The Integrity of God’s Covenant
Michelle Fleming

A research study published in the Journal of Business Ethics in 2000 found that promise-keeping was not a high priority in the American workplace. In fact, only 30 percent of the 700 study participants kept their word in business, and if they were faced with legal action, even then only 57 percent would keep their word. News like this can be discouraging, but let me share the story of one CEO who kept his promise to his employees.     

Josh James, the co-founder and former CEO of the web analytics company Omniture, was faced with a tough choice in December of 2000 when he had to lay off 48 employees—without severance—to save the company. James told the laid-off employees that if he ever found a way to pay them the severance they should have had, he would do it. Almost five years later, James was able to send those employees the severance money they were due. He demonstrated integrity in business, and as a result, some of those former employees came back to work for him when he started another company.

Integrity matters. Our God is a God of integrity, though, admittedly, we don’t always act like we believe it. A good example is Abram, who later was renamed, Abraham. He struggled to believe God’s promise to provide Abram with descendants. Note his conversation with God in Genesis 15.

Some time later, the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision and said to him,
 “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you,
and your reward will be great.”

But Abram replied, “O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son? Since you’ve given me no children, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth. You have given me no descendants of my own, so one of my servants will be my heir.”

Genesis 15:1-3 (NLT)

Notice that Abram is already trying to take control of the problem and come up with a solution.

He’s doubting that God is going to keep his promise. Does God get angry with Abram when he doubts? Let’s see what happened next.

[Look Down]

Then the Lord said to him, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!”
Genesis 15:4-5 (NRSV)

God reminds Abram of the original promise made. He doesn’t give Abram a list of things to do to help the process along. In fact, God shows Abram through a sacred ritual, that the promise coming true would have nothing to do with Abram’s efforts at all. God’s promise was a covenant he made that depends on God alone – proving his integrity.

And later, Abram had a son with his wife Sarah. God’s word is true.

The example of Josh James keeping his promise to his laid-off employees, even though he wasn’t legally obligated, illustrates the integrity of character we find in the story of Abram’s interaction and covenant with God. We can count on God to patiently remind us of his promises when we get discouraged and start thinking we need to do something to make those promises happen.

May you rest in the knowledge that the Father, Son, and Spirit will always keep their promises.

I’m Michelle Fleming, Speaking of Life.

For reference:



Psalm 27:1-14 · Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 · Philippians 3:17-4:1 · Luke 13:31-35

The theme for this week is God’s promises in his timing through relationship. As we move into the second Sunday of Easter Preparation (commonly referred to as Lent), we’re learning that we must not only trust in what God has promised us, but we also have to learn to trust in God’s timing and the way God emphasizes relationship. Psalm 27 encourages us to “Wait for the Lord,” especially when we encounter difficulties. Genesis 15 shows that Abram expressed his frustration with God’s delay in fulfilling the promise of an heir, coming up with the “plan B” of his servant Eliezer of Damascus. When God doesn’t operate according to our timetable, we’re quick to try to help things along, rather than drawing closer in our relationships with God and others. Paul refers to this tendency to try to control outcomes as setting our minds on “earthly things” in Philippians 3, and he encourages us to “stand firm” in the promises God has made. Our sermon text, Luke 13, gives us an inside look at the heart of God who wants to return us to right relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit by restoring us to our best, most loving, and compassionate selves and with each other.

Returning Us to Ourselves

Luke 13:31-35 (NRSV)

Father Greg Boyle is a Jesuit priest who works with gang members in Los Angeles. He’s done this for more than 30 years, and during that time, he founded Homeboy Industries where former gang members can find support, from job training to therapy and from tattoo removal to anger management classes. He’s also an author, with two New York Times bestsellers that chronicle his experiences in working with gang members and creating an environment where they find their transformation. For most who join gangs, they are running away from something: trauma, abuse in the home, mental illness. According to Father Greg, gangs speak the language of “a lethal absence of hope,” and he’s convinced that to reach gang members, “you infuse hope to kids for whom hope is foreign” (Kate Bowler).

Father Greg was interviewed by Krista Tippett on the On Being podcast, and he told this story about one former gang member who works for him:

“I have a homie named Louie, who’s just turned 18, and he’s kind of a difficult kid. He’s exasperating, and he’s whiny. And he works for me, although ‘work’ may be too strong a verb. But homies lately have asked me for blessings…they always ask me on the street or in my office, and they never say, ‘Father, may I have your blessing?’ They always say, ‘Hey, G, give me a bless, yeah?’

So this kid, Louie, I’m talking to him, and he’s complaining about something. And finally, at the end of it, he says, ‘Hey, G, give me a bless, yeah?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ So he comes around to my side of the desk, and he knows the drill, and he bows his head, and I put my hands on his shoulder.

