Based on Luke 13: 31-35
Jesus cries over Jerusalem as a hen over her chicks
Opening Prayer: Holy, gracious and amazing God, may the words on my lips and the thoughts and feelings emerging from this time of reflection on your Holy Word for us be acceptable in your sight this day. Amen.
Last week marked the start of the Lenten season for this year. With that in mind, the gospel reading for the day was chosen from the fourth chapter of the gospel of Luke.
The story of how Jesus, God’s beloved son, was tested and fortified in his encounters with evil in the wilderness was a good beginning to set the tone for the Lenten journey over the coming five weeks.
This morning we celebrate the second Sunday in Lent with two distinct passages taken from close to the end of the 13th chapter of Luke’s gospel.
Next week, we will backtrack to the start of the 13th chapter, but for today, it feels sufficient to focus on these few verses from the end of this particular chapter.
Let’s do a quick review of the verses before a time of sharing our thoughts and feelings about some of the images, symbols, and thoughts arising.
The passage opens with a warning from the Pharisees that Jesus’ very life is in danger.
‘Get away from here!’ the religious leaders (who now seem to have become Jesus’ friends) tell him.
‘Herod (Antipas, tetrarch of Galilea) wants to kill you!’ they warn.
The subtext here is that Jesus must not go to the Holy City-Jerusalem-the seat of both political and religious power, the place where many a prophet before him has met their demise.
But Jesus’ decision to turn his face, like flint, to Jerusalem has long since occurred back in Chapter 9 of Luke’s gospel.
Here relying on his inner compass, his own true north, we might say, he makes no bones about what he thinks about the ruling authorities of the day.
This includes his disdain for the current King Herod Antipas who has just had Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, beheaded and whose aim was to have Jesus killed in infancy, had that been possible.
Referring here to King Herod as a ‘fox’, Jesus tells the Pharisees this: “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work”
Foreshadowing his own imminent death on the cross, the passage suddenly shifts as Jesus then addresses the city itself offering this most poignant and intimate of laments:
“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!”
What a heart-rending metaphor for our listening ears!
To hear God’s Beloved Son, not only mourning his fate in advance but also lifting up in prayerful lament the very place of his betrayal tugs at my heartstrings.
How about yours?
““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, just as suddenly as this passage began, it closes as Jesus offers a further puzzle of words foreshadowing his arrival into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
But that, too, is another story for another day.
Some questions for our prayerful consideration:
1. What resonates most for you about the readings?
2. What do you think about Jerusalem as a place of authority and of betrayal?
3. How does the imagery of Jesus as lamenting parent sit with you?
Here, this morning, we have gathered to celebrate the second Sunday in the season of Lent, the time in the church year when we are called, like Jesus, to deepen and strengthen our faith as we journey together towards the cross and new life.
Here, this morning, we also gather to receive and review our annual congregational meeting reports and to set our course for the coming year as faithful followers in the way of Jesus.
Here, this morning, we will hear stories of faith and perseverance and stories of letting go and letting God.
Let us continue to reflect on what these passages offer us here this morning as we share together in a closing prayer found at VU#110 A Lenten Prayer
“God of love, as in Jesus Christ you gave yourself to us, so may we give ourselves to you, living according to your holy will. Keep our feet firmly in the way where Christ leads us; help our lips speak the truth that Christ teaches us; fill our bodies with the life that is Christ within us. In his holy name we pray. Amen.”
The Hymn and Worship Book of the United Church of Canada
The United Church Publishing House