Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lent 2 Sermon: All Hail the Holy Hen

Sermon Texts: Philippians and Luke 13

Sermon Notes

Rick Steves kind of sermon today. 

Dominus Flevit, description.  The church that commemorates this occasion we hear about today.  Jesus wept, the chapel is shaped like a tear. 

Window—Barbara Brown Taylor: Inside the chapel, the altar is centered before a high arched window that 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’s 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 Sepulcher in the middle. Two-thirds of the view is the cloudless sky above the city which the grillwork turns into a quilt of blue squares. Perhaps this is where the heavenly Jerusalem hovers over the earthly one, until the time comes for the two to meet?

Can you imagine Jesus looking out over a very different Jerusalem, perhaps with the view as clear as this window makes it for us that there is a new Jerusalem, a heavenly Jerusalem, waiting to join the earthly Jerusalem, and he knows he will be the one to usher in that new city? 

He is met by the Pharisees, who do him the favor of telling him he has a death threat against him, and he starts talking about animals. 

He calls Herod a fox, and then tells the Pharisees what to tell Herod, basically, I’m going to go about my business, and you mind your own! 

I used to enjoy imagining what kind of animal I’d be if I could be an animal.  I remember running around the playground when I was about Wesley’s age imagining I was a rhino.  I also enjoyed thinking I’d be a St. Bernard.  In fact, I wanted to change my name to Bernard as a kid, because I thought it would make me bigger.  Now that I think about it, a rhino is pretty big too, so maybe I had a thing with wanting to be bigger. 

You would think Jesus would have chosen a little better.  CS Lewis pictures the savior as a fierce Lion in the Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and we certainly can see why.  The Bible talks a lot about the Messiah as the great Conquering Lion of Judah. 

But, if Jesus cared to venture into bird territory to find a good animal representation of himself, then certainly the Eagle of Deuteronomy 32:11 makes sense, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions.   Yes indeed.  That’s strong, protective imagery.

But instead, Jesus chooses a hen.  A hen!  His choice is commemorated here in the Dominus Flevit chapel with this mosaic.  Though if you ask me, and even though I’m from Arkansas, I don’t know a lot about chickens mind you.  But, I thought that only roosters had those combs on their heads. 

Well, we can imagine why the artist has taken liberties, can’t we?  At least a rooster offers some form of defense.  He’s got those spikes on the back of his legs, and I can tell you from the experience of being the cause for alarm to a rooster, they can be awfully intimidating, can’t they?  They certainly think they are!  I remember thinking, surely I could just kick the thing in it’s head, couldn’t I?  But instead I just made a habit of taking a wide berth and kind of scooting across that rooster’s path pretty quickly when I was a visitor to a farm that had a rooster. 

Yes, at least a rooster is a little more like an eagle.  A little more formidable opponent to a fox, but Jesus very clearly likens himself to the female chicken, which   Barbara Brown Taylor said, "About all she can do is fluff herself up and sit on her chicks.  She can put herself between them and the fox, as ill-equipped as she is.  At the very least, she can hope that she satisfies his appetite so that the fox leaves her babies alone."

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.
My dad’s dad was a Pentecostal preacher, and every once in a while, my dad tells me about one of the gems that they’d sing in church.  One is, “The Devil is a sly old fox; if I could catch him, I’d put him in a box; I’d lock the door and throw away the key; for all those tricks he’s played on me!  I’m glad I got salvation, I’m glad I got salvation, I’m glad I got salvation, by the grace of God!” 

So, all Hail the Holy Hen, The one who takes away the sin of the world by offering himself as a holy and perfect sacrifice, perhaps praying that the “Sly old fox’s” appetite would be satisfied. 

The hen has already given her life for the chicks, and she calls out to all who will listen, come and gather under my wings!  Are you not willing? 

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