Sunday, February 21, 2016

Luke 13.31-35

Gathered under Jesus’ wings

In the Gospel text today, Jesus talks about Herod as a fox, and the people as chicks whom Jesus would love to shelter under his wings like a mother hen.
I don’t know how many of you have any experience with chickens, but mine is limited. When I was about 10, my family went to visit family friends in rural Indiana. We were city folk, and knew next to nothing about farm life. After a tour of the barn where the cows had just been milked, and a peek at the new piglets, Hattie sent me out to the chicken coop to gather some eggs.
Again, I knew nothing about doing this other than what I had seen on TV, probably the Looney Toons hen house with Foghorn Leghorn. The music echoes in my ears even now. But I was 10, and game to try anything. So I went to the chicken coop and tried to get the hens to let go of their eggs. One or two gave in nicely, but the third resisted. She tried to peck me, so I pulled my hand away. That was her egg, and I wasn’t getting it. So I took the handful of eggs I already had to Hattie and told her about the mean hen. 
I remembered this episode when thinking about the way Jesus wants to shelter us under his wings. I did a little research about hens and chickens. Right after hatching, chicks will stay pretty close to mama, for warmth, protection, and security. Within 2 weeks after hatching, chicks will begin to venture farther away, exploring their surroundings. But they return to mama’s wings until they are several weeks old. Eventually, mama kicks the chicks out of the nest, and sends them away to forage on their own. It’s time for her to start over with another batch of chicks.
It’s this warmth, protection, and security we can find when we shelter under Jesus’ wings. So, we need to come here regularly, to be nurtured by him, to feel cared for and loved, and forgiven.
But, just as the chicks begin to wander away from mama, so do we wander. If we stayed always here in worship, for some of us, it would be very pleasant. But most of us would find it boring. Plus, Jesus doesn’t exactly kick us out to forage on our own, but he does send us out to work to build the kingdom/reign he came to establish.
In addition to talking about hens and their chicks, Jesus calls Herod a fox. What happens when a fox gets into the henhouse? … Hens get killed. Chicks get killed.
One hen in particular is going to be killed; Jesus knows that he will be put to death. He knows better every day just when that will happen, because he is on his way to Jerusalem. Not all prophets were killed there, but many were, enough for Jesus to remark on it.
In the meantime, Jesus is doing what he can on earth. He’s preaching and healing and gathering followers and disciples. He is trying to gather them under his wings until it’s time to send them out. But not all chicks are willing to be gathered under his wings. Many resist, claiming that Jesus is not their mama. And that’s why he gets killed.
So, what does this mean for us?
First, it means we need to come regularly to worship together. Here, we hear the Word read and preached and sung. Here we share the meal which fills us. Here we share our concerns and offer them to God. Here we are reminded of God’s love and grace, meant for each one of us. And from here we are sent out to do ministry in Jesus’ name.
We can also spend time in prayer and study at home and here at Hope. This time nourishes us, challenges us, and keeps us from going too far astray in our search for a connection with God. Our time alone or with a small group should also send us out to do ministry in Jesus’ name.
Some of that ministry is done here, and lots of ministry is done elsewhere because of us. For example, at last summer’s Youth Gathering, our youth participated in this diaper gathering for babies in Detroit. Each week, we bring food for the food pantry and put cash in our offering check to feed the hungry. Martha Circle is already filling shoeboxes for this November. The quilters took some finished blankets to the Family Resource Center and they were received with such gratitude, because it has been so cold lately.
So, do you consider yourselves sheltered under Jesus’ wings? Do you come here for comfort, to be fed and nourished? Do you come here to be fed and sent out for ministry? In what ways do you resist being gathered under his wings?
… Pastor Bob happened to be at a retreat center while I was there with a group of Women of the ELCA leaders. A woman in the group had a medical emergency and Pastor Bob thought he needed to accompany us to the hospital. We didn’t need him, but that’s a story for another day.
Anyway, as we sat waiting for news of the woman with the emergency, Bob told us about his ministry. He had been serving quite happily in another congregation, but the bishop contacted him and asked him to consider a call to – let’s say, Peace Lutheran Church.
“But,” Bob said, “I prefer serving churches that do a lot of outreach with needy people. Peace is filled with wealthy people.” The Bishop’s response was, “Wealthy people need pastors, too.”
Pastor Bob accepted the call and led the people of Peace to establish a number of community service organizations, and to participate in the local branches of Habitat for Humanity and Meals on Wheels.
Pastor Bob was sent to Peace to comfort the afflicted, because even wealthy people can be afflicted, and to afflict the comfortable, because wealthy people need to be challenged to see needs beyond their own. I imagine many of the wealthy folks at Peace first wanted to wander away, to resist being gathered under those service-minded wings. They had better things to do with their time and their money. But, Pastor Bob and Jesus persisted, and now they do some amazing ministries.
In what ways do you choose to be gathered under Jesus wings? How does your time there make you feel? In what ways do you choose to be sent out to work in the kingdom/reign of God? How does your time there make you feel? In what ways do you resist being drawn under Jesus’ wings, or sent out to work in the kingdom? How does that resistance make you feel? My guess is you feel better when you are not resisting Jesus, wherever and whenever he gathers you or sends you.
So come often to be gathered around the table, fed and nourished and strengthened, so that you may be sent out to do whatever Jesus is sending you to do in his name.
Please pray with me: Lord Jesus, our Mother Hen, we give you thanks for gathering us under your wings. Forgive us when we wander away, or resist being gathered. Restore us, fill us, and then send us out again, to serve in your name. Amen