Sunday, 28 February 2010

Love hurts

Reading: Luke 13 v 31-35

Today’s gospel reads a bit like an Aesop’s fable – you know, like the hare and the tortoise or the lion and the mouse. In fact, when I was doing some research for this sermon, I came across a website that retells Aesop’s fables. It was wonderful re- reading many of those. It proved a wonderful distraction from actually writing a sermon.

In today’s gospel we have foxes and hens.

Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, has just been executed and Jesus is warned – “that fox (Herod) is out to kill you.”

It was a real threat.

So what does Jesus do?

Does he lie low for a while?

Does he put some distance between himself and Herod?


Jesus gathers his resolve and pushes on with what he knows he must do.

He presses on to Jerusalem, where he knows he will be completely exposed to the authorities.

Jesus put himself right into the path of danger, refused to retreat.

“Today, tomorrow, and the next day, I must be on my way,” says Jesus, aware of what awaits him in Jerusalem. Not even the warnings that “Herod wants to kill you” can dissuade Jesus from his work and mission.

He headed into the path of those he knew would kill him.

Not armed, not gathering forces.

But open and wholly vulnerable.

Jesus knows what is required of him.

Knows what he must do for love.

And sets out to do it.

He laments over a city that kills prophets.

But he takes himself to that city where he too will be killed.

As he weeps over the city, Jesus describes himself as a hen- a mother hen who wants to gather her chicks under her wing.

What kind of image is that for the Saviour of the world?

A mother hen, gathering her chicks under her wing.

As usual, Jesus confounds human wisdom.

He turns things on their head.

He doesn’t describe himself as some powerful, dangerous animal but as a mother hen.

Seems crazy, doesn’t it?

And yet…

And yet…

When we look at that image of the mother hen, with her chicks gathered around.

That IS a powerful picture.

Of love.

And vulnerability.

The sheer power of love IS its vulnerability.

Only powerful love can place us in such a vulnerable position.

Let me ask you: when is the last time that you felt love that tore you up.

When’s the last time that you felt such incredible love that it hurt?

When’s the last time that you offered love that was rejected and you were left standing there, arms outstretched, but the one you wanted to protect walked away from those loving arms.

That’s the kind of image that Jesus is portraying in our gospel today.

A mother hen who wants to protect her brood.

Who wants those she loves to nestle in close, under the warmth and safety of her wings.

But those she loves, don’t want to know.

Jesus does not force his love on us.

Much as he might want.

But he weeps as we walk away.

I’m sure many of you can identify with that feeling of helplessness when we try to protect our loved ones, when we do everything in our power to shield them from harm.

And then along comes something to hurt them.

And there’s nothing we can do.

We simply cannot protect them from everything.

But to stand by and watch our loved ones hurting is the hardest thing of all.

Often, we’d rather it was us who were suffering than those we love.

Very recently I was shocked when someone I love was hurt.

I was shocked at the ferocity of my feelings.

I was overwhelmed by love and by helplessness.

One I love was hurting and there was nothing that I could do to change that.

That’s a sore place to be.

And I know that many of you will have been in that place.

Perhaps you’re there even now.

Desperate to change things but powerless to make a difference.

Let me tell you- love DOES make a difference.

Even though, at times, to us, love seems inadequate and impotent, yet it is a powerful force.

Love, in all its vulnerability, is yet incredibly powerful.

That is why Jesus used such a contentious picture to demonstrate his love and despair.

All he desires is to gather his children up like a mother hen.

To keep them safe under her wings.

Instead, he has to stand by and watch us walk away, watch us be hurt, watch us reject that purely wonderful and powerful love.

That’s what love is.

Holding out.



Risking hurt.

Risking rejection.

But still offering love.

That’s the picture of love that Jesus paints for us as he makes his way to the cross.

That’s the picture of love that he paints as he sets off to meet the fox.

Knowing that the fox is going to kill him.

That’s the picture of love.




But in all this – CONSTANT.

I love these words from Kahlil Gibran:

When love beckons to you, follow him,

Though his ways are hard and steep.

And when his wings enfold you yield to him,

Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.

And when he speaks to you believe in him,

Though his voice may shatter your dreams

as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.

Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,

So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.

He threshes you to make you naked.

He sifts you to free you from your husks.

He grinds you to whiteness.

He kneads you until you are pliant;

And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast.

When you love you should not say, "God is in my heart," but rather, "I am in the heart of God."

And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.

Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.

But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:

To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.

To know the pain of too much tenderness.

To be wounded by your own understanding of love;

And to bleed willingly and joyfully.

To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;

To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;

To return home at eventide with gratitude;

And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

A mother hen, just longing to gather her chicks under her wings.

The image of love that Christ has for us as he makes his way to the cross.

A mother hen.

Thanks be to God.

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