19 August 2019
The Journey to the Cross - An Easter meditation
The Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus, when he is ready, goes to Jerusalem, where he knows he would be challenged and even killed, because that was what Jerusalem did to those God sent.
On the way Jesus stops and looks over the city and laments for it. He uses a picture of himself as the mother hen, the one the fox [his naming of King Herod] is after. He is defenceless except for the ability to fly away. This is not the picture of a triumphant king, or a God who cannot be hurt.
We have stained glass windows and pictures of Jesus the shepherd, they appeal to us, the shepherd can defend his flock but we don’t often see this image of a hen, it is vulnerable to the fox, it can be hurt, the hen is so ordinary.
Barbara Brown Taylor draws our attention to the image of the hen.
"On the western slope of the Mount of Olives, is a small chapel run by the Franciscans called Dominus Flevit. According to tradition, it was here that Jesus wept over the city that had refused his ministrations. From the window behind the altar you can look over the city, a city where Muslim's Dome of the Rock, replaces the Temple which was there in Jesus’ time where the city can be clearly seen.
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.
But, that never happened, and the picture does not pretend that it did. The medallion is rimmed with red words in Latin. In 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."
Jesus looks over a city which it is filled with pale yellow chicks and at least one fox. In the absence of a mother hen, some of the chicks have taken to following the fox around. Others are huddled out in the open where anything with claws can get to them. Across the valley, a white hen with a gold halo around her head is clucking for all she is worth. Most of the chicks cannot hear her, and the ones that do make no response. They no longer recognize her voice. They have forgotten who they are."
If you have ever loved someone you could not protect, then you understand the depth of Jesus’ lament. If you have watched your children walk into danger, if you have seen someone suffer and you would have rather taken their place if it were possible to spare them. 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 -- but if you mean what you say, then this is how you stand.
A mother hen does not inspire much confidence. But Jesus chooses a mother hen who stands between the chicks and those who mean to do them harm. She has wings, she could save herself. 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.
Which he does, as it turns out. He slides up on her one night in the yard while all the babies are asleep. When her cry wakens them, they scatter. She dies the next day where both foxes and chickens can see her -- wings spread, breast exposed -- without a single chick beneath her feathers. It breaks her heart. She stands between us and all that would deprive us of life. She is broken for us. This Jesus, bread of life, broken and shared with the world, that all might live,
For new life came from this Jesus, the risen one, with scars on his hands and feet, marks of the torture and death.
We are asked to follow this one who calls us under his wings. He offers us an identity, a new citizenship and gives us and this world hope and a future.
May God bless you and hold you in love.
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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