The finest theologian and best writer in the New Testament is the Evangelist Saint Luke.
Pastor Damm would disagree. Heâ€™d argue itâ€™s the Apostle Paul. Pastor Stahler would disagree. Heâ€™d argue itâ€™s the Evangelist Saint John. Itâ€™s okay if you agree with either one of them, as long as you understand that Iâ€™m the one whoâ€™s right. Todayâ€™s Gospel is my proof; in five short verses and with two clear images, Luke gives us a clear description of the struggle in which God and Jesus and we are engaged, the character and strength of the forces who oppose us, the character and strength we share with God through Jesus and, of greatest importance, the character and strength of God. All this in five verses and two crystal clear metaphors; and here they are.
When a well-meaning group of colleagues try to warn Jesus that Herod, the universally-recognized guarantor of the status quo and icon representative of the ruling elite wants to kill him, Jesus responds with his first metaphor, â€śGo tell that fox for meâ€¦â€ť
Then, lest we miss the point, Jesus turns, weeping toward the city and delivers the second, which chiefly serves chiefly to magnify
the first: â€śJerusalem, 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 wing, and you would not!
Herod, the ruling elite and the forces who oppose God and Jesus and us are â€śthe fox.â€ť God, Jesus and we who struggle against these forces are â€śa henâ€ť with her chicks. A fox and a hen with chicks. Take a moment to fix that image in your mind. It doesnâ€™t take much to imagine how the story of that confrontation is going to end. In the story Luke tells about God and Jesus and us, it ends at the cross.
Contemporary culture, contemporary society and many of us in the contemporary Church have forgotten the image of God as a hen with chicks. That image has been subsumed under a more pugilistic image; the image of all-powerful God who comes out swinging and lays low every evil and every turn; a mighty, muscular God who overpowers and wipes out enemies left and right. Woosh goes Pharoah. Woosh go the Amalekites and in more recent mythology, Woosh go the Soviets and woosh goes Al Quaeda each aided and abetted by some
good guyâ€™s army. Lots of well-meaning people like that kind of God and want that kind of God â€” in the words of Jack Nicholson, â€śYou need me on that wall! You want me on that wall! â€” but when that God doesnâ€™t show up â€” when nature is unruly, innocents are being slaughtered, when disease is taking its course â€” we stop believing that there is no God at all. Post 9/11, post Iraq, post Sandy and Newton, thatâ€™s where we are today. Jesusâ€™ image of God as â€śa hen gathering her broodâ€ť is as far away from that kind of God as possible and that image â€” of a fragile, vulnerable, selfless God whose compassion compels her to give up everything â€” is the consistent image of God we find on the lips of Jesus and in the pages of the New Testament. It hasnâ€™t stopped us, but you have to really work to see a mighty, muscular pugilistic God weeping powerless over the city and hanging dead on a cross. But thatâ€™s the God we worship and thatâ€™s the God who gathers us here and now, not as the cock of the walk looking for a fight but as a hen who gathers her chicks.
Itâ€™s time for us to start telling the story of that God, the one we regularly experience, and stop telling the story of that other God,
the one we can only experience crowing three times at the moment of betrayal. But that, of course, is another story.
We need to get back to the foxes though because, even though the â€śHerod who wants to killâ€ť Jesus is dead, gone and nearly forgotten, there are a lot of Herods and ruling elites with whom we must struggle and contend as we are regularly gathered to be regularly nourished under the shelter of Godâ€™s wings. â€śStruggle and contendâ€ť are very much Lenten words and are very much Lutheran words and, again, despite the overwhelming cotemporary view of our faith, this struggle and contending is not only and certainly not primarily a struggle against the demons that are within us. They are a struggle we are engaged in together â€” together with God and Jesus â€” against the forces that put down and put out others. Our very public work with and for immigrants, with and for our poor, homeless or underemployed neighbors, our advocacy for same-sex marriage with and for all who live on the gender spectrum, our advocacy for quality healthcare with and for all including those we serve through Momentum, our confrontation with officials over racial, ethnic profiling, over â€śstop and frisk,â€ť
our not-always-easy welcome of the strange and the stranger, our own â€śweeping over the cityâ€ť â€” every one of these Saint Peterâ€™s Church activities and many, many more â€” all recognize and regularly confront the foxes of injustice that control our society and manipulate our culture to put down and put out others. We do this because led by Jesus and with our God we seek a society wherever everyone, everywhere can be nourished and grow and be safe within the brood gathered under our mother-hens wings.
Well-meaning people continue to call that dangerous. If the story of Jesus gives any guidance, they are 100% correct. Yet Jesus has a response for those people. I hear it as the model for our response too. â€śI am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.â€ť
â€śThe third day;â€ť the day of vindication; the day we call â€śresurrection.â€ť We donâ€™t know a lot about that day; but one thing is certain. It wonâ€™t be a chicken dinner. But, rather, it will be the great high feast, the marriage supper of the Lamb. Everyone, including us chickens, is invited to that feast, a feast that never ends.