Tales of a Midwest Lutheran on the East Coast

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Fox and the Hen

Grace and peace to you from God our Mother and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

My friend from college has a parrot whose favorite phrase is “Where’re Daddy?”

I often talk to my friend on Skype, and in the background I hear her two parrots chattering away. On the nights that her husband, also a Lutheran pastor, is away at a church meeting, one of her parrots – Checkers is his name - will ask “Where’s daddy?” Over. And. Over again.

“Where’s Daddy?” “Daddy’s not HERE!” My friend will inform Checkers.

“Where’s Daddy?” “Daddy’s at a MEETING!"

“Where’s Daddy?” “Diving.” 

 “Where’s Daddy?” “Still not here… seriously, stop asking!” (That one never works).

Checkers wants his daddy. My friend wants some peace and quiet. Both my friend and I want the internet connection to stay strong so that we share with each other how our days went. We often go through our days in a state of want, longing or desiring something we don’t have or isn’t there. Sometimes they are little things, like wanting your parrot to be quit for five minutes. But sometimes we long for things that are bigger than the names that we have for them – love, belonging, safety, community. Things that will make us feel whole, wanted, and at peace. 

Last week, on the first Sunday in Lent, we learned what Jesus didn’t want in the wilderness. This week, the second Sunday of Lent, we fast forward to Jesus setting his feet and his determination toward Jerusalem and the completion of his ministry - one step closer to the hour of his death.

But that hour has not arrived for Jesus yet. Before THAT hour occurs, at THIS very hour on THIS particular Sunday, listening to THESE particular words of Jesus, causes us to reflect on these three questions: What does the world desire for us? What do we desire for our own selves? And what does God desire for us?

Herod, bad ruler in a long line of bad rulers, wants to kill Jesus. Off him, shut him up, like he did to John the Baptist, who boldly criticized the selfish and brutal behavior of this autocrat, and paid for it with his life. Why did Herod want get rid of Jesus? Like John, Jesus ruffled too many feathers.

By now in Jesus’ ministry, he has gone through “one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem” (Luke 13: 22) causing all kinds of trouble. He’s been healing on the Sabbath. He’s been casing out demons. He has fed over five thousand people. He has been hanging out with sinful people, scandalous women, and teaching things like “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.”

And in the eyes of Herod, the world, the media, the powers that be, this kind of message cannot be tolerated. Instead, the world wants you to follow their plan for your life. What does the world desire for you? To believe that we aren’t enough. To be consumed with the desire for endless consumption, to be driven by success, the desire to control, or our own sense of importance in all our busy-ness. To endlessly chase after love, friends, power, influence, conforming, success, wealth. To say who’s in and who’s out.

Slyly and sneakily, we are being manipulated to want all this, in every image we see, movie we watch, store we visit, song we hear, but under the surface. Want this, we hear in our ears. Need that. Get this, and you will be whole.

We, like scared, lost chicks, play right into the schemes of the world. Because, what is it that WE want? The answer is pretty simple, really. We want to be loved, to belong, and to have control over our own destiny. We want to choose and be chosen. To be part of a flock, but with just a little say in ruling the roost. Is that really too much to ask?

But what does God want for us, who are God’s children? What does the one who created us, desire for us?

The answer can be found in the face of a man who lived in Galilee.  That man, Jesus, was sent by God to teach, feed, heal, and love people, and to not stop even when his life was threatened. As Julian of Norwich wrote in her prayer which you can find on the back of today’s psalm sheet, in Jesus we have a mother and brother and savior, who is the source of our restoring and our saving.  

Jesus, as the face of the love God has for us, longs to comfort those who cast him out. He longs to reach out to those who reject him.  He longs to embrace those who abandon him. He longs to gather the most stubborn of us underneath the outstretched protection of his wings, like a mother hen. He longs for us to return God, the source that gave us life. And he spread his arms in order to gather us, ALL of us - spreads his wings so far out to receive us - so wide, as wide the horizontal beam of a cross.

And so we are caught between the fox and the hen. The fox – the messages of the world that equate strength with power and control. And the hen – who would lay down her life to protect her children. Who would you bet on in a fight? The fox of course has so much more at his disposal. Who are we to stand against him and his sly ways?

If you believed the fox, you would have no idea that women, for example, are more than just the sum of their parts or valued for more than just how they look. You would have no idea that they, especially moms, are fierce. And when they get together in the name of God and children and justice, you had better watch out because things are going to happen.

You probably never heard of Leymah Gbowee, the Liberian woman who almost single handedly brought an end to fourteen years of civil war in Liberia. She spoke at the 2012 ELCA youth gathering in New Orleans, and her life story is incredible – she gathered together both Christian and Muslim women to daily protest for peace for years along the commute of Liberia’s then corrupt president. Then, when peace talks had stalled at the posh hotel where the opposition leaders were enjoying themselves instead of seriously talking peace, Gbowee and a couple hundred women marched into the hotel and trapped the men inside the conference room – literally laying down their own bodies to barricade them in. They stayed there for days, and because of their actions, the war ended weeks later. This all came about because one woman – Leymah Gbowee, loved her three children too much to give them a future filled with violence and death. So she put her body on the line in order to fight for their future. And she and her women got it done.

In a world that asks “Where’s daddy?”-  Where is our power, where are our generals and warriors and fighters? We are under the mothering and comforting protection of Jesus, who, through the giving up and laying down of HIS body, we are saved, healed, and given a future with hope.

 We have been baptized and claimed as God’s children, marked with a sign of death and weakness turned into a sign of the power of new life over death. God chooses weakness and vulnerability and love over strength, again and again, because love outlasts, outshines, and outdistances the competition. Every. Single. Time. God always wins.  God always gets what God wants.

And so the fox made a serious error when he chose to mess with us, God’s children. The fox did not know the lengths to which our mother hen would go to get us back – all the way to death, even death on a cross.

What are foxes, then, to us under the mothering protection of Jesus? What is fear, what is uncertainty, what is powerlessness in the face of the light and salvation that Jesus offers us? Nothing, nothing, and nothing. So we tell that fox, get lost, get out of here, YOU are NOTHING. WE are baptized, WE are claimed, and WE are gathered under Jesus’ wings. And THAT’S  exactly where we’re gonna stay.

And, as Julian’s prayer ends, all shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. Amen.

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