The following is the majority of the text that I preached from at Messiah Lutheran Church in Hazel Dell and North County this past weekend, based on the revised common lectionary passages appointed for the Second Sunday in Lent (Lent 2C). The primary text was the Gospel of Luke 13:31-35, with some references to Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18, and Psalm 27.
“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.”
What a Tweet that would make. That’s 139 characters, a perfect tweet. For those of you who think I might be speaking a foreign language here, I am referring to the social media of Twitter, where people and groups can share pictures, stories, questions, and updates in posts limited to 140 total characters- you know spaces, punctuation, letters, etc.
Could you imagine if social media existed during Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem? What would the powers and politicians of today say about Jesus? What would they call him? I have to ask, given how some politicians have called other faith leaders, pastors, and the Pope, “disgraceful,” recently.
I suspect Jesus wouldn’t really care about the way he would be profiled on social media, much like the way he doesn’t let the speculation of the masses and those out to discredit him, get to him. Even when faced with the message that his life is in danger, he basically says, “guess what, I know. But you know what, I have work to do. So, until that time, if you would please excuse me…”
Jesus did as much when escaping the angry masses in his hometown of Nazareth. He’ll do so likewise, until he feels it’s time for his passion and entry into Jerusalem to proclamation of Hosannas, and decrees and songs of, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”
In spite of all the fear, the concerns and emotions of the earthly authorities, Jesus knows what matters- Casting out demons, performing cures,” and doing the work of the Kingdom of God; Work that is ultimately fulfilled in and through the cross and finished on the third day with his resurrection. That’s the good news we know and remember through this Lenten journey towards Easter.
But perhaps the most intriguing thing in today’s passage is actually the longing that Jesus himself has, and is vulnerable enough to admit? Jesus admits his longing and desire. He remarks, “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…”
It’s an interesting image, for Jesus to compare himself, God’s self really, to a hen, a mother. In Jesus’ heart and mind, he wants to bring all the people of Jerusalem, of God’s creation together. He wants so much that all the descendants of Abraham, as numerous as the stars, to be brought into the fold and brood of God. But he knows how hard that is, admitting that we weren’t willing. He knows how hard it is for us to show love to one another, and to embrace one another.
Elsewhere Jesus talks clearly about healing, serving, and being in relationship. But in this strange little passage today Jesus allows himself to be vulnerable and to admit his longing for a community only made possible through God’s love, yet promised to Abraham. It’s something that, even though the hard work of the resurrection is already done, we have quite a long way to go to be that community all safely nestled as one brood under God’s wings.
Perhaps, the gift in today’s passage for us is that Jesus himself can be vulnerable, and vulnerability is a gift. It’s not something easy to be or to do. It’s certainly not something that is often modeled in our society. Often time leaders are afraid to admit their fears, or admit they may not have all the answers. We have seen this modeled by leaders in society, perhaps in our own homes and families, maybe even in our own faith communities.
We are afraid to admit our own fears and feelings of inadequacy, thoughts that we aren’t good enough, or aren’t who we should be…because we fear that to do so is to show weakness. We try to be someone who we aren’t, ignoring our identities as beautiful Children of God, just as we are. We try to hide emotions and feeling. Because we believe that showing any means we’re weak.
For a long time even, leaders, teachers, and pastors were taught in school to not show these moments of humanity. This has been a long mistake, which the church today is finally beginning to understand.
Jesus gives us a gift of being vulnerable. He helps us see that sharing hopes, feelings, and longing is not a point of weakness. Rather, it’s an expression of our humanity, and our identity as children of God. Jesus of course makes himself vulnerable to the point of the cross, and we know the rest of the story.
What might this vulnerability look like today? What, if instead of acting like we had all the answers to all the questions in our communities and the world, we instead decided to listen more and walk humbly? What if we heeded Jesus’ call, who even when reminded of what is to come in Jerusalem, continues “to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God?” What if we did as Micah writes?- what if we strove to always “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God?” That would be a bold but vulnerable move. It would be something that I don’t think we see much of in this political season of campaigns and primaries. It would force us to move past all the noise, and rather meet people where they are at. Such a move would take courage. It would require us to take a step back and “Wait for the Lord,” to “be strong and let our hearts take courage.”
