Different words and phrases stood out for each of us. Some words create images some create emotions. This type of investigation into the scripture enables our deeper reactions. So often we read just for information, to analyze, to dissect. Sometimes scripture is read to teach and instruct. More often than I would like to believe scripture is read to validate a persons belief or agenda. We call that proof texting, when a passage is taken out of context and then used to prove a point.
That is not the intention of Lectio Divina; instead this practice allows the scripture to speak to us. Because we listen to the Holy Spirit as we engage the scripture each one of us will hear something different, something that speaks to us. There is no right or wrong, correct or incorrect way of interpreting the scripture.
However part of my job as your pastor is to interpret scripture and suggest how it might be relevant for today. So taking what you have experienced and what I have studied, together we might find a deeper meaning.
When I practiced Lectio Divina as I always do when I begin a sermon, several words jumped out at me. I am paraphrasing; “Go and tell that fox that I am busy, doing my work, Jerusalem the city that kills the prophets, gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wing.”
Jesus calls Herod out for the predator he is. He is the highest Jewish authority and would be by Jewish law the person that lead the effort to protect the helpless and provide for the poor. However he is much less a Jew and much more a Roman and he likes it that way. So because Jesus’ ministry is focused on the poor and oppressed and is about a loving and available God he is a threat to Herod. Jesus knows that Herod and he will act, as he just had John the Baptist beheaded.
Jesus knows he is pointed toward Herod, and Jerusalem, he knows that this is where his ministry will be tested and that testing could have very dangerous results. He knows that he has made an enemy of the power and might resting in Jerusalem.
Yet he does not lash out at how wrong that is, or bemoan how dangerous it is for him. Instead he speaks of the image of a mother hen, who protects her baby chicks with her very body. This is the gesture that Jesus would offer to Jerusalem and his people. He mournfully adds but they did not accept it.
Why wouldn’t the crowds and the religious leaders flock to support this new kind of ministry? Cause it was new, because it was scary, because it upset the status quo. The kind of protection that Jesus was offering was not going to keep them safe, it was in a way going to expose them.
Jesus was offering a new kind of life to those that had never had anyone really care for them; the poor, the slaves, the sick the widowed. He was not going to keep the general populous safe because he was asking them to be a part of this dangerous ministry. When he started overturning the lifestyles of those that felt they had too much to lose his popularity waned. His disciples were afraid and they had real reason to be.
Who wants to throw in with someone that will make the powerful turn against us? Asking for justice for all people was going to draw attention to people who did not want Rome to see that they might be a part of this revolution. Yet Jesus was offering God’s protection.
We know that God’s love for us is not going to keep us from having a car accident, or getting cancer. God’s love is not going to ensure that our children and other family members aren’t going to get into trouble or make bad choices over and over. Yet we also know that God is always present.
So in one breath Jesus calls out his opponent then he tells us how he wishes to protect the people of Jerusalem. Isn’t this what God has been saying all along? My way is hard, Abraham, Moses, Jonah all had serious doubts about being able to lead this type of counter culture revolution. John the Baptist was killed as most of the disciples will be.
So what kind of protection is Jesus speaking of. It is the protection of our souls, of the God part within each of us. He is speaking of the much bigger picture of God’s kingdom, which was not going to be perfect in his short lifetime, and 2000 years later still isn’t. The only place that we can be assured, that it does actually exist is inside ourselves. The kingdom lives in the deeper part of all of us and encourages us in even the smallest ways to contribute to its growth.
Jesus wanted so much to bring the Kingdom into the world. You can hear his disappointment. The world then and today consumes so much of the space that it is sometimes difficult to see where the kingdom exists.
God protects this kingdom by growing it deep in each of us. We are really the keepers of the Kingdom. We protect it by growing it in our hearts and then expressing it in our lives.
This was the protection that Jesus wanted us to understand that evil, fear; oppression even death could not take the Kingdom from us. Unfortunately then and today this isn’t the easiest concept to understand and believe in. Much of the religious practices in Jesus’ day were external, rules, laws, and exclusion. He was bringing this new vision to a world that wasn’t use to the idea that God dwells within.
I think for a time the early church really understood. They met in small groups and places; they protected their faith by protecting and caring for each other. It was faith of deep spiritual practices. They prayed together, fasted together, served together. And this was the basis of what beginning Christianity was. They were persecuted not for the great power that they exhibited but for the great depth of their faith and practice. These people,most with nothing worldly, were feared because of their faith in this one, loving God.
Then the church got hold of this faith and we started to move away from the inherent practices and deep spiritual connection with God into doctrine, dogmas, great buildings and rules.
But the Kingdom persists and exists in each of us. So please take with you the words or phrases that spoke to you today. Take them and hold them in your heart, in the place the Kingdom lies.
“Perfect love casts out fear, because the kingdom is never in trouble.” From The Good and Beautiful Community Amen