Second Sunday in Lent  /  March 4, 2007 

Text:  Luke 13: 31-35

Message by Rev. Carol Kniseley

Title:  The Church Jesus Envisions Us to Be

 

“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!   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!”

 

Wow!   If you’ve never envisioned Jesus as being a person who wore his emotions on his sleeve…then you’ve never really understood what today’s Gospel lesson is all about.     Luke knows full well that this Jesus…is fully capable of raw emotion…of hurt feelings…of being rejected by those whom he loves.   Of course no one here can relate to such feelings, I am sure.      The truth is…every single one of us can relate.     And that’s what makes today’s lesson so powerful.   

 

Jesus is just days away from being crucified…and look where he’s spending his time.    Among the people…curing the emotionally ill and healing their sick.   Yet those who need him the most refuse to even look his way.     The time is short…and growing shorter…and Jesus must be on his way.    Which brings me  to another thought.

 

More and more I am convinced that we miss something vital to our faith when we insist on approaching God one by one.    Our individual relationships with God are important, but they do not make us the body of Christ.   Either way one looks at it, it is our life together that makes us Christ’s body.        When we come together to worship, we form a whole new being with a name and an address, which has its own life and reputation.    We call it the church…not the building, but the people…a phenomenon that has been around for more than 2000 years.   

 

I bring this up because whether we realize it or not…whether we even accept it or not…we have a community identity and a community mandate.    We stand for something, which it behooves us to recall from time to time.     Do we, as a body, resemble Christ…or have we taken on the characteristics of someone else?       Are we being true to our head?     Or are we giving him a headache by yanking away and refusing to belong to him?   

 

In the thirteenth chapter of Luke you can hear the kind of anguish we cause Jesus when we do that.       At risk to his own life, Jesus has brought the precious kingdom of God within reach of the beloved city of God…only to affirm that the city of God is not interested.     Jerusalem has better things to do that to hide under the shelter of this mother hen’s wings.     It has a fox as its head who commands a great deal more respect.    Consider the contrast:  

Jesus has disciples; Herod has soldiers.    

Jesus serves; Herod rules.   

Jesus prays for his enemies; Herod kills his.   

In a contest between a fox and a chicken…who would you bet on? 

 

I have often wondered why Jesus purposefully chose the image of a mother hen to go up against the wily fox.     It may have looked like a minor skirmish to those who were there, but the contest between the chicken and the fox turned out to be the cosmic battle of all time.     The power of the tooth and the fang was put up against the power of a mother’s love for her chicks.    And guess what…believe it or not…God bet the farm on the hen.

 

Depending on whom you believe…the hen won.   Oh, it did not look that way at first with feathers flying all over the place and chicks running for cover.    But as time went on it became amazingly clear what she had done.     She had refused to run from the foxes of this world and she had refused to become one of them.    

 

Having loved her own who were in the world…she loved them to the bitter end.    She died a mother hen, and afterwards she came back to them with teeth marks on her body to make sure they got the point:  that the power of foxes could not kill her love for them, nor could it steal them away from her.    

 

I have never really thought about the church as a mother hen, but because of this passage, I am thinking about it now.   The church of Christas a big, fluffed up brooding hen, offering warmth and shelter to all kinds of chicks, including orphans, runts, and maybe even a couple of misplaced ducks.     The church of Christplanting herself between the foxes of this world and the fragile-boned chicks, offering herself up to be eaten before she will sacrifice one of her brood.      The church of Christ…staying true to whose body she is by refusing to run from the foxes and refusing to become one of them.

 

Who would have thought being a mother hen would offer such opportunities for courage?    Maybe that is why the church is called Mother Church.    It is where we come, to be fed and sheltered, but it is also where we come to stand firm with those who need the same things from us.     That is what Kelly Fryer would say being the church is really all about.     It is where we grow from being chicks into chickens…

by giving…what we have received,

by teaching…what we have learned,

and by loving…the way we ourselves have been loved… by a ‘mother hen’…who gave his life in order to gather us under his wings.

 

May we in turn, stay true to our Lord…and be the church He has entrusted us to be…feathers and all.          Amen