Keeping Promises (3/17/19)
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Luke 13:31-35
31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me,[c] ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33 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.’ 34 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! 35 See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when[d] you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
This was one of those weeks when I couldn’t decide which text I wanted to use as the basis for my sermon. On Monday, I was planning on using this story, but later in the week I changed my mind, because events in the life of this congregation made the other story more relevant. Still, I wanted to say a little bit about this one.
On Monday afternoons, I meet with some other pastors from Freehold and we discuss the texts for the next Sunday. One of the members of this group is a woman named Jen and she’s the Pastoral Associate at St. Robert Bellarmine. No, the Roman Catholic Church hasn’t ordained any women as priests, but they do allow women to serve in some pastoral functions.
Anyhow, we were discussing this reading from the Gospel of Luke and Jen said that the image in this story of Jesus as a mother hen, gathering his brood under his wings really resonated with Jen. You see, she lives out in Cream Ridge and she has a lot of animals, including a rooster and three or four hens.
One day, Jen heard a great noise coming from the back yard. One of the hens was clucking away, frantically chasing after her chick. There was a hawk in the sky, circling Jen’s yard. And once the mother hen found her chick, she gathered it under her wings and sat there, waiting for the hawk.
When Jen saw this, she went out and retrieved the hen and the chick and put them in their coop, where they’d be safe.
What I found so interesting about this—after Jen explained it to me—is that the mother hen would not have been able to fend off the hawk. The hen simply would have sacrificed her own life, so that her chick could survive. Which is, ultimately, what Jesus does for us. He offers his own life, so that we may live.
In 2019, a lot of us don’t fully appreciate these metaphors—most of us weren’t raised on farms. But Jesus was speaking to an agrarian community. Everyone was close to the land; he didn’t have to explain the story. I want you to hold this image in your head, this idea of God protecting and providing. Let it inform your understanding as you hear our reading from the Old Testament. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”[a]3 And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” 4 But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” 5 He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 And he believed the Lord; and the Lord[b] reckoned it to him as righteousness.