Like a Mother Hen


Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland on Luke 13: 31 – 35.  Focus on how Jesus uses vulnerability rather than power to care for us.

Our story begins with the Pharisees warning Jesus to hit the road because Herod is looking to kill him. To which Jesus must have thought – so what else is new. He and his family have been after me since the day I was born.

And as quickly as they warn him he warns Herod that he will not be deterred from his mission and ministry. “Go tell that fox I am heading to my goal of reaching Jerusalem.”

Because God has a word to deliver to proud and defiant Jerusalem. Like the prophets before him Jesus goes to Jerusalem not out of defiance or anger but out of love. Subverting tradtional gender roles Jesus compares himself to a nurturing mother hen stretching out her arms as if to gather us together, but his love for us turns into a lament as he sees that Jerusalem will not love whom God loves, will not listen to God’s son as they did not listen to his prophets.

And to this lament Jesus adds: “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.’”

And if Jerusalem wants to see who comes in the name of the Lord then it needs to get out of that big beautiful temple and into the streets to heal those who need a physician, dispensing the medicine of love.          Healing people first and foremost from all the religious damage that they have done in God’s name.

Teaching people to love those they hate by doing it. Teaching people to love those they fear by doing it. Putting the needs of people ahead of religious pomp and ceremony.

Now this story was originial told with Jerusalem in mind but this saying has something to say to us in Hackensack as well. In order to see Jesus we will need to see and embody what Jesus saw and embodied because he came in the name of the Lord.

This week I came across a story that beautiful gets at what Jesus was asking Jerusalem to see and do. And by extension what you and I are called to do when we can.

Katie Munnik, a writer living in Scotland, shared this story on her blog. She says,

It was a good week all in all around here, full of good days, expect for Friday, which for one reason or another was bad day for me. One of those days when you wake up grumpy and can’t really conceal it and end up being mean to everyone. Mix that with a moody, broody mother with foot cramps, and perhaps you can foresee the bumps ahead.

In the afternoon (my mother) went out on her bike and came home cold and hungry and demanding. I think that had she been smaller and less articulate, I might have been more understanding. As it was, well… it was unpleasant.

I ended up asking for more listening and kindness than she could conjure, and the dinner table became hostile terrority for everyone. Not what anyone wanted, not what anyone seemed able to change.

It was my spouse who realized that (I) actually didn’t know what to do to make things better. (I) wasn’t just being unpleasant and obstinate – (I) wasn’t able to do anything else. (I) just didn’t know what to say to make things right.

Like Paul when he say the good that I would do I do not seem able to do and the bad that I would not do is what I seem to do.

So my spouse stopped asking me questions about my feelings and instead gave (me) some words to try out. “He told (me) how to say – sorry and helped (me) find my way into being loving again. This was a moment of grace – not a glory moment – but grace as light – small but sudden – in what was a heavy dark place. Sometimes God gives good gifts at the dinner table even to grumpy families.

That table moment brings to light for me what Luke is talking about this morning. Jesus longs to shelter Jerusalem, but Jerusalem is unwilling or maybe unable. Maybe because she’s been engulfed in hurt and pride. After all even Jersualem knows that she exists only because Rome allows it.

So Jesus stretches out his sheltering arms to show Jerusalem that there is refuge here, that there is comfort, and that a solution for all her missteps and mistakes is at hand. Jerusalem may be broken, she may be be proud, but Jesus longs to give her the words she needs to begin again – to see the light.

To get outside of herself and see that she has been called to go out into the streets and villages that Jesus walks offering healing to those who are hopeless and hurting. If only they can put down their pride, but even when she does, even when Palm Sunday arrives and Jesus enters into his beloved city she will reject him. She will reject his love.

Beyond our fear and beyond our threats, Jesus offers a loving shelther even when we don’t want it. He still keeps coming. And he will keep coming until we see him and everyone like him who comes offering us love when we need it the most and can’t get there by ourselves.

“If you have ever loved someone you could not protect, then you understand the depth of Jesus’ lament. All you can do is open your arms. You cannot make anyone walk into them. And this is the most vulnerable posture in the world –wings spread, breast exposed – but if you mean what you say, then this is how you stand.” Because this is way of love. It is the way of Jesus. Amen

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