This morning's Gospel reading, from the Book of Luke (13:31-35) gives us a glimpse into the inner life of Jesus - at a time when Herod is out - literally, to kill him. Jesus has recently travelled from to the city of Jerusalem, to complete his Ministry.
For me, living safe & well provided for in the city of North Vancouver, I can only imagine how terrifying it must have been living back in the time of Jesus, to be poor and homeless, walking the streets of a city of like Jerusalem. Jesus tells us it was: "a city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it"!
Theologians, writing about that period in time, tell us it was: "a site of great evil, but also of great things. ... where human sinfulness and divine intervention meet. "the city of death, [where] life awaits; ....in the midst of pain, there is glory. What about the terror, that one would feel, of knowing that someone, who is as evil and powerful as King Herod, is hunting you down like a wild animal? Yet Jesus, instead of going rigid with fear or running for his life, defiantly tells the Pharisees:
"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."
If we were to translate, into modern day language, what Jesus is really saying, my sense is it would be something like: "Get out of my way, and stop wasting my time! I've got important work to do - and neither you, nor anyone else, is going to throw me off track!"
Casting out demons was part of Jesus ministry, in battling the devil and establishing the Kingdom of God. Performing cures was part of Jesus' calling, to release the captives and restore sight to the blind. Clearly, the threats of Herod (who is depicted, in today's Gospel reading as the Fox) has no control over Jesus. Jesus carries on to say how often he has desired to gather (Jerusalem's) children together,..."as a hen gathers her brood under her wings", but Jerusalem's children were not willing.
So what insight can we gain about Jesus depicting himself as a Hen, and Herod as a Fox? Here's what I learned, upon closer examination:
On stage right, I present you with the Fox: We commonly know the fox to be a cunning, smart and quick witted animal. A fox likes to go out hunting, independently, in the darkness of the night. I learned that the fox can be deceitful and is often viewed as a trickster. It uses cunning to get around obstacles, instead of confronting them head on. But what I found most interesting, is that, in the (FN) animal spirit world, the fox may call you to be more discerning in relationships, in your life choices and with your actions. (I will pick up this discernment thread, later in my sermon). In my opinion Herod, is well cast, as the Fox.
On stage left, I present you with the Hen. The adult female chicken is called a hen and her young are called chicks. They are a common, domestic (farm bird) of which we are probably all well acquainted. The hen cannot fly; she is grounded.
Hens are messy, clumsy and cluck alot! You could say they are hospitable - come on! - give the Hen a break!, she does put breakfast on your table every morning, if you'd let her (eggs!!...poached, boiled or scrambled?) But did you know: Hens are also smart! Not cunning like the worldly fox, but smart in ways that matter. Did you know a hen can plan, anticipate and worry? Did you know a Hen will actually alarm her chicks if she senses danger is present? That she will position herself between the danger and her chicks? That she will even die so that her chicks might live, hiding them under her outstretched wings?
Well, I have certainly gained a little more respect for the common Hen. Granted - in the world - the Hen is no match for the Fox, but the Hen's personal qualities -don't you think - parallel those of Jesus?
- offering hospitality
- shelter from the storm
- humbleness, humility
- unconditional love
- choosing courage over bravery
- standing up to violence, even when the odds weigh heavily against
- sacrificing her life for another's
If fact, if you take things a step further, aren't we all like a Mother Hen's brood of chicks? We're often distracted, scattered, curious - not always focused on what's important - and often fail to recognize the danger - such as the crafty fox - who's lurking about. We often get 'sucked in'; taken as their prey.
So, what is it that gives Jesus the courage to press on, even when there is a price on his head? I believe the answer is found in the 3 guiding principles which Jesus lived his life by. He was:
1. inner directed
2. very clear about the driving force in his life
3. stayed focused on achieving his personal goals, no matter what was
happening around him;
The driving force in his Jesus life was to do God's will; to live out his calling.
to bring forth the Kingdom of God; to spread unconditional love, joy and peace to everyone he encountered.
By being inner directed, Jesus was committed to regularly making time to be - alone and in silence - connecting with the Spirit of God or the 'still small voice within'.
Jesus was focused: he knew what was important, in life, and what was not. His dedication to his inner work (God) centered him and he was at peace in his heart. Regardless of what he encountered in his path, he kept focused on what was really important, even when he knew great suffering and pain was inevitable.
Quite honestly, our humaness makes it virtually impossible for us to function in this mode, at all times. However, it's important to recognize that when we do 'let go' and 'let God', there is serenity in our hearts - deep peace in our bodies - no matter what is going on around us. Knowing this, Jesus lamented for the people of Jerusalem. He wanted to gather her children around him, under his wing like a Mother Hen, but they were not willing. Despite Jesus' outpouring of love for Jerusalem, its people only show scorn and rejection.
In the words of contemporary writer Father Richard Rohr,
"God loves us so that we can change, [because] Loved people have the courage and the energy to imagine new things." God tirelessly calls us to come home, to return to the centre, where we can be nurtured and fed with food that will enrich and sustain us on life's journey. All we need to do is: be still in the presence of the Lord; and, to be Open to the gifts God has in store for us.
- love beyond the fear;
- love beyond the threats;
- love that brings shelter from the storm;
Come to think of it, aren't these all 'cross-roads' Jesus asks us to travel down, in the Season of Lent?
Each year, during the season of Lent, we are encouraged to experience the way of the Cross. As portrayed in today's Gospel reading, we are called to undergo a self-examination of our day-to-day lives; to dig, deep down in our hearts to discern whether or not our life's journey is focused and leading us to the cross. Whether, or not, the driving force in our lives will bear the fruit of love, peace and joy. Whether our life works will inspire others to follow and be co-creators of God's kingdom.
Therefore, my fellow travellers, let's plant our feet firmly on the Lenten path, walking with God as our companion. Walking through resistance, discomfort and pain. Taking time to rest under the shadow of His wing;
…to discern the desires of God and come alive to our own unique calling.
Walking through to the joy of service. Till we at last come to terms with the cross, finding forgiveness, a love that triumphs over death - and awakens us to new life.
For as Jesus reminds us: ..."blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord". I close with a prayer:
Thank you, gracious God, for loving us, for longing for us, for seeking us.
Help us to receive your love and enter your compassionate embrace.
Break down the walls of resistance and rejection that keep us from you.
Enter the centre of our souls and our hearts this Lenten season. Keep us in your mercy and let us come home to you, for your tender mercies' sake.
By Juanita Clark