Where are we?

Psalm 27, like most of the Psalms, doesn’t really have a context in the narrative sense. This week’s selection comes from the section of the psalter that is attributed to King David, although he may or may not have written most of it (compare theories about Shakespeare’s authorship).

Luke 13:31-35 comes from the opposite end of the chapter from last week’s reading. To his challenging words about the fig tree, Jesus has added a rebuke about legalistic Sabbath observance and the warning that the way into the Kingdom of God is narrow.

What’s going on here?

The Psalms are chock full of images and ideas. Try on a variety of different translations (available through the link above) to see how some of the images might play out. Central to this prayer is the understanding of “the Lord’s house” as a place where God’s people can be protected. At the same time, there’s an undercurrent of what Ignatius called “desolation,” the sense of God’s absence even as we call on him. There’s something to be said about the fact that we feel the need to remind ourselves of God’s presence most urgently when it seems God is absent.

Luke doesn’t give us an immediate indicator of why Herod is so intent on killing Jesus that the Pharisees are worried for him. Presumably it has to do with all this talk about “the Kingdom of God,” which was a term with serious political implications. The Pharisees, who weren’t exactly Jesus’ best friends, may have been worried about getting caught up in the kind of mass execution the Romans and their puppet-kings were so fond of.

“The third day” carries echoes of the resurrection, couched here in terms of Jesus’ death. Jesus is “on [his] way” getting to Jerusalem; later, the Christian community would be called “people of the Way.” This ministry of healing, exorcism, (the life of the church,) and death/resurrection are all of a piece.

Notice the wonderful symbolic contrast between Jesus calling Herod a “fox” and likening himself to a protective “hen.” The hen can’t defeat the fox, but that’s not the point. The point of Jesus’ self-sacrificial death is something much bigger than somehow beating Herod.

The refusal to depend on God, on the part of those connected with the Temple, carries the sense of hypocrisy. As Jesus intimates, the “Temple will be abandoned” when it’s burned by the Romans in 70 AD. Contrast the psalmist’s plea that God not “abandon me to my enemies.”

So what?

Paul Myhre points to the importance of confidence – not so much confidence in oneself or one’s achievements, but confidence in God who is our light and our salvation. Sustaining this trusting, confident relationship is a matter of prayer.

As we’re called to imitate Jesus’ path of self-giving love, the question inevitably arises: where is our trust? Jesus displays his trust in God as he talks about his own mission in terms that even Herod can’t violate. Where are we called to confront dangers and challenges in Christ’s way? How do we trust in God through those times?

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