Listen to the gospel lesson and sermon here.
31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you."32 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.33 Yet 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.'34 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!35 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.' "
Well friends, We’re 10 days into the season of Lent now, and since I asked last week, I figure I’ll ask again, How is your Lenten experience going thus far? Have you encountered, resisted, or given in to any temptations? Have you confronted any demons or experienced any release in your self-assessment and discernment?
Lent is such a unique gift for us as Christians. We intentionally enter into a 40 day journey of exploring our faith with the grace to weed out all the noise and false hope in our lives. I was talking with a friend the other day who has Lutheran tradition in her past, but now attends a non-denominational church. And she was lamenting that while deep in her liturgical soul she knew it was lent, but she was now in a community of faith that didn’t recognize or celebrate the liturgical calendar.
And my heart was heavy for her because even though she could certainly take on the season of Lent on her own, I could tell that she was deeply longing for a community to journey with. A community that was willing to be vulnerable with her and intentionally take on a season of penitence and reflection. Introspection and contemplation.
That’s what Lent is, and the beauty of it all is that it is something we choose to do. It’s an opportunity we take on, Perhaps begrudgingly at times, but as a community of faith, rooted in our liturgical tradition, we spend a mere 40 days looking within ourselves and our lives to discern the aspects that disrupt our relationship with God. And we do so among our siblings in Christ. A community committed to the humble and vulnerable practice of Lent, which helps us to be mutually accountable.
Ya know, God is fully invested in us. God abundantly and endlessly pours out grace upon grace, naming and claiming us as children of God, brining is in to the one body of Christ.
And so it is together, as a community, as a whole that we spend time confessing and repenting that we have fallen short. Naming the temptations that fester, disturb, and destroy our God-given relationships.
This is why we Lent. Starting with Ash Wednesday- a service of extended confession and an imposition of ashes. Reminding one another that we were created by God from dust and to dust we shall return. And God does remarkable things even with dust. And on our dusty foreheads we bear the overwhelming yet freeing witness that we are utterly and wholly dependent upon God. Everything else fades away, but God and God alone creates, empowers, sustains, and saves. This is why take on Lent. This is why we journey through Lent together.
So, as I asked last week and will likely ask again, how is your Lenten journey going? 10 days, are you weary or even renewed?
In our gospel text today we meet Jesus already in the midst of his own journey. Last week we read about Jesus’ own battle with temptation in the wilderness, as the crafty and luring devil makes several valiant attempts to lead Jesus into false power and false hope. Since then Jesus’ has been busy with the work of the kingdom, teaching and healing, restoring lives, extending grace, and ushering in hope.
In chapter nine, there is a definitive moment when Jesus turns and set his sights on Jerusalem. He gathered his disciples and said, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law.” And so in the 13th chapter of Luke today, Jesus is working his way to the great threes days. He’s journeying to a final destination, a city that will reject, ignore, beat, and ultimately kill him.
Our text today begins with a word of warning from the Pharisees. They advise Jesus that if he stay on his current trajectory, Herod lays in wait. And even the Pharisees, for whatever reason, advise Jesus to turn around. To go the other way, lest he risk being killed.
Last weekend I had the privilege of meeting with a 7 year old girl and her family to talk about baptism. And during our conversation of talking about Jesus, I mentioned that they killed him. And she looked at me stunned and said why? Why would they want to kill Jesus? All he wanted to do was love people and be nice. Why would they kill him. And all I could think to say was, “That’s a brilliant question.”
But that’s what we do with prophets. Those who speak with prophetic voices...Whether a message that convicts or confronts our comfortable way of life, or a message that rocks our core because deep down we know it to be true, but don’t want to face the weight of truth. We like to rejected because the message they carry is not one we want to hear. Or at the very least ignore. Maybes it’s simply fear or ignorance, but we, and I mean our history of saints as well, tend to have an aversion to prophets and those who speak prophetically. So Jerusalem, and us still today, like to suppress the prophet. In Jesus’ case they kill him.
But Jesus is not provoked nor is he deterred. His journey to Jerusalem and ultimately his death is unwavered because Jesus knows something that we have yet to full learn. That is the work of the Kingdom of God...the work of healing and justice, of releasing demons and ushering hope...the kingdom work is not conditioned or dictated by Worldly structures, political leaders, or human influence. The work of God in Jesus Christ and the work of the Kingdom will continue and it will come to fullness on God’s time. On the third day.
So rather than turn around, Jesus looks ahead to this broken city and laments.
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! Jesus uses such powerful imagery. How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wing.
Beautiful. Jesus has such a gift for using incredible imagery to help the disciples and others understand what he is teaching. This is one of the things that makes him such a great teacher.
