A Risky Business

Second Sunday in Lent – 24 February 2013

Good morning and welcome to worship on this Second Sunday in Lent.  Last week I mentioned that Lent is about choices. I hope that you have been able to make some choices this week that have affirmed your commitment to live an authentic Christian life.  My progress this week has been quite slow and the desire to draw close to God during this Lenten period has been a bit disappointing for me.  However as I have been examining the readings for this week and focusing on Jesus’ turning towards Jerusalem (Luke 13:31-35), and his journey towards the cross, I’m heartened by the knowledge that Jesus never gave up.  To know that my savior made choices to resist temptation and to pass the tests along the way encourages me to be more ‘faith-full’.

I found this reflection by John Barr in The Lent Event, Study Two (A People on the Way) on the Luke 13:31-35 reading to be very inspiring and I’ll use it as a catalyst for my preaching today.

There are two powerful images in Luke 13:31-35 – the fox and the hen.  They are contrasting images.  The fox calls for us to be careful – it’s a treacherous creature that schemes, scrounges and kills for a living.  The fox cannot be trusted.  (Herod is that fox Luke 13:32).  Meanwhile, the hen is quite a different case.  This creature provides nurture and protection – the hen is a gentle creature that puts its life on the line to protect her chicks.  The hen can be trusted.

Jesus makes his way to Jerusalem.  It is here that the real action takes place, for the city of Jerusalem is where the Messiah will appear.  It is the place where the prophets have spoken in the past and it is the place they paid the price for doing so.  Jerusalem, the centre of religious and political power in the region, is the place where Jesus will suffer, die and be raised to life.

On viewing Jerusalem, Jesus pours his heart out.  “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 are not willing!” (Luke 13:34)

There is an atmosphere of violence and horror here.  We are told Herod is on a murderous warpath and now Jesus faces his place of crucifixion.  Could it be that it’s inevitable – is the city of Jerusalem a lost cause?

The answer is a definite NO!  God doesn’t give up on Jerusalem – and this commitment is embodied in the beautiful image of the mother hen gathering her chicks.  Here God’s commitment to the people of Jerusalem is one of warm, tender compassion and love.  God doesn’t give up on his people.  There’s always room for God’s grace and mercy!

Note that as the mother hen gathers her chicks, her wings take such a posture that the vital organs are exposed to the predator.  The only shield between the life and death of the hen’s young is her frail body.  Here, many see such a vulnerable, open posture as being consistent with the posture of the crucified Christ.  Jesus’ only defense is his love manifest in a willingness, not to condemn, but to persist.  Jesus’ only refuge is his compassion embodied in a commitment, not to dominate or coerce, but to offer his life as a sacrifice for the sake of others.

The message is clear.  Jesus is the one who comes, not as a mighty warrior or as a powerful leader.  Jesus comes in the form of the most vulnerable, whose love and compassion is at one with those he cherishes.

This is a potent expression of solidarity.  Here Jesus stands alongside those who are most vulnerable.  Here Jesus identifies with those he loves and cares for.  It’s A Risky Business.  Who can we stand alongside?  Who are the vulnerable in our church, in our community, in our city, in our world?  (We focus on Timor-Leste today – see insert)

What choices will you make. …this week to stand alongside the most vulnerable?

Rev. Brad Foote   

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