2nd Sunday in Lent
February 21, 2016
Luke 13: 31-35
The image of the mother hen gathering her chicks was the first thing that hit me about this reading. It’s such a tender image – Jesus as mother hen. “But you were not willing”, he says. As many times as I have wanted to be gathered into Jesus’ tenderness, there have been as many times that I have failed to show up, that I have been going through the motions of prayer and barely living in the way that Jesus expects. There are as many times that my mind wanders, that I just want my comfort, that I just want my way, and I don’t want to be bothered with the cost or work of really being a disciple. I am reminded of a Denise Levertov poem:
Lord, not you,
it is I who am absent.
belief was a joy I kept in secret,
into sacred places:
A quick glance, and away – and back,
I have long since uttered your name
I elude your presence.
to think about you and my mind
like a minnow darts away,
darts into the shadows, into
gleams that fret
the river’s purling and passing.
Not for one second
will my self hold still, but wanders
everywhere it can turn. Not you,
it is I am absent.
You are the stream, the fish, the light,
the pulsing shadow,
you the unchanging presence, in whom all
moves and changes.
How can I focus my flickering, perceive
at the fountain’s heart
The sapphire I know is there?
It’s all true. But Jesus has plenty more to say to those church leaders and civil authorities who have already made up their minds to get rid of him. He is not about to be thrown off the trajectory of what he came to do by threats and danger. His answer to the apparently friendly Pharisees who warn him of Herod’s evil intentions is that he will keep on doing the things that are God’s work: healing people cast out of community, and opening eyes to the power of God to heal and renew. He identifies his work of calling all people back into relationship with God with that of the prophets who were also tortured and run out of town when they pointed accusing fingers at the powerful. He’s on his way to Jerusalem because that is the clash of God’s will and the desires of the authorities will take place.
His call to come into God’s sheltering protection has been a call to all, but not all are willing to give up their own power to claim God’s protection. I’m afraid we are also guilty there. Just like we can hardly be bothered to let Jesus hold us, so the church is busy focused on what we like in worship instead of worrying about who’s not here. We are well enough situated that we don’t worry much about what the barriers are to people living on the edge of financial disaster, and about people who’s lives are out of control because of illness, addiction, lost jobs and other disasters. We don’t like to talk about race, about gender identity, about poverty and welfare, because our minds are pretty much made up about those things, and we don’t want to be challenged to rethink them. I sometimes think our own hardness of heart makes Jesus weep for us.
God wants to bring us in with God’s own love. Jesus came to show us how much God is willing to sacrifice to show us what love looks like. He went all the way to death by challenging the powers of his day, which wanted him to just be quiet and stop trying to change the system. His healing and feeding and teaching encouraged people to claim rights that Rome and the Church were not willing to give them.
This week I saw a drawing by my favorite theologian, Dan Erlander. The caption says, “Why is it that whenever I ask Jesus to come into my life, he always brings his friends?” In the picture is a man on his knees with folded hands, looking at Jesus standing with a black kid, a single mom, a man with an empty bowl, a kid on crutches and one in a wheelchair, and a few in tattered clothes.
We are challenged in this passage to wrestle with what it means to be gathered under Jesus’ wings. God’s call to us is a call to all. God’s work is our work. We can only do it if we are gathered and changed by the love that invites us to participate in God’s vision for the world. We won’t earn our way to heaven by being close and doing God’s work. We will not even be able to do it unless we lean on that love that gives us the strength for the work and heart for it. But just like the healing and nourishing work that Jesus did in his own day, we can be healed of our inward-curving hearts to reach in his name to others need to be gathered. Amen.