God’s loving wings are wide open to embrace you, and there is no reason not to go in and find warmth and healing and life.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Second Sunday in Lent, year C
Text: Luke 13:31-35
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
We almost lost our little dog Maggie this week.
She snuck out as I was leaving for work. She’s pretty fast, and must have darted out through the garage while I wasn’t looking. She’s broken free before in the summer – she loves to run. We know she’ll always come back, but there are coyotes nearby and if there’s a squirrel, she wouldn’t stop for a car.
It wasn’t summer, though, it was bitterly cold, and we didn’t know she was gone. A few hours after I left, our neighbor found her barking outside her door. Fortunately, our neighbor and her wife put our packages in the garage for us, and we for them, so she knew our code and took Maggie home.
Our fear after this is not the same as Jesus’ despair at his own people being unwilling to let him draw them all under the loving wings of God’s embrace. Maggie’s only a dog, not a whole nation.
But there is this: Maggie broke out of the loving, warm place that embraced her, to run free. And pretty soon, she likely regretted her decision, and longed for safety and warmth over that freedom. Maybe Jesus’ reluctant chickens have regrets, too.
Jesus proclaimed God’s grace and love for all people.
He had compassion on all who suffered, or were lost, crushed by life, looking for God. And lots of people let him embrace them in the loving wings of God the Mother Hen. But lots did not. Why?
Well, Jesus also called people to a new way, to repent of what they were doing, to change direction. To love God and love neighbor as their Scriptures had long proclaimed, to live in God’s reign that was theirs now, not just in heaven. For some, maybe that was a reason not to follow. Or even to have him killed.
But all the leaders that wanted him out of the way trusted in God, knew the Scriptures, heard their call to love of God and neighbor all their lives. They knew the prophets, and God’s deep concern for those who were poor and in need, the ones most attracted to Jesus. Whether or not they believed Jesus was God’s Son, they ought to have been glad to hear him, support him.
Why would they be unwilling to be drawn into the love of God Jesus embodied and preached? More to the point, since all these people are dead long ago: why would you be unwilling?
Maggie suggests that seeking freedom to do whatever you want isn’t always the best thing for you. But we want it.
If little chicks in the farmyard are running wherever they like and the mother hen tries to gather them, it’s for a reason. Maybe a storm is coming, or a fox is near. She wants her babies safe under her wings, doing it her way. But what does a chick know about foxes or storms? Running’s more fun. Maggie certainly hadn’t read the weather forecast that day.
Freedom to be what you want to be, do whatever you want to do, is intoxicating, even for us. No one gets to tell you anything. Just because we’re here doesn’t mean we always want to do things Christ’s way. But if you accept the embrace of Christ the Mother Hen, you accept the way of Christ. The Mother Hen wants you to live in a way that is abundant and good for you and for all. The way of love of God and neighbor, the path of vulnerable love. That’s the path of healing and God’s warm embrace of you.
So when you go under those wings, you give up your freedom to be and do whatever you want, to find freedom to be God’s love in the world. Maybe you’re not willing to do that.
And of course, the Mother Hen decides who else is under those wings.
That was a lot of the resistance to Jesus’ ministry and proclamation. He attracted all the wrong kinds of people. People that some simply called “sinners” – not calling them by name or occupation, just naming their whole identity as something they did wrong. Some of those drawn to Jesus were beggars, people with mental illness, hated tax collectors. Even enemies, whom Jesus said also were worthy of love and prayers.
It’s good to know you are loved and embraced under God’s holy wings, gathered into the never-ending forgiveness of God for you, snuggling your spirit into the warmth of your acceptance by God.
But look around you under those wings. How long will it take to see someone you don’t want to share the space with? Someone you think no one should love, let alone God? Inside or outside Christianity, we all have some we could name.
You might not be willing to share God’s embrace with some of them.
But life is under those wings. Warmth, healing, hope.
It’s because Jesus welcomes sinners and hypocrites and people who struggle that you know you have a place. Every single one of us is welcomed under God’s maternal wings of love solely because God loves us, not because we deserved it.
And a life free to do whatever you want becomes a life of pain and misery, because no one wants to be with anyone that selfish, that hard, that uncaring of the needs of others. That path seems fine until you realize how bitterly cold your life has become and you wonder where the warmth of love can be for you.
All Jesus, the Son of the Living God, wants is to draw all God’s children into the warm embrace of God’s love.
And put them on a path where that embrace is shared with more and more. Until all are under the wings. All know God’s healing touch and life. All are warm and cared for.
There’s absolutely no reason for you to stay away. And if you do, you’ll learn at some point what a mistake it was to value your own stubborn way over a way of grace and healing, or to value staying away from those you don’t want to be with over a place of warmth and life.
“How often I have desired to gather you together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing,” Jesus says.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
In the name of Jesus. Amen