Sermon: Lent 2C, Sunday February 24, 2013, St Petri
Series: Believing is seeing
Seasons of Doubting (Seeing that we are to be willing to be gathered close to God)
The fox and the hen
Luke 13: 31- 35
31 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.’[a]”
Friends, if any of us have ever loved someone that will not love us back – a friend, a brother, a sister, partner, a child….. we know that this is a painful experience. If we have ever loved a person but cannot protect them form the hard consequences of their own choices, we might begin to experience today the depth of Jesus’ sorrow for his wayward people.
As Jesus resolutely continues his chosen journey or “exodus” to Jerusalem, as Luke tells it, he has one of those moments where senses are heightened, things are clear, the heart is fully engaged and sorrow is deep. As he casts his watering eye over the only city in the world that ever matters to a Jewish person, he sings a sad song, a lament.
He loves, but the object of his love will not let him near. He is like a mother hen who longs to gather in her children so that she can be near to them, protect them, guide them, be tender, intimate and affectionate with them.
But they will not respond to any call from her. The children will not come. They do not want to be near. They believe they do not need what the Mother Hen can give. They seem to want to follow someone else instead. There is not only a hen to follow but a fox – and the fox is in the city.
There is a fox and he cunning and he is deceit. That is who is in this city, as Jesus sees it. The fox is on the hunt for the hen’s blood and the Fox’s henchmen sound the warning, “Get out of here, Jesus, before the fox gets you!” they say.
Herod Antipas is the Fox. An ancient, Idi Amin, Napoleon, Adolf Hitler, Robert Magabe, or any other corrupt and power hungry person on the hunt for taking the next set of advantages from the poor or anyone who challenges the status quo.
Herod is the great politician and builder of monuments to the world – and himself. He and his father before him built the most precious building of them all in the most important city of all. Even as Jesus sings this sad song of lament over the city before him, in the city Herod Antipas is rebuilding the Temple to its former glory – surpassing the glory of Solomon’s temple.
Herod is the master power keeper. As a result, he needs plenty of places to hide-plenty of loot in his several fortresses – places to which he can escape if things turn bad. He is cunning. He is deceptive. And people fear him, work for him and grease his palms to scale their own ladders to power and money.
He offers the easy route to the top – as long as you pay back his favours and never question his evil ways as John the Baptists did about Herod’s marital affairs and was beheaded for it. Herod gathers people in on the basis of power, pay-back, control and self-seeking, and offers them the world if they slavishly follow his commands.
The fox seems so very strong and worth trusting – at least at first. The fox delivers – at first. He appeals to all that is selfish, all that is so very human and we find ourselves entangled. “Gather us in to your world” we find ourselves saying to the fox. We want what you offer. It is quick. It is immediate. It feels good. It keeps us feeling happy. It makes us feel as though we are really getting somewhere. It helps us take control of our life…..”
But what about the hen? The hen seems so week to the fox. The hen cries. The hen weeps. The hen longs to gather us in. The hen is the creator of our very being and the hen weeps as he sees us turn to follow the fox for one more day, and the next day, and the next…
He calls in a million ways and in well crafted words that are his very own words, in our very own language, but the children will not hear the call, They pretend they never did, like kids watching TV when mum calls it’s dinner time and they ignore it to stay in their own little world just a bit longer.
What will the hen do to gather the children? Will the hen adopt the way of the fox – power, influence, manipulation, fear?
Friends, if any you have ever loved someone you cannot make love you in return and could not protect, then you will know what the hen will do… You know because you do it. You love and love again.
You will love and you may cry more tears, because all you can do is open your arms. You cannot make that loved one walk into them. But you open your arms as you invite their company, speak words of acceptance, forgiveness, act in gestures of tenderness, kindness – even if it is rejected, again and again and again.
This is the position of the Hen. It is the most vulnerable posture in the world –wings spread, breast exposed — but if you mean what you say, then this is how you stand.
He stood this way. When he went into this violent city with a track record before and after for killing God’s messengers and gave his all he was spread-eagled on a wooden beam high above the city again and he bled and he wept and he even spoke those words that have echoes through ages to anyone who has ever failed him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”.
The hen stands before you with arms wide open and those words echoing in your heart now. “Father forgive this wayward child of mine. Forgive, forgive”.
Come, friend. Lay down your pursuit of the Fox; your pride, your disobedience, your rebellion, your lack of love, your avoidance of this God who longs to have you close. Hand over your sorrow, your fighting words, your hard heart, your unforgiveness, your pain, your lament, your fragility and take hold of pure self-giving love that has conquered the world and given us the glory of God’s grace to change the world and change all of us.
Believe in the hen. Reject the fox. Hear Jesus singing a sad song for you. Hear him pointing you toward another song – a song of love, a song of acceptance and victory over the fox and his way. A song of grace as he gathers you close now by is cross and renews you in following the way of the hen, the way of resurrection and life.
As you know again the privilege and joy of being gathered to the Jesus, will you weep for Nuriootpa – a town like any other in this country with people living in her who reject the word of the prophets and dispose of those sent to gather them into their Creator’s grace and love?
This is mission spirit right here: to be the hen who in all humility and service opens up the door and the heart to the stranger knowing that we may very well take a hit of rejection, cynicism, even dislike, and yet, relentless as the hen in seeking to gather, to protect, to care for the stranger, the disconnected, even weeping for them and not for the self as our work as Jesus’ hand and feet goes on and we seek and invite and care again and again and again.
Give me a church of hens who are continually inviting in, welcoming, seeking, bearing witness in serving the stranger, the disconnected, the lost, and I will show you the new Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the golden – a transformed community of light – of witness, nurture, service, fellowship and worship of the resurrected Jesus!
This is what I live to be part of – a local church – a gathering of the Crucified king who is dying for this town to be with him and empowering his people to be and do the same.
And maybe, we do be follow the way of the hen and be his open-hearted, forgiving, vulnerable servants more and more together, we might hear stories like this…
Play media file – “belong.wmv”…