The Barrel

by The Rev. John H. Pavelko
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Year A - 2001-2002 | Year B - 2002-2003  | Year C - 2003-2004

A Mission Driven Life
Year C - 2nd Sunday in Lent Luke 13:31-35

Propelled to stardom in 1979 for his portrayal of a cop who becomes a road warrior in the movie Mad Max, Mel Gibson then enjoyed a string of successful films in which he defined the role of action hero. His stardom brought his fame, wealth, power and booze, despair and self-hatred. Struggling with suicidal thoughts, Gibson was driven to his knees only to discover the God who died for his sins. That spiritual journey gave birth to a cinematic mission-how could he depict on screen what God had done for him in Jesus Christ. The idea percolated for 12 years during which he read the historical studies and devotional classics on the death of Christ. 

He took his idea to various studios but everyone turned him down. Some questioned its audience appeal others were uncomfortable by its religious focus. Others thought it would be a career-ending move for Gibson. Undaunted, Mel Gibson decided to finance the production personally and began filming in August of 2002. As news about the movie became public, the criticism escalated. Months before anyone even previewed the film charges were made that Gibson was anti-Semitic, and the film too violent. Then people started digging into his private life hoping to expose some contradictory flaw between the man and his mission. Their investigative efforts uncovered Gibson's father who claims that the Holocaust is fiction. Gibson endured the criticism and sleazy journalism. He steadily worked on completing his mission.

During this past year, Mel Gibson has not only put to film the story of our Savior's final 12 hours but he himself has also experienced in a small measure the type of criticism that our Savior encounter throughout his ministry. Criticism, ridicule and rejection are the common forms of opposition that must always be overcome if a person wants to accomplish anything great.

People have different motives for their opposition to project of epic proportion. Some are jealous over the possibility for success of another person. Some fear the possibility of change. They may lose their status and power. They may simple dislike the new order. Whatever their reason, people will resort to whatever methods are available.

Our gospel lesson, takes place at a time when Jesus' popularity and influence had a dramatic effect on the nation. Everyone had heard stories about him. Everyone knew that his message challenged the religious establishment. He ridiculed the powerful and denounced the religious striving for personal piety that neglected caring for the poor and social outcast. His teaching threatened to disrupt the very foundation of Jewish society. But his critics had to keep their distance because they also knew that he possessed an unexplainable power. So, his opponents resorted to creating a diversion by spreading a rumor that Herod was threatening to kill him. Herod had already executed his cousin John the Baptist and could have easily done the same to him. Jesus deftly avoids their trap by using a bit of "holy sarcasm."1 The Jewish people did not hold the fox in high esteem. They have little inherent power forcing them to resort to relying on their cunning. The Pharisees themselves considered this attribute treacherous and worthless. Jesus response exposes their veiled motives. They were not concerned for his safety. They had other reasons for encouraging him to relocate.

By his response, Jesus not only reveals his contempt for the powerful but also how he was able to persevere under that barrage of criticism and threats. He was a man on a mission. He had to keep going today, tomorrow and the next day. His destiny was the holy city of Jerusalem and he would not be detoured.

Let me ask you, what drives you? What motivates you to face opposition and criticism? What keeps you going when everyone else is complaining?

In his book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren lists five forces that often drive people. Some people are driven by their need for approval. They choose the career their parents wanted for them. They were clothes that will impress their friends. Other people are driven by materialism. Their desire to acquire guides every decision. All their choices are measured by how it will enhance their net worth. Some people are driven by guilt. They made a horrible mistake and hope to rectify it. Their life is filled with regrets and shame. Others are driven by fear. They suffered a traumatic experience in their childhood and now refuse to take chances. They limit their goals to safe, easily obtainable ones. And some are driven by anger and resentment. They cannot forgive a past wrong inflicted on them by another person. They rehearse the past over and over. They cannot forgive or forget.2

Approval, materialism, fear, guilt and anger are powerful motivational forces that will drive people to accomplish many things but they are not powerful enough to enable you to withstand the assault of your critics. They will not inspire you during moments of despondency and despair. They will not encourage you to continue through the boring drudgery of the everyday routine. You need a higher mission, a more noble purpose.

In his book, "Man's Search For Meaning," Austrian psychiatrist Dr. Viktor Frankl documents the profound power that a life purpose exerts over an individual under even the worst of circumstances. During his internment in a Nazi concentration camp, Frankl, that prisoners who felt they had nothing to live for succumbed, while those who perceived themselves as having a mission to complete, struggled to survive. These prisoners were deprived of all external supports that might give life meaning but they survived. Frankl states, "It did not really matter what they expected of life, but rather what life expected from them." Their sense of an inner purpose pulled them through the most horrible physical and emotional experiences so that they might make their unique contribution to the world.3 

So, I ask you again, what is your mission in life?

Our Presbyterian heritage tells us that the chief end of humanity is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. That is a good starting place for any mission. We need to ask ourselves how are we glorifying God? How are we enjoying Him?

I can think of no greater way to glorify God than to emulate the mission and desire of His Son. Using familiar imagery to an agrarian society, Jesus tells the Pharisees that he desired to bring the Jewish people under the protective wings of God. 

Any farmer will tell you that a hen is very protective of her brood. At the first sign of danger, she will call her offspring to her and spread her wings to protect them. She will even go so far as to sacrifice her life for the safety of her chicks. The image is used frequently in the book of psalms in reference to God.

Because you are my help, 
I sing in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 63:7

He will cover you with his feathers, 
and under his wings you will find refuge; 
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4

Jesus now uses it to refer to his own mission and desire and in so doing, directs us in our mission-bring people under the protective care of God. The Pharisees felt very magnanimous by warning Jesus of Herod's threat but Jesus knew that a greater peril threatened them.

Do you see that danger stalking your friends and family who are outside of Christ?

Christianity is often presented as just one philosophical option among many. Philosophers debate its strengths and weakness in comparison to the other religions of the world. While Christianity often receives high marks for its teaching on love and social justice such a comparison misses the true demarcation of the faith. The shadow of God's wings only covers those who have placed their faith in God's son.

Such exclusive language is considered arrogant in our pluralistic society. We are supposed to value the religious beliefs of other by resisting the urge to convince them that are beliefs are superior. That argument assumes that each religion has merit and provides a different look into the wisdom of God.

But I ask you if every religion has value, why did Jesus risk his life?

If every religion provides a glimpse into the divine, why did Jesus endure the torment of the scourging and humiliation of his trial?

If every religion offers hope of life eternal, why did Jesus allow Roman soldiers to drive nails through his hands and feet? At any moment, at any time during his trial, Jesus could have recanted. He could have claimed that he had been Any farmer will tell you that a hen is very protective of her brood. At the first sign of danger, she will call her offspring to her and spread her wings to protect them. She will even go so far as to sacrifice her life for the safety of her chicks. misunderstood. He could have begged for mercy. But he remained silent because he knew that he could only gather his brood under the protection of his wings by spreading his arms across a wooden Cross.

Do you share that same mission? Are you driven to bring people under the protective wings of God?

1 1Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"--Jkt., Lk 13:31. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989.
2 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 2002), 27-30.
3 Victor Frankl, The Meaning of Life.

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Crossroads Presbyterian Church
1445 Welch Rd
Walled Lake MI 48390