Thursday, March 2, 2017

Welcome back....this blog is one I wrote on while in Seminary....posting a few new posts here and there for grins and for a spiritual practice during Lent, 2017.  Leave me a comment if you liked anything I've said here.  Eager to know your thoughts.  The first one here is from February, 2010 during Lent while I was interning at a UCC church.

Luke 13:  31-35
God is my Light; God is my source of Courage and Grace; and, God is my Hen!

Inward Journey

Metaphor.  I’ve seen it defined as an indirect comparison between two or more seemingly unrelated subjects that typically use “is” or “a” to join the two subjects.  For example, king David said, “God is my fortress”;  and Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage.”  In my beginning theology class, we did an exercise where we were given a list of metaphors that describe God and Jesus. We had to interpret in our own words why some of those images were attached to God.  Some of the images included God as Father, God as Shepherd, God as Architect, God as Creator, God as Hen, and God as Mother.  Mother.  God is spoken about as a comforting mother.  In Isaiah 66:13, the prophet writes, “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”  Note a couple of words here, the words comfort and Jerusalem.  I’ll get back to those words in a moment. What are your images that come to mind as I speak of God as metaphor?  God as Father… God as Mother…Shepherd… Creator… Architect…, and Hen.  When I did this activity in class, my small group got the word hen to hash out.  What does a hen do?  A hen protects her young. This mother covers her chicks with her massive feathers and protects them from harm.  Her chicks are safe and secure under her wings.  Perhaps, she even might peck at them to keep them in line, but for their protection.  We’ll come back to hen in just a second.

What are some metaphors for Jesus himself?  Jesus as Lamb… Shepherd… Gate… Vine and Light…Bread of Life and Bridegroom.  I would wager to guess that you may have heard one or two of these at some point in time.  In John’s gospel, he writes in chapter 8, verse 12, “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said ‘I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  Third word to remember: light. 

In the gospel passage today, Jesus is being warned by some Pharisees (Not all the Pharisees were against Jesus) to leave and get out of harms way (i.e. Herod’s way).  Jesus politely tells them to go tell that sly fox (not the most respectful thing to say regarding Herod) that he will keep on doing what he needs to do.  “Listen I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow…”  And then he says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”  What is God saying to us here?  I believe, God is saying together, each and every one of us holds a special and uniquely our own relationship with God, or as Wendell Barry terms, “the household economy” of togetherness.  Everyday we are in the trenches of work, school, just the ins and outs of everyday life in general.  The trenches can be lonely places, places of isolation and perhaps even danger.  People gossip about us, with all the best intentions things don’t go as planned, we encounter unexpected illness, or an accident occurs, we lose a parent or sibling, we worry about a sick child with a fever, or we suffer from depression and anxiety.  God knows our fears and our shadowed selves.  And God says to you, to us, it’s okay.  I understand your fears.  I understand your anxieties.  I understand how hard you work.  I understand how hard you try.  I’m here and I’ll protect you as I am a hen and you are my chick.  You are my child and I will cover you with my feathers because I love you, and want no harm to befall you.  Sit along side me, and together we will laugh and cry.  I will meet you in the ordinary.

Recently, I’ve taken to having quiet time in the morning.  In my imagination, I see Jesus sitting next to me on the couch and we talk in the early morning silence while I’m drinking my first cup of coffee.  In the quiet of restorative stillness, Jesus and I talk about life.  I ask him a question or tell him what I’m worried about, or sometimes even what I’m struggling to understand.  We talk.  Actually, Jesus talks and I write in my journal.  But together, we live life.  I am the chick and Jesus is the Hen.  I am comforted; I am loved; and I am protected.  And, here’s the kicker, sometimes I may not recognize that I am loved, but I am.  I may not recognize that I am protected, but I am; and, sometimes I may not recognize that I am comforted, but I am.  It shows up in the ordinary.  The smile from a stranger, the phone call or the friend request on Facebook from the long forgotten friend, or even in the person who you thought didn’t like you, giving you a kind word or gesture.   Let me say that again, together, you and God live life.  You are the chick and Jesus or God is the Hen.  You are comforted; You are loved; and you are protected.  And, here’s the kicker, sometimes you may not recognize that you are loved, but you are just the same.  You may not recognize that you are protected, but you are protected just the same; and, sometimes you may not recognize that you are comforted, but you are just the same.  It shows up in the ordinary.  As I end our inner Journey with this poem prayer I found, remember the three words of Comfort, Light and Jerusalem as you sit, with God next to you, in the restorative stillness.  Lent is  a time of restorative stillness.

“Under God's wings I am safely abiding,
Through the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust; I know God will keep me,
God redeems me, and I am God's child.  And the refrain goes,
“Under God's Wings, under God's wings,
Who from sever the love?
Under God's wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.”...Amen

Outward Journey
UCC uses the revised common lectionary like many other denominations and churches in America today.  In the lectionary, each week, the gospel reading is accompanied with a selection from the old testament, a psalm, and a new testament reading other than the gospel, like the letters of Paul.  For today, Psalm 27 is the psalm that is coupled with our passage from Luke.  The first line reads, ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation;  whom shall I fear?  The Lord is my stronghold of my life of whom shall I be afraid?   The last two verses read, “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the Living.  Wait for the Lord;  be strong, and let your heart take courage;  Wait for the Lord.”

I want to introduce two new words to remember:  Courage and Grace to our three existing words: Comfort, Light and Jerusalem.  Now, I need to step back and explain or remind, that Jerusalem is a place, true, but it too can be a metaphor.  It can stand for the world to come, or it can stand for God’s kingdom here on earth, right now.  God’s kingdom here on earth is a place where we acknowledge God’s love for us, and the fact that part of God’s personality, who God is, is to protect us and comfort us as a mother hen does with her chicks.  But, God also knows that when we acknowledge that we stand in God’s light, and we acknowledge that Christ’s grace prevails, our fears become courage.  And, we can become the hen to care for the world and for the people in it.

So, in the Inner Journey, Jesus or God however it’s comforting to think about it, was the hen and we were the chick.  In the Outward Journey, we learn to become the hen, where the world is our chick.  I learned recently in one of my classes that grace begets grace.  When a third person watches a good deed, they too will do a good deed, or even a greater deed.  And the action of love becomes a genuine response to being moved by something.  When we hear that Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake, and now yesterday in Chile, we want to help in any way we can.  It’s also when we want to take help someone whose in pain, even though others condemn them.  God gives us courage and grace.  We then go past what is believed, the bias, and we show comfort and light to others.  We bring Jerusalem right now to Austin Texas or Ecaudor, Chile, or anyplace in-between, or on either side, or above or below.  We go beyond reason and react from a place of love, fortified with courage and grace.

I would like to end with this prayer I found this week.  Please join me in prayer: 
Sheltering God:
When we are afraid,
You bring us into your heart;
When we have lost our way,
You give us gentle guides;
When we cry out to you,
You grace us with your presence.

Jesus Christ
Like a mother hen,
You gather up our doubts
And transform them into confidence;
You surround our fears
And transform then into faithfulness;
And pick up our brokenness

And transform us into your Body