Blue spring flowers on the Cathedral grounds

Today’s Gospel: Luke 11:29-32

Most of us in public life – preachers, teachers, the helping professions, those in business and politics – have learned to be cautiously optimistic “when the crowds [start] increasing.”  My greatest privilege here at the Cathedral is the opportunities given me to proclaim the Gospel to hundreds of people.  There’s nothing like the spiritual adrenaline rush that comes when one mounts the Canterbury pulpit.

We feel both fearful and energized. On Feb. 14, my Canon and I presided at the Ash Wednesday Service to a capacity “crowd” in the Pentagon Memorial Chapel; an inspiring way to start the Lenten journey.  Or, again, our curious new habit of imposing “Ashes to Go” is a powerful way to bring the Church to people, rather than waiting for people to come to Church.

Whether we are in a gothic cathedral, a humble chapel, or in the streets, there can be no doubt that the crowds can seduce us into thinking we’ve got it right.  Crowds can seduce us into thinking mere numbers are the measure of our success.  But we must beware of the crowds, especially if they are increasing.

In today’s Scripture passage, Jesus was, we might say, “at the top of his game.”  At this point in his ministry, according to Luke, Jesus had already conquered Satan when tempted in the wilderness; healed many people of their diseases; called the disciples; cast out demons; taught people in parables; appointed seventy-two elders; and worked miracles.  Yet, as the crowds increased, rather than appeasing them or being seduced by their praise, Jesus spoke truth to them: “just as Jonah was a sign to the people of Ninevah, so the Son of Man is a sign to you (Luke 11: 29-30).” Jesus, by his life, death and resurrection, is a sign to us, an admonishment, to not follow the crowds this Lent, but to follow him.


O Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son taught us that those who wish to be his disciples must take up their cross and follow him: Help us with willing heart to mortify our sinful affections, and depart from every selfish indulgence by which we sin again you.  Strengthen us to resist temptation, and to walk in the narrow way that leads to eternal life; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

(Adapted from Prayers for the Christian Year.)