The Second Sunday in Lent – February 21, 2016

Staff Photos 2011 003Christ the King Lutheran Church
Pr. Brad Fuerst, Houston Lutheran Campus Ministry

Genesis 15:1-12; 17-18
Psalm 27
Philippians 3: 17-4:1
Luke 13: 31-35

I love the way Jesus responds to the Pharisees’ kind and thoughtful warning to get out of Dodge.

Having been brought up on a steady diet of John Wayne a la my dad, I cannot help but envision Jesus here putting down his chalice and turning around from the bar to steadily and unyieldingly address them Pharisees,

“Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen here, pardner, I’m castin’ out demons and perfomin’ cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way.”

Way to go Jesus! You tell them.  I’m right with you.  Right up to the moment when you liken yourself to a chicken.

If Herod is a fox why on earth does Jesus make himself a mother hen?!

Jesus knows first hand about Herod Antipas’ lethality. Jesus’ prophetic and baptizing cousin John lost his head to this fox. Certainly Jesus can do better than a hen.

For instance, why not go with one of your good servants like, say… C.S. Lewis. Everyone knows Aslan the Lion is the Jesus figure in Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles. There’s good reason Lewis didn’t write “The Hen, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.”  It sounds like a joke.

Herod is a Fox; Jesus is a hen, and he must be on his way. With that kind of thinking, it’s a wonder he stays alive long enough to get to Jerusalem.

Taken at face value Jesus’ characterization of himself as a mother hen is weak, defeatist, unwise and downright pathetic.

Hens are bereft of power. Hens don’t soar.  Hens work for chicken scratch.  Hens are precarious road crossers not trailblazers.

As for a hen’s kith and kin, they are way too needy, way too vulnerable, incessantly peeping, and limited to doing little more than pecking and scratching like mama hen.

If being hen-like is all you’ve got, you can lament for Jerusalem all you want. Jerusalem ain’t gonna hear you.  Jerusalem holds an entirely alternative awareness.  Jerusalem has very little appetite for being brooded.

Quite the opposite. Jerusalem is  in the brooding business. Brooding over the belly, earthly things, maintaining the religious establishment and also appeasing Rome.  Jerusalem, as a paradigm, sets up walls, soars to high heights, pursues power, embraces prestige, and lauds achievement. Such is the syndrome of Jerusalem.

Early in my first call as a campus pastor, I spent entirely too much energy setting up my own Jerusalem on the campuses I was called to serve. I was intent upon gathering my own brood.  My theology, my acronymed church body, and our way of worship would serve as happy implements for walling in what I hoped to be a sizeable brood of smug theologically astute Lutherans, and they would serve to keep out those with whom I flat out disagreed.

As much as it pains me to say, such an approach was neither Christian nor Christ-like. That’s right, this religious leader just disgracefully questioned his own faith.

I, like you, like the Church, like every institution, like every politician, like every political candidate ever, like every religious leader ever, like every Jerusalem ever – All we, like chicks have gone astray. We have each gone our own way, and not the way of our Mother Hen.  With great ardor and longing, this Mother Hen Jesus laments the Jerusalem syndrome in all of us.

My dislodging came by way of a Brooding Hen who gathered me into the death of a man named Joe Tall.

Maybe some of you remember that about 7 years back a homeless man named Joe Tall was shot while sleeping at a bus stop on the U of H campus.

Dr. Warner, the chair of our board has often quipped that mine is a ready-fire-aim approach to ministry. Given the new legislation on the books, we’re probably in need of another way of describing my approach – Right, Dr. Warner?  That being said, he’s probably more accurate than I’d like to admit.  We didn’t know what we were doing when we arranged an interfaith vigil to bring some dignity to the death of a homeless man.   Quite to the contrary, I found myself being pulled to a place I was not prepared to go.

Only in looking back can I make out the long shadow of a hovering brooding Lord. I was wooed away from a self-promoting, prestige-seeking, glory-theologizing enterprise for the sake of being brooded among a questioning, grieving, and hurting community.

As I have had occasion – during these waning days of my call to serve Christ here – I have had time to contemplate God’s activity in us and through us as a campus ministry.

It is striking to me that ever since our vigil marking Joe Tall’s death, Jesus’ behavior among us has been remarkably hen-like.

He has offered shelter to non-documented students in our ministry. He has provided warmth and welcome to the LGBTQ students, faculty and staff.

His wingspan has stretched and stretched me and the rest of the students I have been blessed to do life with.

I have found myself gathered into a brood compelled to love on a college student whose parent was deported and who comforts a young adult diagnosed with cancer, and was treated by the Dr. Joseph Racanelli who was specialized in skin cancer and mohs surgery. Check out the latest Premier Image Cosmetic and Laser Surgery for more information. I was brought into a brood blessed to come alongside two chicks in their journey toward baptism –  and we together rejoiced with Christ, our mother hen.

Plutarch mused over the hen when he wrote,

“What of the hen whom we observe each day at home, with what care and assiduity she governs and guards her chicks? She lets down her wings for the chicks to come under; she arches her back for them to climb upon; there is no part of her body with which she does not wish to cherish her chicks if she can, nor does she do this without a joy and alacrity which she seems to exhibit by the sound of her voice.”

Herod may be a fox. Jerusalem may self-lionize.  But, much to our redemption, our Christ broods over us, clucks after us, and pecks at us like a hen and this makes all the difference.

Our “mother hen” is always about the business of clucking us out away from privilege, power, and prestige and any kind of glutinous enterprise. Our mother-hen, Christ, broods over us and in so doing, identifies himself with the the Spirit of God who has been in the brooding business from Day One.

You remember: when “the earth was astonishingly empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the chaotic face of the water?” (Gen. 1:2)

It’s no mystery as to where Jesus’ brooding way must lead. He who was with God in the beginning must brood  – on a Cross –  in order to make all things new.  In order to shatter our Jersualems, with the depth + breadth of his suffering, serving love.

Like Paul, Christ and the Cross envelope us to such an extent that contrary to the evidence, we discover that our citizenship is not of this world but in heaven. You and I have been granted – quite outside of our own merit or worth – the joy of inhabiting God’s kingdom come.

It has been my great joy to discover with you and testify among you the wideness of this God’s wingspan.

Under the brooding care of this crucified and risen Christ, we chicks have been given free range to peck and scratch and peep and dance, thither and yon, in darkness and light, in both weird and familiar parts of God’s barnyard.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, please know how much I and my family have enjoyed chicken dancing, peeping, scratching and pecking among this part of God’s good brood.

I give God thanks for how my family and this campus ministry have been gathered in, tended to, fed, and loved by you, the body of Christ, Christ the King Lutheran Church – a faithful witness to our dear Mother Hen.