Homily from service on March 13, 2022 – Second Sunday in Lent
Sermon preached by The Rev. Dr. Richard Burden
Sermon preached by The Rev. Dr. Richard Burden
Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
We began our Lenten study called What is Truth? the other night by reading this poem by Beth Strano.
There is no such thing as a “safe space” —
We exist in the real world.
We all carry scars and have caused wounds.
seeks to turn down the volume of the world outside,
and amplify voices that have to fight to be heard elsewhere,
This space will not be perfect.
It will not always be what we wish it to be
It will be our space together,
and we will work on it side by side. [source]
And we began reflecting on the difference between safe space, and brave space. On what it means to be brave. What it requires for each of us to be brave.
Bravery is not the same for everyone. What is brave for me, is not the same as what is brave for you. In part, because what makes me afraid is not necessarily the same thing that makes you afraid. We live in the real world. And we all have scars…things that have made us fearful…things we have to be brave about…and we have all caused wounds…done things that have made others afraid…and owning up to that is an act of bravery.
What do you need in order to be brave…and create brave space?
We’re presented with a stunning image of bravery in today’s Gospel. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, and Jerusalem in Luke isn’t really a place—it’s a symbol—the word Jerusalem means “foundation of peace” or the city of God’s peace—God’s shalom. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said of Jerusalem,“Even those who believe that God is everywhere set aside a place for a sanctuary. For the sacred to be sensed at all moments everywhere, it must also at this moment be somewhere.” [source]. Jerusalem is that somewhere—that “set-aside” place. It is “everyplace, and the ultimate place,” [source] . It is where God’s presence is revealed; it is the Holy, heavenly city [Isaiah 24:23, Rev. 21:2-5], the place to which all exiles return…it is the longed for culmination of all our hopes…It is all that, and more.
As Barbara Brown Taylor put is, “Nothing that happens in Jerusalem is insignificant. When Jerusalem obeys God, the world spins peacefully on its axis. When Jerusalem ignores God, the whole planet wobbles.”
Jesus is going to Jerusalem, because the planet is wobbling, and for all the glory that Jerusalem is…today he reminds us, that it is also “the city that kills the prophets.” It is not a safe space.
Plenty of people tell him not to go. But Jesus, in Luke’s evocative phrase, has “set his face to go to Jerusalem,” knowing what will happen to him there.
Jerusalem is not a safe space. It is the holy heavenly city, AND it exists in the real world…where people have scars…where people have caused wounds. where we are fearful; and act out. And, as he so often does, Jesus paints an unforgettable picture of of bravery in the midst of this…the type of bravery that he embodied so fully, and that we are called to practice. Today he says, Jerusalem is inhabited by a fox and a bunch of nervous chicks. And we all know how that narrative usually goes.
Years ago, Barbara Brown Taylor wrote about this passage from Luke saying:
“If you have ever loved someone you could not protect, then you understand the depth of Jesus’ lament. 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.
Herod is the fox, and to counter this Jesus chooses…not a bigger predator…a lion or an eagle…but a slightly larger chicken…Taylor says, of course Jesus “chooses a chicken, which is about as far from a fox as you can get. That way the options become very clear: you can live by licking your chops or you can die protecting the chicks.
“Jesus won’t be king of the jungle in this or any other story. What he will be is a mother hen, who stands between the chicks and those who mean to do them harm. 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, but it does not change a thing. If you mean what you say, then this is how you stand.”
If you mean what you say, then this is how you stand…in this most vulnerable posture…arms out…breast exposed…Protecting those who are even more vulnerable. Significantly, this is also the posture of prayer.
There is no such thing as safe space. We know that don’t we. The real world is always pressing in on us…we know that predators prowl…we know the danger that lurks…We also know the hope that we carry…the hope that Jesus gives us. The courage that Jesus gives us. The only question, really, is how are we going to live in this real world? How are we going to move about in it? Like a ravenous fox? or a terrified chick? Or a protective mother? How are we going to stand? With whom are we going to stand? Who are we going to follow, as we make our way to Jerusalem?