March 13, 2022

Prayer of the Day

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross you promise everlasting life to the world. Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy, that we may rejoice in the life we share in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Amen.

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

1After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” 4But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” 5He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.
  7Then he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.” 8But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” 9He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. 11And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
  12As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.
  17When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.”

Psalm 27

1The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then | shall I fear?
  The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I | be afraid?
2When evildoers close in against me to de- | vour my flesh,
  they, my foes and my enemies, will stum- | ble and fall.
3Though an army encamp against me, my heart | will not fear.
  Though war rise up against me, my trust will | not be shaken.
4One thing I ask of the Lord; one | thing I seek;
  that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek God | in the temple. 
5For in the day of trouble God will | give me shelter,
  hide me in the hidden places of the sanctuary, and raise me high up- | on a rock.
6Even now my head is lifted up above my enemies | who surround me.
  Therefore I will offer sacrifice in the sanctuary, sacrifices of rejoicing; I will sing and make music | to the Lord.
7Hear my voice, O Lord, | when I call;
  have mercy on me and | answer me.
8My heart speaks your message— | “Seek my face.”
  Your face, O Lord, | I will seek. 
9Hide not your face from me, turn not away from your ser- | vant in anger.
  Cast me not away—you have been my helper; forsake me not, O God of | my salvation.
10Though my father and my moth- | er forsake me,
  the Lord will | take me in.
11Teach me your | way, O Lord;
  lead me on a level path, because of | my oppressors.
12Subject me not to the will | of my foes,
  for they rise up against me, false witnesses | breathing violence.
13This I believe—that I will see the goodness | of the Lord
  in the land | of the living!
14Wait for the Lord| and be strong.
  Take heart and wait | for the Lord! 

Philippians 3:17–4:1

17Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. 19Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. 4:1Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

Luke 13:31-35

31At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to [Jesus,] “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32He 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. 33Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34Jerusalem, 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! 35See, 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.’ ”

Hen Gathers Her Brood

Dominus Flevit Church
Jerusalem

Sermon – Pastor Meggan

Today Jesus speaks words of disappointment and heartbreak. He laments: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you!  How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!’” 

When he speaks of Jerusalem, Jesus is referring to the civic leaders, who see Jesus’ message as divisive, controversial, and dangerous. Jerusalem reflects local leaders under the auspices of empire who conspire to eradicate a voice that critiqued their power and challenged their authority. To be clear, not everyone in Jerusalem and certainly not all Jews were opposed to Jesus and his message. Jesus’ critique is against those who criminalize truth-tellers. 

Jesus and his disciples and the journey to Jerusalem may seem too far away in time and space for us to relate to. And yet I think the metaphors of today’s text are as illustrative now as ever. There are many things that gather us together—different affiliations, interests, needs. Do we really trust that nothing can keep us from the love of God, as we sing this season? Sometimes, yes. But often we are resistant to the love of God, to that relationship.

For Jesus, God’s compassionate dream is to gather God’s human children closer.  God is determined to gather God’s children into God’s loving embrace. This mission is at the center of Jesus’ work. God is like a mother hen—including, embracing, and welcoming God’s children into the family of humanity that God has always intended.

The good news is a new community, born not of social custom but of God. Again and again, over and over we see Jesus’ intent to bring in those cast out, to raise up those beaten down, to bring those on the fringes of society close to God’s heart.  This is at the heart of Jesus’ message.  

When Jesus begins his ministry, he links it with the prophecy of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Isaiah spoke these words when the Israelites were in exile in a foreign land. Isaiah’s prophecy saw the Spirit of God causing good news to be declared. The Spirit of God changed lives and transformed societies. That prophecy formed the beginning of a chain reaction of personal and spiritual transformation. 

This new vision must have been on Jesus’ mind as he looked toward the city that would ultimately reject him. With his face towards Jerusalem, Jesus is confronted by some Pharisees. They tell him Herod wants to kill him.  And here Jesus gives the crowd two symbols, two metaphors, two alternatives. One is a fox and the other a hen.

Jesus calls Herod a fox—a metaphor that paints Herod as sly, cunning, and voraciously destructive. As a representative of the powerful who oppress those God seeks to gather, Herod is depicted as a devouring fox.

The Pharisees warn Jesus, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” There is real cause for fear here. John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus, spoke against Herod and Herod imprisoned and beheaded him. Jesus is not afraid.  He has things to do, and he is going to Jerusalem.  

But the danger to the community is real and present.  In some respects, the fox’s style is something familiar and so also somewhat comfortable to us. The fox does keep peace. It is a peace created by making everyone afraid.  There is order because no one wants to feel the fox’s bight.  

The Herod of today’s text, Herod Antipas the ruler of Galilee, is not too different from his father Herod the Great–the king who plotted unsuccessfully to have Jesus killed as a baby. Both Herod’s ruled with fear. They feared any threats to their own existence and instilled that fear into others. Our minds today might immediately picture Vladimir Putin as someone who rules with fear. That is an appropriate connection, but we might think about figures closer to home. Who in our own country or state, elected figures, celebrities, or CEO’s, rules with fear? Are we even aware of the tools they use, of the power fear wields? 

