Eph 6:10-20; Ps 144:1-2, 9-10; Lk 13:31-35
Our only victory is in the LORD. The LORD is blessed indeed! He is our rock. Not only does he provide shelter, shade, and security he also trains our hands for the battle and our fingers for the war. Our only battle is with the evil one, sin, and vice. Indeed, our only war is within our deepest self, in our heart of hearts. Psalm 144 moves back and forth between images of things that are solid and safe and persons who are active and helpful. All of these images refer to the LORD God Almighty, blessed be His Name forever! He is our mercy and our fortress. In the LORD we are secure during battle and he shows us his mercy even there. He is our stronghold and our deliverer. Not only does he give us a safe hiding place; the LORD reaches out to draw us from the swamp. The LORD stands between our enemies and us; he is our shield. We trust in the LORD who subdues our enemies beneath us. The evil one, all sin, and, ever vice are not victorious. We are victorious in the LORD, our Rock. So we sing a song never before sung because we have never so entered into the battle before. So we chant with a ten stringed lyre because we have never before so fought in this war. In the LORD our King, the New David, Jesus the Son of David, we are victorious. No evil sword can harm him for out of his mouth comes the sword of the Word and the Spirit. Saint Paul makes it clear, “our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.” Even now the Lord Jesus gathers us under the shelter of his wings, and we find safety. The Lord Jesus gives us victory at the table of his Word and the altar of his Eucharist.
When a bishop would confirm an adolescent to make him an adult in the church, he would slap him on the cheek. This gesture was later reduced to a sign of peace, a tame and proper handshake. The slap was supposed to remind the new adult member that martyrdom could result from being a part of the Body of Christ. Back then military imagery in liturgy and spirituality was more common and accessible, however, today it seems awkward and out of place. Yet, it keeps coming up in the Scriptures. The Word of God reminds us again and again that we must be ready to engage the enemy and willing to lay down our lives. In his letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul reminds his new converts that they must put on the “armor of God so that they may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the Devil.” What is this battle? Are we really at war? The battle today is with the evil one who does not love anyone, even himself. His only love is for hate. His only speech is deception. Indeed, the war has been won. We are victorious in Christ, but the battles still go on and on. The Devil is desperate; he knows that he is a looser. Yet, we have no protection without the armor of God. We have no security without the belt of truth, the garments of righteousness, the boots of Gospel Peace. Indeed, we can rely upon faith as our shield, salvation as our helmet, scripture as our sword. It is the Holy Spirit praying in us that keeps channels of communication open with the Father Almighty. With Saint Paul and all the saints we can open our mouth in worship and testimony for the bold and startling mystery of the Gospel. Even after they put us in chains, we will have the courage we need to speak the truth in love. Even in places where there is no truth, and love is rare, we will cry out with boldness what everyone wants to hear though they may not admit it or know it.
What a curious beginning for today’s gospel passage. Many questions arise: Why would the Pharisees want to warn the Lord Jesus? Why would King Herod want to kill him? Aren’t the Pharisees as threaten as Herod is? Are the Pharisees now the friends of Jesus? Hasn’t Herod wanted to kill the Lord Jesus for quite some time, or is that another Herod? Why is casting out demons such a threat? What about healing causes fear in the hearts of those who oppose the Lord Jesus? What is his purpose that will be accomplished “on the third day?” The Lord Jesus knows his culture and his history. These people love to hate their prophets, and many prophets have been killed. Indeed, the Lord Jesus also knows himself and he knows the Father. Indeed, for this he has come into the world—to gather together all the little ones who are willing to draw near, even though it may be dangerous. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus speaks a word of prophecy. All of Jerusalem will be abandoned, and no one will see him until they are ready to shout and sing, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” The crowds throughout the city of Jerusalem had these words on their lips on Palm Sunday. Less than a week later, they cried out “Crucify him! We have no king but Caesar!” The foxes have dens, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. Herod and the Pharisees don’t want this Prophet to make things miserable for them. Anyone who is not with him is against him. Anyone who is against him is against the Father. All opposition to the will of the Father is futile and frustrating. Our only blessedness is to welcome the Lord Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. Here we are summoned to receive the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist. This may be dangerous. It will identify us with the one so many people want to kill. Is this what it means to be blessed in the Name of the Lord?