This past week was the unofficial start of more intentional outward listening in my role as a mission developer. I visited with the director of development, and mayor of the city of Ridgefield. I listened as I heard their hopes, dreams, and visions for Ridgefield, as well as their hopes for places of partnership and continued community building. Though they were civic leaders, what I heard was also hope for the building of meaningful and lasting communities of purpose. I heard visions for me, of what might be small reflections of the brood that Jesus describes and longs for.
As I have processed these conversations, and plan and prepare for more with other leaders in the communities of North Clark County, I wonder what else I will hear? I am only beginning to witness what God might be up to, but I do believe that God has called this congregation to be a part of this community and present with it, just as God is present with God’s brood of children.
Jesus tells the Pharisees who come and tell him about Herod to “listen.” In other translations, he calls them to behold, or pay attention. Whatever the word, Jesus is calling people to pause, slow down, and take notice. The work of God is happening- maybe not quite as visibly as it was with Jesus casting out demons and performing cures, but that work continues today. We just have to take the time to slow down, listen, wonder, and watch.
I wonder what Jesus might have done if there was social media while he was doing his earthly ministry? I don’t think he would be fazed by the negativity, but I just wonder, maybe he would see it as a gift to convey the gospel. Elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus tells the disciples and people around him to not speak and tell others about him until after the right time. Well, now is the time to share the story and social media at its best is a way to convey and share meaning. I believe wholeheartedly it’s also a way to share and wonder about the gospel together, and to remind everyone that they are loved and have meaning.
Like all forms of community and technology, it can be misused, however. Social Media can more quickly spread name calling, othering, bullying, and other terrible sins which divide community. But it also has the potential to not only allow us all to be more vulnerable with others if we choose, to be in relationship with each other, lifting up prayer concerns in real time, and being engaged in our communities.
When talking with the mayor of Ridgefield this past week, he mentioned how the different neighborhoods of the city have their own blogs that are limited and private for the neighborhoods and their residents themselves. He told of a recent experience where a relatively new resident had written asking for a recommendation of someone to come and repair their broken garage door one evening. The next morning, the resident was greeted by their neighbor from three doors down the street who came with their tools and fixed their garage door at no cost, just because that’s what neighbors do.
You don’t often hear these sorts of stories anymore because as people we struggle to admit when we need help. It takes a great deal of vulnerability to ask for help, just as it does to admit our longing and deepest hopes.
Maybe, that’s a gift of today’s gospel. That it’s okay to not always have all the answers. It’s okay to long and work for a better world and to ask for help in doing that. It’s okay to admit when we feel inadequate, or are afraid. It’s okay to admit we goofed up, and it’s important to confess our sin- In these moments of realization and vulnerability, just as in moments of joy, success, and triumph… God is there with us.
Jesus proclaims his love for us, God’s love for us, by comparing that to the love of a hen to her brood. A hen will protect her brood from a fox or any other type of predator, just as God does for you. God not only wants to draw you into God’s community, God brings you into the brood which God calls and creates us all to be a part of through the promising waters of baptism, through the sharing of bread and wine, through the acts of the cross and the empty tomb.
Jesus brings us under his wing, as a mother hen. Our lives aren’t always easy. Being vulnerable is not always easy, and can lead to times of being scarred or scorned. In the moments of rejection and pain, we are held safe from the harm and ridicule under the wings of Jesus. When we hear ideas that we aren’t good enough, or need to be someone or something else, Jesus brings us close and reminds us what it means to be the beautiful and vulnerable children of God, whom God created each child to be.
What I hear in the gospel today is this reminder that you are loved and you belong to God’s brood. And that’s a beautiful reminder, calling, and promise, isn’t it? Amen.