Fear and hate do not come out of a vacuum. Hate speech in the form of political commentary is sinful. Even reposting Facebook or Instagram memes or forwarding emails vilifying anyone, or any group are part of the problem. We Christians cannot claim ignorance. We know better. Jokes and posts and words that promote hate and fear are the acts of foxes. They are dangerous and deadly and do harm to the innocent. We must reject hate-fueled fear just as Jesus did. We must reject hate expressed against our brothers and sisters of other faiths and backgrounds and countries—even if we find such fear and hate in ourselves. 

The trouble with the foxes and the fear they instill is that it keeps us from an alternative that is far better. The alternative Jesus gives is the hen. God is protecting and nurturing. Jesus compares his desire for Jerusalem, as God’s emissary, to that of a mother hen who instinctively draws her young under her wing when danger threatens.  Jesus does not choose the image randomly. Throughout the Old Testament the Lord describes a desire to shelter Israel under her wings.  

The mother hen’s love is steadfast. Her chicks are extremely vulnerable. They wobble around on their little legs. They have no tough outer-shell to protect them–only their fuzzy yellow coverings. The chicks know the warmth and protection of the mother.  

But Jesus laments because God’s people are not like these chicks. The mother hen laments because her young are exposed but will not accept her protection. What more can she do but stand up to the fox and seek to shelter and protect her young?  What will become of the young if they do not accept the shelter of their mother’s wing?

We turn to all sorts of other things for protection and hope and assurance. It might be a political party, a nationality, a gender, a cause, a news source, a weapon, or money. It is so easy to put our trust in these affiliations or resources or even in intangibles like power or status. What do you turn to for hope and assurance? 

Imagine how different our faith history would be if Abram and Sarai, of our Old Testament lesson, had given into the deep and terrifying unknown? Or what if Jesus succumbed to the fear that the Roman authorities had it in for him? What if the person most integral to your faith formation gave into the fear, anger, and hatred all around them? How different would life be if no one taught us that we are beloved by God?

In the final chapter, of Dan Erlander’s book Baptized We Live, he has a piece titled “Freedom to be human, weak, vulnerable.” Try advertising with that slogan in 2022. Erlander writes, “Trusting our heavenly Father, we depend on God for our strength, our security, our validation. Thus, the game is over. We are free! Free to embrace our humanity and to walk as creatures of this earth. Free to be weak, to be honest, to be interdependent, to be vulnerable, to love. We are free to live at the foot of the cross! We are free even to die!”

There are so few places in our world today where we can tell the truth about our brokenness and sorrow and fears. But Jesus said yes to so many people who were on the margins or didn’t fit in or who had been cast aside. Jesus says yes to us when we are afraid, weary, grieving, and depleted, when we are not our best selves.

There are about ten chapters in Luke’s gospel between Jesus turning his head toward Jerusalem and when he actually arrives there. For Jesus, that is a lot of time and space for healing, teaching, calling people to return to God, and painting a picture of God’s reign. In the end, his words and actions are what lead him to the cross.

There is still time to repent, to have a new perspective, and to welcome in God’s reign. But the crowds will not have him. Still, the call is always present. God wants us under God’s wings. God is eager to protect us, to help us, to forgive us, to strengthen us, to welcoming children into the family of humanity that God has always intended. 

The image of the hen suggests the advent of a new creation. Remember the first creation story? A wind from God swept over the waters. In fact, a better translation is that God “brooded” over the waters, as a hen might brood over her young. Jesus is brooding over the face of the deep. He is lamenting Jerusalem’s past, anticipating what he will endure. In the new reign of God, the blessed will not be those who come in the name of power and strength. The blessed will be those who come in the name of the humble and faithful Lord of creation. 

And thanks be to God, the offer to repent and to choose love over fear and hate was, has been, and is open. The offer to welcome the reign of God will continue to be made during and following Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. It was an offer not only to Jerusalem but to the entire world.

Prayers of Intercession

Drawn close to the heart of God, we offer these prayers for the church, the world, and all who are in need.

A brief silence.

You gather the church into a community of mercy and grace. Unify Christians around the globe in efforts to proclaim good news even in the face of opposition and to protect those whose lives are imperiled by the gospel. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

You create the entire universe and call it good. Hinder those who would cause further destruction to our planet’s fragile ecosystems, and augment the calls of those who advocate for thoughtful stewardship of the earth’s resources. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

You raise up leaders committed to love and justice. Nurture in those who govern patience to receive criticism, openness to new ideas, and courage to change course when needed for the sake of the common good. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

You hear us when we cry to you. Attend to those expecting a child, and console those who have experienced miscarriage. Comfort veterans enduring post-traumatic stress. Shield those endangered by domestic violence. Uphold those who are ill or grieving (especially). Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

You kindle faith that moves us into action. Guide children and adults preparing for baptism or confirmation. Empower Sunday school teachers, confirmation leaders, and parents who share their faith with younger generations. Give us all a renewed sense of vocation. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

You welcome us into your heavenly realm. We give thanks for those whose labors on earth are ended and who now rest with you. On the final day, gather all of us, with them, in your loving arms. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Accept the prayers we bring, O God, on behalf of a world in need, for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Amen.

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