Lord, Grant That I in Ev’ry Place May Glorify Your Lavish Grace!

(This is the chapel devotion for Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary on Monday, March 18, 2019)

What will deter you in carrying out ministry?

Will it be the frustration of that summer-camp that sees many kids eagerly kicking balls into soccer nets but even with faithful follow-up seems to end with no children or families in the gospel’s net?

What will deter you in carrying out ministry?

Will it be the opposition that rises up as you speak the truth in love to someone persisting on a sinful path as family members circle the wagons against your “attack” rather than joining you in urging their loved one to repent?

What will deter you in carrying out ministry?

Will it be your own sinful nature’s longing to remain in your safe and familiar comfort zone even though opportunities beckon you to venture onto ministry paths untrodden through perils unknown?  I’m ashamed how slight of a contrary breeze gets me thinking about turning tiller toward safe harbor!

What deterred Jesus in carrying out ministry?

Yesterday’s gospel gave plentiful evidence of the opposing forces that sought to deter him in ministry (Lent 2, Year C, Luke 13:31-35). [Here Luke shows us Jesus on his final trip to Jerusalem, but the journey has not yet put Jesus beyond Herod’s jurisdiction.  Jesus seems to be taking his time working his way through the towns and villages of Galilee.    

That’s when some Pharisees seek to rush his plans! “Leave this place and go somewhere else.  Herod wants to kill you.” 

Whatever their motives were, Jesus, who knew their hearts, speaks to them as if they were Herod’s appointed emissaries.  “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’  In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day – for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!”   With a double prophetically authoritative “take note of this!” Jesus checks his schedule and informs Herod that, sorry, but he had no room on his calendar to be intimidated by threats that day or the next or the next.  Jesus’ schedule called for him to hang around a few more days right under Herod’s nose to cause havoc in Satan’s kingdom and to display the lavish grace of his own kingdom!  When that work was completed, he would move on!  

And, what is more, did they really think a death threat would make Jesus run for cover!  Hardly!  Jesus  had come to offer himself as the Lamb of God, yet Jesus knew he would not die by the nibble of a fox in Galilee but by the nails of a cross near Jerusalem!  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!  Look, your house is left to you desolate!  I tell you, will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”  Even  Jerusalem, that city awash for centuries in the blood of God’s slaughtered and stoned messengers, could not turn Jesus from his path! 

That reality, that nothing could deter him from his path, puts on display for all to see his lavish love!  Though these Pharisees and Herod might never grasp what they saw, his undeterred path was his dying love for them – forgiveness even for foxlike deceits and murderous plots!  Even though blood-spattered Jerusalem was not willing to recognize their Savior’s merciful visitation, how often his lavish love longed to gather even this stubborn city under his protecting wings – yes, love even for the very city that would put him to death! 

But that glorious reality will never matter to those who refuse to see it!  So, Jesus longs that this not be true of us!  He wants us to see that his lavish love extends not only to stubborn and murderous Jerusalem but also to timid and fearful followers like you and me.   As we watch our Lord Jesus refuse to be bowed or bent or blustered off a course that ends at a cross, we are viewing the forgiving grace for each of us that is Lent’s marvel! It is the lavish grace that made his death not an unforeseen trap sprung from the heart of his enemies, but the eternal saving purpose sprung from the heart of our God! 

And do you know what happens when our hearts ponder his undeterred lavish love for us?  We are emboldened to be undeterred in our gospel ministry!  We learn how to answer the threats of those who oppose us!

“Yes, my sinful heart, you are warning me about obstacles ahead that may be uncomfortable for me?  Well, I just don’t have time to worry about that today, tomorrow, or the next day.  You see, I have gospel ministry to carry out.”

“And yes, real or imagined ministry failures, you want me to slip into a paralyzing funk? Well, sorry, as much as my natural heart loves a good pout, this week’s schedule only has room for new ministry efforts, which, yes, I already know, have no guarantee of what will come of them.”

“And yes, oh witting or unwitting enemies, you want to discourage me from carrying out needed gospel work?  Well, I’d really love to worry about what you think of me, but the schedule today, tomorrow and the next day already are taken up with thinking about what will honor the Savior whose lavish grace let nothing deter him from earning my salvation.  You see, as we sang in the hymn of the day, here is what consumes all my time: 

‘Lord, grant that I in ev’ry place may glorify your lavish grace!’” (CW 434:2)  Amen.