Sermon Preached by The Reverend Wendy Evans-Wood
March 11th 2001 based on Genesis 15: 1-12 & 17-18 Luke 13: 31-35
We have in the Genesis reading another promise made by God to Abraham. A promise to make Abraham and Sarah a great nation. There are several accounts of God granting Abraham this promise and we have to remember that many, many years of traditional story-telling was in operation before it was written down. The chances are that there were more stories being handed down from one generation to another than have in fact been written down. So we must be thankful for the editors!
What seems to come through these various stories is that God's faithfulness in fulfilling the promise or covenant with Abraham and Sarah would happen in spite of their wavering faith and their attempt to pre-empt God's action. Abraham and Sarah have many adventures that threaten God's promise to them. However God's caring for people will have the last word. This is the overall theme of the scriptures. God's merciful kindness will overcome our actions. From this story of Abraham and Sarah we are being asked to believe and trust in God's word. God's promises of care for us can be trusted.
Sarah and Abraham had to discover that 'things are not always what they seem' as the saying goes. God's promise was fulfilled in God's time, not when Abraham and Sarah thought it should.
Right through Biblical history God uses the insignificant to show > power. David the youngest and smallest of Jesse's sons became King of Israel. Jesus, born in a rough stable with poor parents becomes the way through which the world finds true power, the Messiah, the Saviour of the world.
God has a habit of turning the world upside down. What power does Jesus use? The power of love, the power of death. The world does not always see power in those terms.
Is it any wonder then that Jesus expresses his longing to gather the children of Jerusalem as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings? Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on a donkey not a horse. The gentle way that he spoke and touched many people in his ministry showed that he could not use other powerful animals such as a fox or a lion as an example of his ministry.
Jesus, like God used unexpected illustrations to show that he had something different to offer people. Jesus wanted people to discover a God whose strength was through love and mercy, not conflict and aggression. The mother hen speaks not only of vulnerability but also of nurturing and sustaining and above all of letting go. Over the years in my ministry I have heard the worried cry of parents over the way that their children choose to live. This has often been very different from the way that the parents have lived. Decisions to live with someone before being married. Or perhaps to have an affair with a married person. Occasionally there has been an unwanted pregnancy, or abuse of drinking or drugs. The parents want to tell the children where they are going wrong—but mostly it isn't heard. All that can be done is to continue loving—and letting them go. Jesus known about this kind of hurting and vulnerability. To have open arms and to wait for them to return. Sometimes they do—sometimes they can't—like my first husband who had clinical depression for many years. There was nothing that I could do to help—I couldn't protect him. As the bible notes say "You cannot make anyone walk into your arms".
Jesus in this lament over Jerusalem shows us another way to live. We are allowed to discover again that things are not always what they seem. Jesus with his imagery of a mother hen turns our expectations of power upside down. We are given a picture for us to follow in our lives. A picture of open arms, of vulnerability of nurturing, of sustaining others. This is the way that Jesus wants us to live. This the power of love seen in the open arms—the open arms of Jesus and the open arms of the cross.