Well, his birthday had been two days before, so it gave me an opportunity to say something to him. And I said, ‘You know, Louie, I’m proud to know you, and my life is richer because you came into it. When you were born, the world became a better place. And I’m proud to call you my son, even though’ — and I don’t know why I decided to add this part — ‘at times, you can really be a huge pain in the [butt].’

And [Louie] looks up, and he smiles. And he says, ‘The feeling’s mutual.’ And suddenly, kinship, so quickly…Maybe I return him to himself. But there is no doubt that he’s returned me to myself.”

Homeboy Industries doesn’t offer a 12-step program. It’s not about “inserting a message into their ears.” Instead, Father Greg says and believes:

 “In the end it’s always relational. So, if you can engage people and connect to them and …return them to themselves, …they can start to believe the truth of who they are, that they’re exactly what God had in mind…It’s really about holding a mirror up and telling them the truth and assuring them that the truth is really all good” (NPR).

Jesus is all about relationships, like Father Greg Boyle, especially with those the culture had deemed of little value. We can know and understand the Father’s heart toward all humanity by observing Jesus’s actions and words. Remember that Jesus said to Philip in John 14:9 (NRSV), “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’” God is about “kin-dom” or relationship as much as he is about “kingdom,” and our sermon text reveals that. Let’s read today’s text.

Read Luke 13:31-35, NRSV.

What can we notice about this passage?

Setting the context: Beginning in Luke 9:51, Jesus starts to head toward Jerusalem, knowing that he faces his own death there. Yet this knowledge did not keep him from continuing to reach out in relationship with people. Let’s go through the text:

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” (Luke 13:31 NRSV)

It’s interesting to note that in Luke’s writings (i.e., the books of Luke and Acts), Pharisees were not always enemies of Jesus. Consider these examples:

  • Joseph of Arimathea, a secret disciple who provided a tomb and assisted with Jesus’s burial.
  • Gamaliel, a Pharisee who talked the council into not killing the apostles in the book of Acts, but instead, waiting to see if their actions were from God or if they resulted in nothing.
  • Jesus dined at the homes of Pharisees (Luke 7:36, 11:37, and 14:1).
  • Pharisees were represented as early believers (Acts 15:5).
  • Paul was a Pharisee, even after his conversion (Acts 23:6).

In this case, we don’t know if the Pharisees were simply trying to get Jesus to leave their area or if they were genuinely concerned for his safety. As for the Herod referred to in v. 31, it is assumed to be the same Herod who had beheaded John the Baptist. Though the verse says, “Herod wants to kill you,” Cambridge Bible Commentary points out that Herod most likely wanted to see Jesus perform a miracle. However, Herod had not “wanted” to behead John, and he still did it, reluctantly, so his whims were prone to change.

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.’” (Luke 13:32 NRSV)

Jesus calls Herod “a fox,” which in rabbinical literature, is often used to convey contempt. Jesus goes on to focus on his ministry and how he is creating relationships with people through healing and deliverance. Jesus was “returning people to themselves,” their best selves created by God, through his ministry of healing and deliverance, and it is important to note that his crucifixion was not the end or completion of his ministry. Jesus points this out by saying, “And on the third day I finish my work.” The resurrection perfected and finished Jesus’s inclusion of all humanity into the loving relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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. (Luke 13:33 NRSV)

By Jesus saying, “Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day,” he is implying that he is in charge of his destiny, not Herod or anybody else. Jesus intends to fulfill his ministry enroute to Jerusalem. He knows that Jerusalem has a reputation of killing its prophets, but the crucifixion will not end Jesus’s ministry. His resurrection on the third day completes it.

 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! (Luke 13:34 NRSV)

This verse conveys the depth of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’s love for humanity as Jesus uses the metaphor of Jerusalem. Human beings often see themselves as separate, disconnected, especially from those who are weak, sick, and oppressed. The metaphor of Jerusalem talks about our very human tendency to kill or remove that which shows us the truth of our human frailty and need. Yet Jesus does not respond to this tendency with anger but with the compassion of a mother hen (a simile). We can envision a mother hen spreading her wings to gather all her chicks, not just the strong ones, under her loving care. If we are parents, we can understand the desire to protect and help our children, even when they may strike back or refuse our help.

