Sermon for Second Sunday in Lent, Feb. 24, 2013
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: Luke 13:31-35
Sermon Theme: Under His Wings
(Sources: Emphasis online Commentary; Emphasis online Illustrations; original ideas; Brokhof Workbook)
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
When I was a kid, at a certain time of year, you could walk into the little post office in Dime Box and hear thousand of little cheeps. In those days, most people got their baby chicks through the post office. We would bring them home from the post office, and they looked like little, yellow, pom-pom balls.
My mother would rig them up in some type of enclosed pen inside the smokehouse, with an electric light bulb hanging above them to keep them warm. My brother and I had to take care of the chicks; we had to check their food and their water every morning and night. It was fun to be in charge of the chicks.
But we had a large chicken yard full of laying hens, and once in a while, when we had a rooster, a batch of chickens would be born behind the barn. We would wonder how they would keep warm without being inside with a light bulb above them. But we were thrilled to discover that the mother hen sheltered them under her wings. We wondered how safe they were until we saw the mother hen fly at the cat who lived under the barn and chase it away with loud noises and her beak. We thought how awesome it was the way the mother hen cared for her chicks; then it struck us, we were the mother hen for the chicks we cared for in the smokehouse.
In our text, Jesus likened himself to a mother hen when He said He longed to gather Jerusalem under His wings to protect them. The extent that a mother hen will go to protect her little ones was seen in a news article some years ago, reporting that the out-buildings of a farm were destroyed by a raging fire. In the rubble of the hen house, the farmer found the charred body of a hen. He pushed her over with his foot, and out ran an unharmed little chick cheeping away. What terror and pain that mother hen must have endured!
How much doesnt that remind us of Jesus with His head bleeding from a crown of thorns, the flesh of His back ripped open by flogging, followed by dying a slow death on the cross to protect us from the consequences of our sins!
The scene in our sermon text for today is very haunting. When we read it, we are deeply moved by the pain of Jesus, the mental/emotional pain that He is suffering at the time of the text, and the physical pain we know he will suffer on Good Friday.
Look at the depth of His mental/emotional pain first of all, He knows that His journey to Jerusalem will end in His death. He is fully aware that Herod wants to kill Him. In spite of His successful ministry, He knows that many of His followers will turn away from Him and shout for His crucifixion, and that one of the Twelve will betray Him. But even more painful, Jerusalem, the Holy City, the Holy Site of Gods own Temple, brings Him to tears as He cries out in the text, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!
There are different levels of pain, of course a cut or bruise annoys us, emotional abuse batters us, major surgery frightens us, the death of a family member can double us over in anguish.
But one kind of pain seems worse than the rest and that is the pain of betrayal. A friend turns his back on you. A spouse walks out on you. A community disowns you. We think of that haunting scene in Julius Caesar when Caesar meets the eye of Brutus, and says, Et tu, Brute? Judas meets his friend Jesus with a kiss that means both love and death. Stalin rides to power on the blood of his countrymen. Nothing hurts us more than to be betrayed by the one we counted on, the one we cared for, the one we loved as dearly as ourselves.
Thats why this brief story of Jesus crying over Jerusalem is so gut-wrenching. Those who are Jesus own people, those who share the history of his mission, and those who ought to know and love Him best, turn against Him in deliberately callous rejection.
This world is a world of pain, both mental and physical. Part of living is facing the pains of reality, so it is very easy to go from pain to utter despair. Even Christians wonder where God was when they needed Him the most.
We see this despair in The Blood of the Lamb, a novel by Don Wanderhope. In Dons life, one tragedy follows another. Dons wife bears a daughter before she herself commits suicide. The daughter, little Carol, is the one spot of grace in Dons life. He has struggled and struggled with his faith through the years, and when Carol gets sick and is diagnosed with leukemia, Don goes back to church.
He prays for Carol. He begs God to heal her. He pleads with Jesus to touch her life. But she dies anyway. Don leaves the hospital, carrying the birthday cake he was going to share with Carol. He walks past the Church of saint Catharine. Hanging over the door is a life-size statue of Christ on the cross. In his anger, Don takes the birthday cake in his hand and throws it at Jesus, causing icing to drip from the statues face like blood.
Thats the final prayer of Don Wanderhope. Thats what he thinks of the God he thinks betrayed him. Unfortunately, he is not alone. I hear these refrains often, and you probably do too, Why did God let this happen? How could God do this to us? Why doesnt God listen to my prayers?
But the Mother Hen stands there, wings umbrella-ed, waiting for us. Jesus, our Savior, our Redeemer, our brother, our friend, our nurturer, our ever-present help in all trouble, stands with arms outstretched, waiting to put His arms around us, waiting to heal the mental/emotional/physical hurts we have received from life.
It kind of reminds me of a daily ritual you see in New York City, which offers an unintentional metaphor.
There are huge banks of steps leading up to the central entry doors at the front of the huge Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, and joggers, seeking aerobic exercise, run up and down the steps. They run up the steps until they get to the level of the entry doors, then stop, turn around, and go back down. They repeat this as long as their breath and heart will allow.
But never do the joggers ENTER the church! Its like Jesus standing on the hillside, arms outstretched like the protective wings of a mother hen, and, rather than let those arms enfold you, you run away from Him.
You know, the old saying is true, Laugh, and the world laughs with you, but weep and you weep alone. While that may be true of the world, it is not true of Jesus. By our God becoming a human being, He came to understand what it means to hurt, to suffer, to weep, and to face death; and so He understands how desperately we need the protection of His wings. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.