Second Sunday in Lent—Year C—February 24, 2013
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and the mediations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, our strength and redeemer. Amen.
When was the last time that you “cut a deal”?
And I do not mean simply that you simply closed negotiations on a good bargain, or made a mutually agreed upon compromise, or shook hands as a way of signifying that all parties involved were on board with the final terms of a contract. I mean, when was the last time that you “cut a deal”? Literally, ritually cut animals in two pieces to signify two parties entering into a covenant with one another, forging ahead with an unbreakable relationship?
When was the last time that you “cut a deal”?
There are a lot of customs around deal making in the Bible that seem strange to us today.
In Ruth, we read that it was the custom of the day for a man purchasing land to remove his sandal and hand it to the seller.
And in the story of Jacob and Esau, the elder Esau gives away his birthright for a simple bowl of stew.
But I think that how God “shakes” on his deal with Abram in Genesis is much stranger. God literally “cuts a deal.” Well, God has Abram do the cutting, but God shows Abram in a dream “a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch” passing through the pieces, signifying that God would wish the same upon God’s-self if God were to break this covenant. That is how serious God was about this deal, this covenant with Abram, that the punishment for breaking it would be to also be cut in two. God had already made the promise of many offspring to Abram, but here now, after many more years without an heir, God “cuts a deal” with Abram. In case there was any question, God takes this promise, this covenant, this deal very seriously!
But that is not the extent of God’s deal cutting; God cuts a deal with us too, with all of humanity. But instead of this time cutting animals in two in order to show how serious God is, God in Jesus is cut, scourged, punctured, nailed, and crucified to show how serious God is about being in relationship with us…to show how much God loves all of creation, especially humanity…and to show how much God wants to cleanse us of sin, to put an end to death, to win us eternal life once and for all.
And that is why Jesus laughs in the Pharisees’ faces and calls Herod a fox. Jesus knows the unspoken deal God made with humanity at creation and then went through many different phases throughout history, the deal cut with Abram being one example. Jesus knows the extent of God’s love, care, concern, and grace for the world. And likewise, Jesus knows what he is to do here on earth. Jesus knows what work needs to be finished during those great three days. And Jesus also knows the way that he will lead after the work is done.
No one else yet understands, but Jesus knows that the Son of Man must be killed in Jerusalem, as were all the prophets of old, but he also knows that God will raise him after three days. In that work, sin and death will be conquered, and a new way, new truth, new life, will be instituted, with Jesus leading the way, in fact as the way.
It is through this cutting that God’s deal will be completed. It is through this violent action of our sin that God will wipe it away. It is through the gore of a death on the cross that the glory of new life will be introduced. It is through apparent weakness and surrender that God will show God’s strength and power. It is through Jesus’ death and resurrection that God gathers all of God’s children, all of us, together, “as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.”
God grants us mercy that we do not have to be the ones cut in order to be redeemed, or do the cutting; God took care of all of that in Jesus. The deal has been cut, and we have been included in that deal through our baptisms. In baptism, we died to sin as Jesus died, and so we were raised to new life as Jesus was. God cut a deal with us, and it is a totally one-sided deal. God did all the work, but we get the reward. Jesus suffered death, but we get to enjoy new life and the kingdom of heaven.
A smoking fire pot and a flaming torch between halves of corpses is no longer the sign of the covenant, nor is the literal cut of circumcision…it is the cross. The Roman torture devise on which God in Jesus was cut in order that we might be spared.
And it is when we realize the immensity of that deal that God cut so long ago, but also just yesterday in comparison, at our baptisms, that we say “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” In Lent, we remember that Jesus has turned his face to Jerusalem and is headed to that cross, in order to “cut a deal” for our benefit, for our lives. Thank God! Amen.