February 24, 2013 - Luke 13:31-35
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’ He said to them, ‘Go and tell that fox for me,* “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed away from Jerusalem.”Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when* you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” ’
SERMON - "Beneath His Wings"
The words we use to describe God are few. We grasp at words that will encompass the whole of humanity; we are unsatisfied with descriptions that exclude part of creation. We become confused by using the word God over and over as we try not to use “He” so much in order to include all of God’s children. We become frustrated with a language that can never fully describe the reality of God’s Being. In a time where we are aware that the way we speak might hurt others or leave them out, it is helpful to find ways to refer to God that will not be a stumbling block in the path of a sister or brother in Christ. Those who are not comfortable with new ways of using biblical language stumble over unfamiliar ways of addressing God.
The Bible is filled with God-words that encompass a wider vision of who God is. We limit ourselves in our relationship with God when we hold on to language that narrows how we think of God. You see, God is so much more than Father, Creator, God. God is our Rock and our Foundation; God is our Shepherd and our Friend; our Beloved and the Holy One. God is Wisdom, Almighty, Maker, and Teacher. God is I Am.
As you know, we entered into the Lenten season on Ash Wednesday. Many of you were here to receive the imposition of ashes on your foreheads. You know that the ashes represent penitence. We have all lost our way in our lives. Sometimes we find ourselves forgetting why we are here. We become caught up in the expectations of the world and become confused. Jesus knew why he walked this earth and he chose integrity over popularity. Every. Single. Time. We are not so strong, you know? We falter and we fail, even when we intend to stay close to his teachings. We find ourselves running from God, finding excuses to focus on our own things. Sometimes we run because we are confused. Sometimes it’s because we are afraid. Sometimes it’s because we have forgotten our purpose in life.
Learning about Jesus and thinking about his life can help us come closer to God. Jesus did not use exclusively male language to address God or even to refer to himself. What a gift it is to find that Jesus himself gives us another way to call upon God. See, here he is in this scripture calling himself a mother hen. He is telling us that he is a nurturing, warmth-giving caretaker! Now, I am not a farmer, and I don’t know much about chickens. I have read, though, that they protect their chicks against danger with a fierce passion.
There is a little story that was written in the 1940’s by a woman – and this makes me sad, because I don’t actually know her name – she is only identified as Mrs. Floyd McCague. The story is called “Little Red Hen.” Now, you may know a story called “The Little Red Hen” that has to do with baking bread and trying to get help with the work. When nobody wants to help her work, but they want to eat her bread, this Little Red Hen says “No. I will eat it myself.” This is not that story.
The Little Red Hen I’m talking about lives on a farm on the prairie. She has a small brood of chicks that she takes out on little walks and into the farmyard to find meal on the ground to eat. One day, the Little Red Hen sees the flames of a prairie fire blazing toward her, so she calls her chicks to come to her. Most of her babies come waddling over to her. She spreads out her wings, and they crawl under. There is one chick, though, who doesn’t come, but runs away from her and right into the path of the fire. The mother hen calls and calls but he doesn’t come. She pulls the other chicks closer to her, bends her head in to her chest, and holds the babies close. The fire roars through the chicken yard. When the flames have passed, the farmer is able to return to the yard, where he finds the mother hen. She has died in the fire. But – when he moves her, he finds all the chicks except the one, safe and sound, protected by their mother’s wings. This is, of course, a parable. It’s a sad and lovely parable that illustrates the extent of God’s love for us. However, I have heard that chickens really do spread their wings over their chicks to keep them warm and safe from predators. Safe from foxes.
In today’s scripture, Jerusalem is not just a city – Jerusalem is us – all of God’s people, in danger from foxes like Herod. Herod is all those who care only about their own comfort and success and who find it easier to get there by bringing others down. Herod represents those who try to make us feel that we are not good enough, or that we are not doing the right thing. And the Pharisees? They aren’t always our enemies. Sometimes, they are those who mean well. Our Pharisees warn us when we seem to be going against the status quo. They may not be our enemies, but they might be just enough to feed our own fears. They might get us caught up in the little things that bother us, like names for God and what day of the week we take as a Sabbath. They might push us over the edge and back into complacency, if we aren’t careful. Certainly, it seems that this group of Pharisees wanted to help Jesus. They came to him to warn him – Herod’s going to kill you! Go away! Beware! He heard them, and he sent them back to Herod, saying, listen – I’m going to do what I’m Called to do. That old fox can say whatever he wants, but I’m going to heal and I’m going to preach and I’m going to teach. I’ll do it over there in Galilee for a couple of days, but I’ll be back, come what may. In other words, unlike us, Jesus stood his ground. He knew his purpose, and he was not going to be frightened or shamed away from fulfilling that purpose. He went to the places where he was needed, and when it was time, he went back to Jerusalem.
To be true followers of Jesus, we have to learn to stand our ground as well. We need to know when to move on, to take Christ’s message someplace else for awhile. We need to know when to lie low, to recharge, and to refocus. Being a good follower of Jesus isn’t about being a good “Christian.” It really isn’t. It’s about being willing to do what God has called us to do honestly and with integrity. It’s about sharing the Good News that we are all God’s beloved children, drawn together under God’s protective wings. It’s about knowing that if we start to run the wrong way, we can turn back.
Not long ago, I went through a short time of wondering what it was I was supposed to be doing in this life. I started to feel as if I was not good enough – for what, I didn’t know – I just felt inadequate. I started to think about what other people thought of me. I think I felt a little like that one lone chick who ran the wrong direction in the path of the fire.
How beautiful it is to think about a God who loves and protects us if only we would allow it to happen. A God who brings us together, wherever we are from, and however we imagine God to be. A God whose names are many. Yet, a God in whose name we may come and be blessed. During this Lenten Season, let us consider why we are here, on this earth; in this community; in this life. We have a purpose – to live as Christ has taught us to live; to love as Christ has taught us to love, and to be together in community, as Christ has brought us together.
When I was going through my low moments a few days back, I found myself whining and moaning. I felt like nobody that mattered liked me or understood me, even though I knew I have plenty of people who love me. After a little prayer and some encouragement from my friends, I remembered, and I wrote this little poem, a haiku:
For just a moment
She may have lost her purpose
But God remembers