March 17, 2019

Lent 2C

Hens or Foxes

GOSPEL

Some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “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. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 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! See, your house is left to you. 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.'” Luke 13:31-35

SERMON

There is a battle brewing on the road to Jerusalem.  It will be a battle between a hen’s wings of love and a fox’s claws and fangs, a battle between hearts of flesh and hearts of stone.

Jesus is going to Jerusalem.  He is teaching as moves from town to town and village to village.  Some Pharisees come to Jesus. They do not come in friendship but as agents of oppression, rejection and tyranny.  They come as minions of Herod. They remind us of the minions who occupy to many seats in the Senate at this time. They threaten Jesus.  “Turn around, Herod wants to kill you.”

Jesus rejects their threat, their false authority, and the power of death.  “Go tell that fox that I am busy, too busy to be bothered by a life-destroying little animal like him.  I am busy healing and giving life. I will leave only after I have finished my work.”

Jesus knows something that the Pharisees and Herod do not.  The real conflict is not with them. It is with and for Jerusalem.  Herod does not have to kill Jesus. Jerusalem will do that for him. It always has.

Jesus reminds us of this when he says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that stones and kills the prophets who are sent to it.”

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem.”  In those words can we not hear our own name?  Jerusalem is a universal name. It is the name of every person, family, language, people and nation.  Jesus is addressing us. Do we dare recall the stones that we have thrown?

Those stones of inadequacy that say,  “Go away. I am not worth your time or love.”  Stones of arrogance that say, “My way is better.”  Stones of isolation that say, “I can do this all by myself.  I don’t need you.” Stones of fear that build walls instead of a home in which all are welcome.  Stones of immaturity that say, “I don’t want to grow. I don’t want to take responsibility.” Stones of prejudice that say, “You’re different from me.  You are not wanted around here.” Stones of defensiveness that say, ”Don’t change or challenge me. Let me stay in my narrow little world.” Stones of violence that deny another’s dignity and humanity.

Each stone we throw is a rejection of another and a rejection of our deepest self.  It says we trust fangs and claws more than the wings of love. It denies that we are God’s people.  As Jerusalem we are meant to be a place where God dwells and not a city that stones and kills the prophets.

But Jesus looks past the stones.  He desires to gather us as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.  He rejects all other roads except the one that leads to Jerusalem, yes, that leads to us.  He rejects all false authorities. He rejects any attempt to interrupt his life-giving mission.  The wings of love remain open, waiting, exposed to the fox’s fangs and claws. How can love do anything less?

With each advancing step Jesus says, “I will heal you, forgive you and make you holy.”  With each advancing step Jesus is saying, I love you and give you life, my life.”  With each advancing step Jesus is saying,  “I will pursue you to the very end – to death and beyond.”  He is saying this even while looking at the stones of rejection that we hold in our hands.

If we listen, we can hear Him in the cries of the poor, the immigrant, the homeless, and the hungry.  If we open our eyes we see him in the faces of those who are different and maybe frighten us. Those who live on the margins of the acceptable, who would stretch us, confront us and maybe even change us.   

These are the ones who reveal the God who became man.  These are the prophets calling us to live as the New Jerusalem.  Each day they come before us – within a stone’s throw.

And we must decide.  What do we see – prophets or targets?  And what will we say? Will we say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord?” Or will we say, “Get away from here, for the Herod in me wants to kill you.” 

Will we open fire on a group of black Christians praying in a church, a group of Jews praying in a synagogue, a group of Muslims praying in a mosque?  Or will we stand between God’s children and those who would throw stones?

The Rev. Frank J. Alagna

March 17, 2019