Referring to his work with gang members, Father Greg Boyle says that if we assume God is compassionate lovingkindness, all we’re asked to do is to participate with God in the world. He asks an important question: “So how can we seek a compassion that can stand in awe at what people have to carry, rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it?” Here’s the answer he suggests:

“So you’re trying to imitate the kind of God you believe in. You want to move away from whatever is tiny-spirited and judgmental, …[and] you want to be as spacious as you can be…And love is all there is, and love is all you are…You want people to recognize the truth of who they are, that they’re exactly what God had in mind when God made them. [Child psychologist] Alice Miller…talked about [how] we’re all called to be enlightened witnesses: people who, through kindness and tenderness and focused attention of love, return people to themselves. And in the process, you’re returned to yourself.” (On Being)

Jesus longed to hold a mirror up to Jerusalem to show her who she really was, beloved by God, and then return her to that original vision. Unfortunately, Jerusalem and humanity in general long to fight against real or perceived enemies and forego compassion. As a result, we fail to live lives of peace, joy, and love.

Jesus wants to return us to ourselves, but we have to want it, too. Father Greg says that Homeboy Industries doesn’t “exist for those who need help. We are only around for those who want help” (Kate Bowler). To embrace our fullest, most loving, and compassionate selves, we have to want it.

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.” (Luke 13:35 NRSV)

This verse outlines the consequences of not living in God’s kin-dom, in relationship with God the Father, Son, and Spirit. “Your house is left to you” could refer to Jerusalem’s fall to Babylonia in 587 B.C. or prophetically to Vespasian’s siege on Jerusalem in 68 A.D. This is not the only verse that talks about the consequences Jerusalem’s refusal to return to God. Jesus weeps over Jerusalem in Luke 19:41-44.

The reference “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” is from Psalm 118:26, and while it might refer to Jesus’s triumphal entry on Palm Sunday, it could also refer to his Second Coming.


  • Recognize that God longs to return us to ourselves. This means that God seeks to heal us of hurt and trauma that are uniquely part of our human experience and restore us to the confidence that we are worthy of love and belonging.
  • Realize that the way God returns us to ourselves is often by having us show compassion and create relationships outside our typical comfort zone. We are restored by “imitating the kind of God [we] believe in,” according to Father Greg. We stop judging the means people use to carry their hurts, and instead, we stand in awe that they are able to carry their hurts and still live.
  • Know God’s heart toward you by studying Jesus’s treatment of people, especially those who were marginalized by culture. By seeing Jesus’s tender care of the children, his healing and care for women, and his respectful interactions with Gentiles, we can know that God is for us. And we are motivated to show that same spacious care in the world.

Compassion is an indicator of health for any church or community. Jesus’s example of compassion not only shows God’s heart toward humanity, but it reveals a love that seeks relationship. It’s a love that returns a person to themselves, and in loving that way, we too are returned to our best and truest selves.

For Reference:



The Temptation of Jesus w/ Gary Deddo W2

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The Temptation of Jesus w/ Gary Deddo
March 13 – 2nd Sunday of Lent
Luke 13:31-35 “Listen”

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Program Transcript

The Temptation of Jesus w/ Gary Deddo W2

Anthony:  Our next pericope is Luke 13:31 – 35. It comes from the NRSV. It is the Revised Common Lectionary passage for March 13th. Gary, would you read it for us please?

Gary: Yes, it’d be happy to.

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “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 outside of 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.’”

Anthony: Gary, what stands out to you from this passage?

Gary: Well, it’s a little bit complicated; again, the context is important. We have these, Pharisees coming to them. And I think it’s another kind of test where Jesus turns the table.  But again, we’re primarily to learn about him, who he is, and what he’s up to.

In order to do that, in order to receive his word, you have to let him turn the tables and set the terms. The Pharisees tried to set the terms of the discussion, but Jesus has none of that. He is Lord. He will not have them lorded over them because they are not lords. And so, he turns the whole thing around on them to get them to question, to ask the question who is this, then of him, rather than them questioning him and trying to get on his good side.

Anthony: Taking this text at face value, it seems like the Pharisees are actually trying to protect Jesus instead of the normal course of action. Based on what you just said, I’m curious, what’s really going on here?

Gary: Well, we don’t really know exactly. All right. So when you have Pharisees coming, we know that some Pharisees in the end, ended up believing, not a small number, but certainly not a huge number of them but it might be a mixed multitude.

Some may have been more, “Well, let’s help Jesus out.”  And others, as you know, “Let’s see if we can get on his good side and appear as if we’re on his side, but we’re not really.” So, we don’t know, but Jesus doesn’t even bother to figure that out exactly. And we don’t need to either.

And so, where they start, “Get away from here for Herod wants to kill you.” And of course, Herod was viewed as the opposition to the Pharisees. Herod was more aligned with the Sadducees. So many of them, some of them who came to him may have had a secondary agenda, a hidden agenda. They’re trying to get him on their side against Herod. We don’t really know.

