Scripture - Luke 13:31-34
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, ‘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!
The Word of Life. Thanks be to God.
A seminary professor shared an image this past week that stopped me in my feed - so to speak - for a few minutes. I had been feeling overwhelmed and decided to escape to Facebook for a few minutes - really, that’s not a great idea, but it was the best option available at the time.
Granted, it’s not a very historically accurate depiction of Jesus, but I shared it nonetheless because I was struck by how vivid and intimate a relationship was portrayed. I’m going to try and share my screen here so you can see it….
It’s an image of Jesus holding the world depicted as a woman who is sick - and all the flags on it are the countries of those affected by the coronavirus.
This image caught my attention because of its truth. Jesus carries us. Like that children’s song, He’s got the whole world in his hands. In that instant I felt acknowledged. Seen. Carried. Held. And I had been going a mile a minute up until that point - between parenting and touching base with family and work - that I realized I hadn’t really stopped and considered the place I was in...or the emotions I was carrying.
The scripture we read this morning describes Jesus longing like a mother hen who yearns to gather her chicks to keep them safe. Jesus wanting to gather his people for shelter -- sheltering them from that fox of a King Herod. And I was struck how this is so much of our desire - yearning to protect our loved ones. We want to keep our children safe, no matter if they are still in our home, returning from a closed university, or living in another country. We want to keep our parents safe - my dad took a trip to Brookline to pick up a dresser that didn’t fit in my sister’s apartment and I was like “what are you doing?!?!?”. We want to shelter our friends and neighbors who are living alone and make sure they know they are loved and cared for. We’re all carrying a lot.
Not only are we carrying people in our hearts, but we’re carrying a lot of other worries and fears - worrying about loved ones who may get sick, worrying about our community and the burden of protecting the most vulnerable among us, fear that the decisions our country is making may not be enough, fearful that people are taking this too seriously or not seriously enough. It’s a lot.
This disease has threatened so much of the way of life we’ve taken for granted. Like the fox threatens the chicks.
But the image of God as a mother hen - sheltering us, desiring to protect us gives me hope.
Nadia Bolz-Weber writes this - and it’s a long passage but really sums up where I’m at right now, and I hope it is an inspiring word for you all as well. She writes: Maybe that beautiful image of God could mean something important for us: and by us I mean we fragile, vulnerable human beings who face very real danger. I can’t bear to say that this scripture is a description of what behaviors and attitudes you could imitate if you want to be a good, not-afraid person. But neither can I tell you that the Mother Hen thing means that God will protect you from Herod or that God is going to keep bad things from happening to you.
Because honestly, nothing actually keeps danger from being dangerous.
A mother hen cannot actually keep a determined fox from killing her chicks. So where does that leave us? I mean, if danger is real, and a hen can’t actually keep their chicks out of danger, then what good is this image of God as Mother Hen if faith in her can’t make us safe?
Well, today I started to think that maybe it’s not safety that keeps us from being afraid.
Maybe it’s love.
Which means that a Mother Hen of a God doesn’t keep foxes from being dangerous…a Mother Hen of a God keeps foxes from being what determines how we experience the unbelievably beautiful gift of being alive.
God the Mother Hen gathers all of her downy feathered, vulnerable little ones under God’s protective wings so that we know where we belong, because it is there that we find warmth and shelter.
But Faith in God does not bring you safety.
The fox still exists.
Danger still exists.
And by that I mean, danger is not optional, but fear is.
Because maybe the opposite of fear isn’t bravery. Maybe the opposite of fear is love. Paul tells us that perfect love casts out fear. So in the response to our own Herods, in response to the very real dangers of this world we have an invitation as people of faith: which is to respond by loving.
It’s like The famous story about Martin Luther: when asked what he would do if he knew the world was about to end, he famously said if he knew the world were ending tomorrow, then he would plant an apple tree today.
I love that because it is defiantly hopeful. As though he actually listened to Jesus when Jesus said “do not be afraid”. If the world were ending he would respond by loving the world.
Because the Herods of this world, the dangers of this world the foxes that may surround us, do not get to determine the contours of our hearts. Nor the content of our minds.
So, we can plant trees and cast out demons and heal, and we can squeeze every single drop of living out of this life.
So to hell with fear. Because it does nothing to actually keep the bad things from happening ….it just steals the joy of appreciating the good things around us.
So, love the world, good people.
But, you know, for now, do it from home.
We carry each other….and God carries us -- as we shelter others, we do so knowing that God shelters all of us - not to keep us safe, because danger is real and out there - but to remind us that we belong to each other and that fear doesn’t have to define us or our responses. We can choose to love - because bad stuff will happen no matter what - and in choosing to love, we can find more joy and peace...and we will not let fear define us.
I’d like to close with the first verse of Psalm 27 - we heard it read this morning from the Message, but I’m going to read it here with the more familiar translation:
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
Pastor Melissa Yosua-Davis has been serving the community of Chebeague and its church since July 2015. She currently lives on the island with her husband and five year old son and 2 year old daughter, along with their yellow lab. Read here recent sermon excerpts, thoughts on life and faith, and current announcements for the church community. She also blogs at Going on to Perfection.