Readings, Notes and Prayers, 11th March 2001
Lent 2, Year C, Purple
Verse of Scripture
Romans Chapter 10 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Collect Prayer for the Day桞efore we read we pray
Almighty God, you show to those who are in error the light of your truth, that they may return to the way of righteousness: grant to all those who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ抯 religion, that they may reject those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward." But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir." Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir." He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars--if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. He also said to him, "I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it." But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?" So the LORD said to him, "Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon." Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates. (This is the Word of the Lord桾hanks be to God)
At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you." He replied, "Go tell that fox, `I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.' In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day--for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, `Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" (This is the Word of the Lord桾hanks be to God)
Post Communion Prayer
Almighty God, you see that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
God of tenderness and strength, under the shelter of your wings, the night harbours no terrors, only peaceful stars bearing promise. We praise you for giving refuge and for pointing us toward the stars. In peace we rest in your Presence; in strength we go forth into the world. Amen. From Diane Karay, All the Seasons of Mercy (1987).
First Sunday of Lent. Jesus weeps over Jerusalem.
Luke 13. On the western slope of the Mount of Olives, just across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem, sits a small chapel called Dominus Flevit. According to tradition, it was here that Jesus wept over the city that had refused his ministrations. Inside the chapel a high arched window looks out over the city. Iron grillwork divides the view into sections, so that on a sunny day the effect is that of a stained-glass window. The difference is that this subject is alive. It is not some artist抯 rendering of the holy city but the city itself, with the Dome of the Rock in the bottom left corner and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the middle.
Down below, on the front of the altar, is a picture of what never happened in that city. It is a mosaic medallion of a white hen with a golden halo around her head. Her red comb resembles a crown, and her wings are spread wide to shelter the pale yellow chicks that crowd around her feet. There are seven of them, with black dots for eyes and orange dots for beaks. They look happy to be there. The hen looks ready to spit fire if anyone comes near her babies. The medallion is rimmed with red words in Latin. Translated into English they read, "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 last phrase is set outside the circle, in a pool of red underneath the chicks?feet: you were not willing.
The same lament appears in Matthew抯 Gospel, but Jerusalem does not mean the same thing to him that it does to Luke. Luke抯 Gospel begins and ends in the temple in Jerusalem. Zechariah learns in the temple that he and Elizabeth will have a child. Mary and Joseph bring their own child there when the time comes. Simeon and Anna deliver their prophecies there, and Jesus returns when he is 12 years old to take his place among the teachers of Israel. All told, Luke mentions Jerusalem 90 times in his Gospel, while all the other New Testament writers combined mention it only 49 times. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Luke loves the place梥o rich in history and symbol, so dense with expectation and fear. Jerusalem is the dwelling place of God, the place where God抯 glory shall be revealed (Isa. 24:23). It is also the place where God is betrayed by those who hate the good and love what is evil (Mic. 3:2).
If you have ever loved someone you could not protect, then you understand the depth of Jesus?lament. All you can do is open your arms. You cannot make anyone walk into them. Meanwhile, this is the most vulnerable posture in the world --wings spread, breast exposed梑ut if you mean what you say, then this is how you stand. Given the number of animals available, it is curious that Jesus chooses a hen. Where is the biblical precedent for that? What about the mighty eagle of Exodus, or Hosea抯 stealthy leopard? What about the proud lion of Judah, mowing down his enemies with a roar? Compared to any of those, a mother hen does not inspire much confidence. No wonder some of the chicks decided to go with the fox. But a hen is what Jesus chooses, which -- if you think about it --is pretty typical of him. He is always turning things upside down, so that children and peasants wind up on top while kings and scholars land on the bottom. He is always wrecking our expectations of how things should turn out by giving prizes to losers and paying the last first. So of course he chooses a chicken, which is about as far from a fox as you can get. That way the options become very clear: you can live by licking your chops or you can die protecting the chicks. Jesus won抰 be king of the jungle in this or any other story. What he will be is a mother hen, who stands between the chicks and those who mean to do them harm. She has no fangs, no claws, no rippling muscles. All she has is her willingness to shield her babies with her own body. If the fox wants them, he will have to kill her first.
Prayers for Sunday
Lord God in your holy word today we heard that you call us to come to you and more that you seek us out like hen seeks out her chicks, that you offer us the protection and the safety of your strong wings. Help us O God to stop each day and to listen for your call - to pause and allow you to overtake us梩o wait and to have your warmth and your wisdom overwhelm us. Amen.
Father and Mother of us all - you have given us many images of what you are like in the law and the prophets and through the ministry of Christ Jesus our Lord梱ou have been compared to hen seeking out her chicks, to a rock which cannot be moved - to a mother suckling her child - to a wind which cannot be controlled and a fire which cannot be quenched - to a woman seeking out a lost coin梩o a king who invites everyone to his wedding feast - to an eagle who stirs up her wings and shields the young in her nest梐nd in each of these images we learn more about you. Grant us, O Lord, a personal image of your presence - an image which will sustain us we seek to love you with all our heart and soul mind and strength and as we seek to love one another as Jesus loves us. Amen.
Loving God - we stop here today to think not only of ourselves and our needs - we pause not just to have our cups filled by your love - we stop as well on behalf of others. We hold before you those whose cups are filled with bitterness and anger, those who have lost their way and who worship success and the idols of our world. We ask that you give them new hearts - hearts that are filled with goodness and with faith. Lord hear our prayer. Amen.
Hymns for Sunday
Mission Praise Fight the good fight 143 (After confession), God forgave my sin 181, Let us sing to the God of salvation (On notices), Great is thy faithfulness 200, Come let us sing of a wonderful love 94, Lord for the Years 428.