But Jesus – notice, as usual, he doesn’t answer their question because it’s not the right question. See, Jesus was always saying, “Here’s the right question. You’re asking the wrong question. I’m here to tell you what the right question is.  I’m here to be the right question. I’m the one you need to be asking about here and not protecting.”

Jesus doesn’t need their protection. Right? So notice they come to him and recommend what he does: get away from here. And Jesus said to them, “Go and tell that Fox for me.”  You see who’s in charge here.

So Jesus then directs them:  go and tell that Fox for me.  He doesn’t even use the strongest language, but he tips his hand that trusting that Herod would be the wrong thing to do. Yeah, that’s right. But see, it’s a small thing for Jesus. You think he knows that?  He doesn’t need to be told.

Now notice next, he starts talking about himself. “Listen here. Listen to me. Don’t tell me, listen to me. Are you going to?” Now some of the Pharisees may have, and some of them probably didn’t.

“Listen, I am casting out demons. So, what does that tell you about me and performing cures today and tomorrow? Not just one-offs here and there. I am the one who brings healing. Who does that come from? What does that tell you about my relationship with the God that you claim to know? That should tell you something. Does it?”

You see what he’s telling them, raises the question. It forces them to deal with (well, not forces them) it invites them strongly. It confronts them with the question: who am I?

And then it seems to me, this third phrase here is a bit of a parable. “And on the third day, I finished my work.” Right. And they’re going to ask, “The third day of what? When is that going to happen?”

I think he sets that out there for those who are really honest seekers of the Pharisees. They will wonder about that, maybe some of them, maybe Nicodemus, will come to him and ask him more about that third day thing. But of course, on the actual third day after he’s crucified, maybe some of them, he planted a seed in their hearts and in their minds, “On that third day, I finished my work.”  And they may reflect and be given another opportunity by the Holy Spirit to see who Jesus is and put their trust in him as the Son of God, who is the Savior of the world. That’s who he is, who he’s related to, and why he’s come.

Well, he does go on here. I think that’s what’s happening between him and the Pharisees. He’s making himself the issue, turning the tables on them, and exercising his authority in this parabolic way to get them to ask the right question and to pay attention to him.

Anthony: Well, hopefully I asked the right question here about the Pharisees.

We read about our Lord Jesus’ heart for Jerusalem. What can we take away from that?

Gary: Right. So, verse 34, he goes on and now, we hear his thoughts out loud, right?  This, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, in that repeated way, shows this kind of longing and agony, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it. See, he’s already anticipating what’s happening. (Sorry. This is Luke 13.)

So, this is on in his ministry compared to the first pericope we read, which is at the beginning. He knows what’s happening here and how people are responding, especially the leadership, and so, he’s aware of that.  But then he tells us more, not only that he’s aware of the danger that is before him, but yes, he tells us of his heart.

I desire to gather your children together. That is those who belong to Jerusalem. And of course, and its temple, those who worship the God who is worshiped in Jerusalem and his very presence is represented there in the holy of Holies, in the temple. Oh, how often I have desired to gather your children together (and here a very touching metaphor) as a hen gathers her brood under her wings. And then the agony, and you were not willing (verse 34b.)

We see right into the heart of Jesus, and therefore into the heart of the Father and the heart of the Spirit, desiring to gather and yet seeing the resistance to him. We see right into his heart, but they are rejecting, they are resisting God’s grace in person. In person! And of course, others of Jesus’ parables say the same thing, right?

When the owner of the field comes and not the servants and the slaves, and they kill the Son, not the servants. So many of them point in the same direction as this. But yes, this shows us the heart of the Father, the heart of the Son, the heart of the Spirit.

Anthony: Yeah. And as we look at the heart of the triune God, we like what we see so very much.

Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life

  • Abram grew frustrated, waiting for God to fulfill his promise of an heir. Have you ever grown frustrated waiting on God? If so, what did you do, and how did the situation resolve?
  • God comforted Abram by reminding him of God’s nature through the sacred ritual of the animal sacrifices. How can we be reminded of God’s character and promise-keeping nature through Christian community rituals, such as the Eucharist (i.e., Communion), or personal rituals, like the disciplines of prayer, Bible study, and meditation?

From the Sermon

  • Returning people to themselves is the idea that our worst behaviors and thoughts happen when we feel disconnected from each other and from God, and that returning us to our God-made selves promotes healing, love, and peace. Can you share an experience where sharing or experiencing God’s love restored you to your better self, connected you with God and others?
  • Father Greg Boyle suggests that we need to cultivate awe at the hurts and trauma people carry rather than judge the way they carry them. How can changing our thoughts from judgment to compassion for others also help us deal more compassionately with our own hurts/trauma?

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