March 13, 2022, Good Enough: So Much Is Out Of Our Control, by Pastor David

Luke 13: 31-35. At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! 34 “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, and you were not willing. 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Meditation - We take a moment of silence to lament the violence in our world, and to pray for peace and compassion 

March 13, 2022 Good Enough: So Much is Out of our Control - 
a focus on domestic violence

Sometimes life can be so frustrating. One time when my son was little I had an argument with Cathy over something that felt really important to both us. I don’t remember what the argument was about but I remember I was so frustrated that I took the plastic bottle of seltzer I was holding in my hand and threw it on the kitchen floor - fizzy water flying all over the place. That got everybody’s attention! including my own. But it didn’t get me my way. 
Bullies and despots sometimes do get their way by force - for a while. We can see from where we are right now that Putin is winning some of the battles. He may even win the war, but in the end he will be defeated. He is sowing the seeds of his own defeat through his attempts to control people who will not be controlled. 

Control is one of the biggest issues in relation to domestic violence. People who feel like they should be in control in a relationship sometimes use force to assert that control. Most often it is men asserting control over women, but domestic violence happens in all kinds of relationships, straight and gay, women over men, but most often men asserting control over women. Ironically, when they get caught crossing the line into violence, many men claim they did it because they were “out of control,” so they didn’t even have control of themselves.
Domestic violence, as we have been learning in our group with Laurel House, is present in all kinds of places in all kinds of relationships, in all kinds of congregations - rich and poor, in families that seem to have it all together and families that seem like a wreck. That’s why I scheduled a service on this uncomfortable topic during the second Sunday in Lent. It needs to be addressed in all parts of our society. Though it’s difficult to face, we have to take it on. 
One of the things I learned early in the work that challenged me the most was the strong admonition against offering counseling to a couple where the pastor suspects abuse is going on. That advice challenged my own sense of wanting to be in control and fix things. They told me that counseling can be dangerous for someone who is being abused, because the abuser uses it to further control the situation. 

We were told that the first thing to do is to meet separately with people who may be in a compromised situation, to make sure that the woman and the children are safe. Believing a person when they say they are being abused is critically important, of course. We are figuring that out in our society, even though we tend to hear about the exceptions rather than the vast majority of cases where abuse is accurately reported. We clergy are being advised to go to court with a person who we know is being abused, but not with a batterer. This seems obvious in a way, but it challenges pastors right where we live. We want to help everybody. 
Women who are abused often get blamed for their own mistreatment, as though they in charge of what the other person is doing. They are told that they are not good enough, and often believe that somehow they are not good enough, strong enough, smart enough. That’s one reason the theme in our Lenten services is so important. We all need to know that God loves us as we are, that we are good, even when we are flawed. Those flaws and shortcomings, however, never justify mistreating other people. 

We don’t have time this morning to deal with forgiveness in relation to domestic violence. Let me just flag that forgiveness is complicated when it comes to mistreatment of people. It’s not automatic and it has to be controlled by the one who was wronged. Pastors who jump to advising women to forgive, before their is some kind of accountability are creating problems for everyone by trying to do an easy fix. 

Let me say a couple things about the assigned reading this morning in relation to these issues. Jesus in this passage is warned by some religious leaders that Herod is after him. Jesus clearly knows that some or maybe much of life’s circumstances are out of our control. Jesus knows he can only bring the message. He knows he is called to bring the message of the new reign of God even if it puts him danger. He can’t make people accept the message and it is frustrating to him. 

Kate Bowler, who wrote Good Enough, wrote a previous bestseller called, Everything Happens for a Reason (and Other Lies I Loved) She writes about all the ways we try to reason our way out of the discomfort we feel about suffering. We know that we can’t control things and we project that God is in control of every little thing. But God does not control every little thing - in our lives or in Jesus’ life. 

Jesus challenges Herod’s death-dealing, controlling, cruelty, and the religious leaders manipulation, yet he also sees them as barnyard chicks caught in a storm, too afraid and too stubborn to find shelter under the shadow of the mother hen’s wings. He sees all of us in our fear and rigidness, sees the goodness behind our wounds. Jesus shows that there is a power of peace and justice in creation - some of us call it that power God. That power does not control everything, but it does win in the end no matter how much despots and bullies try to take over. 

We need to align ourselves with that Spirit rather than with powers and principalities of the domination system -whether that is in Ukraine or in our midst. Domestic violence is not a women’s issue. It’s an issue for the community. It’s an issue for the church. We are called to help women know that they are good and do not deserve to be mistreated, no matter what the fox says, no matter how much they try to convince them that they deserve to be mistreated. 

the foxes, the dominators, the despots and abusers, they are not in charge as much as they think they are. And if even Jesus knew that he couldn’t control everything, why would we feel deficient when we can’t control everything in our world? Here the good news - God loves us as we are - we are good and loved in God’s sight, called to be God’s people no matter where we’ve been. 

Reflective Hymn - That’s Enough for Me