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St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Wesley Chapel, FL
Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes
Second Sunday in Lent/Year C/March 13, 2022
Gospel: Luke 13:31-35
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?” (Ps 27:1)
This first verse of today’s psalm, David’s triumphant song of confidence, is a timely message in light of the war now raging in the Ukraine. It is also a timely message given the reality of gun violence on our own streets; the violence of bullying in our schools; the unsafe spaces of cyberspace where human beings are trafficked; and the innumerable unsafe spaces where people live, work and play. When evil manifests in myriad ways, creating so much unsafe space, we would be hard pressed to find someone who had not, at some point, experienced feeling helpless, or witnessed the helplessness of another.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?” (Ps 27:1).
In our gospel passage in the 13th chapter of Luke, Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, had a target on Jesus’ back. Herod was ruler of Galilee and Perea, but he had no jurisdiction in Jerusalem. When Jesus’ public ministry took place on Herod’s turf, this prophet, whom he had not yet encountered in person, struck fear in him. Herod feared that this “rockstar” prophet, Jesus, might have been a resurrected John the Baptist, the prophet whom he had beheaded (9:7-9).
Now, we are not given clues as to why some Pharisees came to warn Jesus about Herod’s murderous desires toward him. Anyone, learning that they were in mortal danger, might be extremely fearful, change their actions or even change their planned movement, in order to lie low and avoid being an easy target. Jesus was not fearful and was not deterred.
We see evidence of this in Jesus’ directive to the Pharisees, a directive that embedded a dangerous insult for Herod, which certainly would have angered him. Jesus said, “You go and tell that fox for me…”. The insult is that an appropriate royal image would have been a lion, not a fox. Jesus did not focus on confronting Herod himself because he had much work to be done before arriving in Jerusalem.
The looming threat of Herod tracking him down did not deter Jesus from casting out demons, performing cures and from making his, intended, purposeful, way to Jerusalem where Jesus’ salvific work would be set in motion in his death on the cross. The undeterred Jesus said, “I must be on my way because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem…the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” (vv. 33-34).
Standing in that long line of fallen prophets, with full awareness of Jerusalem’s history with them, was Jesus, who lamented Jerusalem’s unwillingness to be obedient to God. In his lament, Jesus used the maternal image of a hen for God. “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings and you were not willing!” said Jesus (v. 34).
When a hen gathers together her brood of chicks, she calls; the chicks recognize the call; and without hesitation, they instinctively know where to go. The hen’s wings cover the chicks so they cannot be seen, and are shielded from the dangers of the outside world. The hen uses her own body in service to the helpless chicks. After watching a lot of videos of hens gathering broods under their wings, I noticed that chick after chick would find a place to be gathered close to the body of the hen. Just when I thought, “there’s no more room,” the body of the hen seemed to expand to make room enough for one more.
What a beautiful image for God’s abounding love for his people—the gathering of His beloved to himself. That in Jesus, God’s self-giving love, came to humankind to save our souls. It is that unbounded love that no political regime can suppress; no weapon can kill; and in which God unceasingly makes room enough for “one more.”
The children of Jerusalem were not willing to be gathered by God. Given the state of the world, people in the 21st century are also unwilling to be gathered by God. But, Jesus remains undeterred. Today, Jesus still calls God’s people to repent and turn to God, not only in times of fearfulness, or helplessness, but in all times and in all things. This turning to God, this work of repentance, is humanity’s soul-challenging work, always, and particularly in Lent.
In these dark, dangerous times in which we live, it can be difficult not to feel like helpless chicks. But as followers of Jesus Christ, when Jesus calls us to be gathered to himself, by faith, we recognize his call; and by obedience to that call, we instinctively follow where he leads.
Sisters and brothers, today, tomorrow and the next day, we must choose, as Jesus did, obedience to God’s will over the fear of man, and push ahead to share the good news of God in Christ in word and in deed, in order to make Christ known to those who do not yet know him. Today, tomorrow and the next day, we, like Jesus, must be on our way, undeterred by the violence, threats, and temptations, of this earthly world, and focused on faithfully journeying toward God’s heavenly, peaceable kingdom come. Today, tomorrow and the next day, we, like Jesus, must be on our way, for there is much work to do before our Savior returns.
In the meantime, in this in-between time, let us remind ourselves, and each other, that in the midst of this sin-sick world, though we may feel helpless at times, we shall, at no time, feel hopeless, resting in the hope of Christ Jesus. That, with the Lord as our light and our salvation, of man, we shall not fear. And, that with the Lord as the strength of our lives, of man, we shall not be afraid.