Monday, February 25, 2013

A Mother Hen--Images of Jesus

This reflection is based on the gospel lesson for February 24, 2013, in the Revised Common Lectionary, Luke 13:31-35.

The Good Shepherd, the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, the Holy Lamb, the Bread of Life, the Light of the World. We have so many images for Jesus, and today we get yet another one, the mother hen.
It’s hard to imagine something so helpless as an infant—how about an infant animal? Like a baby chick? Without some instruction, some survival skills, some protection from the elements and predators, I really can’t see them surviving for long. That’s what the mother hen is there for. She gathers and protects them at night, teaches them to hunt and peck, to scratch the dirt for seeds, to survive. This is what Jesus says he wants to be to the world.
The world has another power in play, however. Did you catch it? Caesar is there, too. We don’t necessarily know why the Pharisees want to warn Jesus about Caesar, but they do. Maybe they’re playing some sort of power game; maybe they honestly want to help Jesus by giving him a heads-up. In actuality, it doesn’t really matter.
Caesar is out to win. He’s going to kill Jesus—at least that’s the threat from the Pharisees. They say that Jesus should stop preaching and healing and go away because Caesar will kill him if he doesn’t. It’s a threat.
How often do we encounter that sort of sentiment in our world—do or don’t do that, even if it’s the right thing to do. Give up, walk away, or else. Go back to your lives the way the world says to—buy commercial products, keep your head down, show up for this and that, stick with your life station. Don’t change. Status quo. Or else.
Sometimes it might even feel like we have to choose between who we are and what we learn in here and who we are and what we act like out there. Faith vs. The World.
So what’s our answer? Who wins? What would Jesus do?
Actually, let’s not speculate on what Jesus would do. Let’s look at what he did do. Jesus isn’t going to play their game. He says that he knows Caesar has a function, but that he does, too. So he isn’t going to stop. Jesus is going to continue his work—continue healing and teaching and saving and forgiving.
He’s even going to die for our sin. Jesus looks at Jerusalem, and we get a hint that he knows what is to come, yet he doesn’t back away from it. He looks with compassion at that place, and says that he only wishes that the people would let him embrace them, gather them in like a hen to her chicks. The chicks won't get it, though—they won’t see what’s going on until much later.
Do we hear this message? There are places and people in the world that are good for us—offer us a place of kindness, compassion and healing. This life—we can’t live it alone. We can’t get through the day to day challenges let alone the really big things on our own. Do we let ourselves be helped and healed when we need it?
And then do we turn around and offer that same kindness, compassion, and forgiveness to others? Do we bring the challenge and compassion our faith gives us to the world, or do we leave it in here?
Who wins? Neither side is giving up. Caesar is still strong and Jesus is still going. And us? We’re human. Like it or not, we have to live in the world. So the question is, how do we reject the game, like Jesus did?
How do we go from seeing faith vs. the world to living faith in the world?
We can’t. Not by ourselves, anyway. We need the power and grace of the Holy Spirit to give us something to hang on to what’s important—to be clear on what that even is. Last week we learned about prayer—the toolbelt that goes everywhere with us—that holds all the rest of the tools of discipleship. This week, it’s worship, the tool of discipleship that helps us maintain our grip on what’s important. Like pliers, worship helps us hang on to what’s important—it reminds us of that. We refresh our grip every week—sometimes even more often than that.
Without this tool that helps us hold on to what's important, we could be looking for anything in this world, maybe easier things. With the pliers, we look for the little things—things that seem so small to the world. So small—like a single person—a carpenter along the Jordan River at the turn of the era. But those are the important things, even if the world can’t always see it.
A carpenter--a rabbi--who would end up giving his life for the sake of the whole world, who gathers us all in together, who embraces and forgives us even when we can’t possibly think we could be loved. Who encourages us to extend that embrace as well. These are the important things to hang on to.
In these next weeks, we will hear about Jesus making the turn from ministry to the cross. He knows that Jerusalem won’t see him for who he is or what he is doing, but he embraces them anyway. We, too, need to see and share, receive and give, that compassion—to help and heal as well as let ourselves be helped and be healed.

This week, we welcomed new members in the congregation. We open ourselves to their gifts while sharing our own.

We lead as well as follow. We learn as well as teach. We serve as well as receive.
None of that can stop once we cross the threshold to the church or close the browser window. We go to be refreshed in worship, fellowship, and community so that we can have the energy to show Christ to the world through word and action.

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