Summary: This series is based loosely on the facts and stories found in the "Living Lent" sermon series written by Donald Neidigk.
Living Lent 5 - “The Vulture Reveals a Coming Savior”
Lent is just flying by… I can’t believe that next week is already Palm Sunday! As I’ve been reminding us these past few weeks… we are in Lent… the period before Easter where we focus on Christ and prepare our hearts and minds for that splendid Easter morning. As a church, we are spending this time hearing from animals to teach us lessons about Christ and to help us prepare for Easter! So far… we’ve heard from a fox… we’ve heard from a donkey… we’ve heard from a dove, and we’ve heard from a chicken. This week we will be learning a little something from a vulture. I’ll admit… this one cracks me up a little. Of all the animals they could have picked to teach us something about Jesus… a vulture! Really!?! In fact, why don’t you turn to the person next to you and exclaim… “A vulture! Really!?!”
To get us rolling… let’s just stay away from what we think of vultures for a little while and look at what the Old Testament has to say about vultures. They don’t come up very often but when they do, the image they portray is quite powerful... let’s look at three quotes really quick:
“13 These are the birds you are to detest and not eat because they are detestable: the eagle, (and also at the top of the list) the vulture”, followed by many other… very icky birds.
6 I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own. 7 They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor. 8 Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like a vulture swooping to devour; 9 they all come bent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand.
20 All his days the wicked man suffers torment, the ruthless through all the years stored up for him. 21 Terrifying sounds fill his ears; when all seems well, marauders attack him. 22 He despairs of escaping the darkness; he is marked for the sword. 23 He wanders about-- food for vultures; he knows the day of darkness is at hand.
Now… this is not a pleasant picture to be starting out with: detestable… devouring… harbingers of darkness and torment. This sounds like a bird we should be keeping around as pets… doesn’t it?
The New Testament doesn’t do the vulture any favors either… both times it is mentioned Jesus is talking about when he will come again and I invite you to follow along with today’s scripture lesson from the gospel of Matthew:
23 At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect-- if that were possible. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time. 26 "So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.
So, imagine my trouble getting my head around turning the vulture into a sermon illustration for Christ. The Old Testament has them as detestable… the New Testament has them as a sign of the end times! I was really worried for a while thinking… “What is this going to teach us about Christ?” And then… I got to know the vulture a little better, and you will be shocked at the things I had to learn.
Now, I want you to do something for me… I want you to get a visual image of a vulture in your mind. Now… I would bet that a lot of us are conjuring the same image. By show of hands… how many of you imagine a vulture… circling in the air slowly… over some poor creature knocking on death’s door. It is almost an iconic image for vulture’s… especially those of us raised on cartoons like Bugs Bunny.
Let me push this just a little bit further… how many of you when you think of a vulture circling… think of a poor animal underneath dying or already dead. While this is true… we are only HALF right. There is much more for us to learn about the circling vulture.