By The Rev. Sherry Deets
2 Lent – February 24, 2013
Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopal priest, tells in one of her sermons about a window in a small chapel at the place where Jesus wept over Jerusalem. The window is divided into sections by an iron grillwork and, at first appearance, looks like a stained glass window. But it is not stained glass. It is clear glass, and it looks out onto the city of Jerusalem. Below that window is a mosaic of a white hen with a golden halo and a covey of seven baby chicks. The hen has her wings spread to shelter her chicks, and she has a fierce look for anyone who would harm them. The inscription says in Latin:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem….” How often I wanted to gather your children together, like a hen gathers her own brood under her wings, and you refused!”
You know, a rooster will defend its territory and protect its brood to the bitter end with all the ferocity it can muster. A hen, however, will cower down, spread out her wings, protect her young as best she can, but sit vulnerably while the fox attacks. A hen, in other words, will give up her own life to protect her brood.
First, Jesus calls Herod a fox. Then, in the next breath, he uses the image for himself of a hen protecting her brood. And what is the natural enemy of a hen? A fox.
Barbara Brown Taylor asks, “How do you like that image of God? If you are like me, it is fine in terms of comfort, but in terms of protection it leaves something to be desired.”
Why do you think Jesus saw himself more as a defenseless hen than he did an aggressive rooster, especially in light of his willingness to stand up to that wily fox Herod? It was his nature to want to protect and love God’s children, for that is the nature of God, and it is why Jesus died on that cross.
But he was going to do it in his own time. No one else was going to determine when it would happen. Not Herod, not Pilate, not the High Priest. Only Jesus. And in his own time.
To reinforce that Herod has no control over him, Jesus adds that he will be doing these things “today and tomorrow”. When Jesus follows this statement about “today and tomorrow” by saying that “on the third day I finish my work,” it is perhaps not apparent from these words alone what he means. Indeed, the reference to “the third day” probably sounds to most of us like a reference to the resurrection. And, perhaps the resurrection is meant to be included, but the following verse makes it clear that it is his death that Jesus primarily has in mind: “Yet today, tomorrow, and the next I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem”.
The important point to note is that Jesus’ death is in continuity with the rest of his ministry — “today,” “tomorrow,” and “the third day” go together. Jesus’ death is not of a fundamentally different character than his ministry while he was alive: They are all about establishing the kingdom of God. Holding together Jesus’ life and death helps us to make better sense of both. Establishing the kingdom of God.
Think of Jesus standing on a scrubby hill reaching out like a mother hen, as God has done again and again and again. And nobody pays attention.
Writer Catherine Bateson has said that we “need therapy for our wounded capacity to attend.” Most of us excel at living distracted lives at warp speed: multi-tasking we call it and we celebrate it. We eat and watch tv and talk on the phone. We go to class and text message. We go to church and write a grocery list.
Multi-tasking, though, makes for shallow living. You can do a lot, but none of it goes very deep. There’s a cost. Albert Schweitzer said that “your soul suffers if you live superficially.” Moments of grace, epiphany, insight, are lost to us because we are in such a hurry. Jesus Christ, savior of the world, savior of our life, the peace that we pray for, can stand right in front of us and we will never even notice. Like those puzzles we had as kids where you try to find 10 animals in the picture. They are all there, you are looking right at them, nothing more is needed to see them except…to see.
Joan Chittister, Christian contemplative, tells this story about paying attention: “Where shall I look for Enlightenment?” the disciple asked.
“Here,” the elder said.
“When will it happen?” the disciple asked.
“It is happening right now,” the elder answered.
“Then why don’t I experience it?” the disciple persisted.
“Because you do not look,” the elder said.
“But what should I look for?” the disciple continued.
“Nothing. Just look,” the elder said.
“But at what?” the disciple asked again.
“At anything your eyes alight upon,” the elder answered.
“But must I look in a special kind of way?” the disciple went on.
“No. The ordinary way will do,” the elder said.
“But don’t I always look the ordinary way?” the disciple said.
“No, you don’t,” the elder said.
“But why ever not?” the disciple asked.
“Because to look you must be here. You are mostly somewhere else.”
(in There Is A Season, quoted in Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life, Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, 34,35)
Like you, I want to experience deeply the spirit of God. I want my life to count. I don’t want to get to the end and find out I was too busy or bored or distracted to hear God’s still, small voice, too pre-occupied to “wait here and watch with me,” as Jesus asks.
Often children have not yet forgotten how to pay attention. A friend of mine sat in a beautiful museum space watching the sun come through the skylight and the water spray in the fountain. Then the children came in with mothers and grandparents after an art class carrying big sheets of poster board with colorful drawings.
But they didn’t just come in, they skipped into the room. They followed their mothers to tables and they couldn’t stand still, they hopped and danced. One child knelt at the rim of the fountain and splashed her hand into the arc of water. One child wrapped her arms around a huge pillar and balancing her feet on the narrow base, hugged her way around it, not once, or twice, but three times before her mother called her away.
He paid attention to children who pay attention and saw how beautiful and wondrous this world is and how much God loves us to put it in our hands.
Tell me the weight of a snowflake,’ a robin asked a wild dove.
‘Nothing more than nothing,’ was the answer.
‘In that case, I must tell you a marvelous story,’ the robin said. ‘I sat on the branch of a fir, close to its trunk, when it began to snow – not heavily, not in a raging blizzard, no, just like in a dream, without any violence. Since I didn’t have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. The number was exactly 3,741,952. When the next snowflake dropped onto the branch – nothing more than nothing, as you would say – the branch broke off.’ Having said that, the robin flew away. The dove, since Noah’s time an authority on the matter, thought about the story for a while and finally said to herself: ‘Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come about in the world.’ – Author Unknown
During this Lenten Season, set your faces toward Easter and stay the course knowing that Jesus walks with you to protect and guide you. Pay attention, be present, because you matter and you make a difference to those around you in this world. Amen.
The text of this sermon is the property of the author and may not be duplicated or used without permission.