Just prior to today’s story, Jesus taught the disciples about the kingdom of God using images like a mustard seeds, yeast in dough, and a narrow door. Later, in chapter 14, he describes the persistence nature of God with parables sheep, coins, and children. Jesus has such an eloquent way of using the aspects of common day life to teach about God’s abundant grace and love and the impending kingdom of God. And Jesus always spoke this way to help people understand what he was teaching. So as he laments over Jerusalem this morning, he does it again….How often have I desired to gather the children of Jerusalem together as a hen gathers her chicks beneath her wing.
The image of Jesus as a mother hen is such a beautiful image. It’s delicate, much like the image of Jesus as a lamb, but it carries a sense of strength, authority, and protection, like the image of Jesus as a shepherd.
We know that feeling don’t we? If not, I’m sure we long for it. Who among us hasn’t experienced or desired a longing to be brooded like a chick to a hen? Maybe you recall a time when we were younger, more innocent. Perhaps it came from our own mothers or fathers or a family friend? An experience with someone so loving that they offer both sense of authority and security while also offering an embrace of warmth and comfort?
I remember so fondly as a kid, I would climb on my dad’s bed and provoke him into a wrestling match that I knew I would lose. He would bear hug me...I would struggle to break free. After only a few min, I would be so tired and body would go limp...and I would lie in the protection and comfort of my dad’s arms.
Perhaps you know that feeling? Or have experienced that embrace?
Story about losing my passport in Germany. Listen to audio above.
This image of a hen is so powerful. Jesus wants an intimate connection with the people of Jerusalem. Like a hen with her chicks - and if you’ve ever seen a picture of this or actually seen a hen covering her chicks with her wings, it’s something very special. The hen puffs out her feathers and ushers them all in and the chicks almost disappear completely beneath her wings. The chicks are so absorbed in the hen that it’s hard to see where the hen ends and the chicks begin. So what Jesus is saying with this image is that he wants the children of Jerusalem to come and be protected and intimately connected to him - absorbed into him and his ministry. He wants to offer them protection through salvation. He wants them to see and encounter the kingdom of God that he is proclaiming.
And maybe it would seem a bit ironic that this is how he wants the people of Jerusalem to feel. Ironic that Jesus wants to gather these people up and protect them. Jerusalem, this supposed holy city, that continues to turn against God and against the prophets and messengers that God sends to them - this city that Jesus grieves over. Jerusalem is the city that will, in just a few weeks, turn Jesus over to the authorities and cry out for his crucifixion. This is the city that, even after Jesus’ death, refuses to turn toward God and follow Jesus’ disciples.
Jerusalem, the city that is unwelcoming and unkind to prophets, the very city that will reject, deny, punish, and kill Jesus...these are the people Jesus longingly desires to pull in, comfort, protect, and envelop in his love.
And maybe that’s not simply ironic...But rather the epitome of the gospel. God’s unwavering and unconditioned love for the world. The the gospel in one image.
This kind of unity, this kind of brooding is what Jesus calls us to when he calls us under his wings. He desires for Jerusalem to come under his wings and participate in his work with him, going along as he goes, healing as he heals. Jesus wants to pull people into himself so intimately that they are a part of him, participating in the work that God has called him to do. He longs for all people to be brought into the kingdom of God. As we say now, becoming the body of Christ.
Jesus wants us - you and me - to be caught up in this kind of work too. Like a mother hen endless offering embrace, Jesus is constantly coming after us. Relentless pursuing us for participation with the kingdom work he is doing in the world. Like the children of Jerusalem, Jesus longs for us to witness and participate in the kingdom of God today. It is in our baptism that we are first called into the body of Christ and every time we eat the bread and drink the wine, we are renewed and sustained in the body of Christ. It is these two practices that keep us in synch, that keep us nestled under the protective wings of Christ.
In this season of Lent, when we are called to examine ourselves and examine our lives, we hear something calming, reassuring, warm - as if we are being nestled under the wings of our savior. We hear of Jesus’ relentless love. We hear of a God so loving that God would send God’s son to heal the sick, bind up the broken, give sight to the blind, and raise the dead to new life. We hear of a savior that wishes to save and comfort the very people who have denied him and so many prophets before him. We hear of a savior so heartbroken for his children that even as they put him on the cross, he asks his father in heaven to forgive them. We hear of Christ’s relentless love that never fails, even when it is crucified.
So despite all of our fears and failures...despite how your lenten journey may or may not be going...despite that we too often deny the voice of the prophet, just like Jerusalem, Jesus still desires to gather us in, like chicks under his motherly wings, so that we might come to know, to taste, and see the power of relentless love. So that we might participate and join others to nestle within the kingdom of God. Amen.
© Pastor Daniel Locke, preached March 17, 2019 @ St. Mark's Lutheran, Jacksonville, FL.