Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sermon: Fox and Hen

Sermon: Fox and Hen

            Two boys were out in the street of their cul-de-sac playing soccer. They would rush back to their driveway when cars come through.
            And so it went…
            But one time, a car was driving by, and they didn’t notice, until one of the boys kicked their soccer ball hard, and whack! it hit the side of the car driving by.
            The car stopped.
            A man started to get out.
            The boys ran.
            They ran passed the driveway,
            They jumped over their own fence,
            And continued to run away.
            The man, picked up the soccer ball and deposited it back in their yard. He’d stopped and got out of his car because he wanted to make sure no one, not even the ball, was hurt.
            The soccer-playing boys were expecting wrath, but the man just wanted to make sure everyone was okay.

            And that’s part of the story of humanity
—all of us
—so often we expect a fox, but we’re being offered a hen
—we expect God to be a carnivore, but God is looking to protect us.
Let us pray.

            Paul is gripped with disappointment at what he sees among his people in Philippi. They are settling on a Jesus plus kind of Gospel. They’ve assumed Jesus is great, but not enough to finally stand as the bedrock upon which to build their life. They ought to be citizens of heaven, but they’ve instead accepted a dual citizenship,
a Jesus passport and an earthly passport.
They do not see their Identity in Christ as sufficient ground to standing firm on in this life.

            In a parallel way, the Pharisees come to warn Jesus off of doing his gospel work…
They warn of Herod’s wrath
—Herod who, to Luke’s eyes is a gadfly, a goofball interested in Jesus
—a powerful person who wants to come and see Jesus, but not a threat until he links up with Pilate at the end of Luke’s Gospel.
            But Jesus stands up to say,  “I know what I’m doing, in the face of a potential danger, you don’t see the real danger. The danger is not being under his wings, the danger is not being there with Jesus doing his Gospel work!”
            Paul warns the Philippians that they are trying to keeping safe with a Jesus plus strategy, and Jesus warns the Pharisees they are trying to keep safe with a Jesus Minus strategy.
            One worries Jesus isn’t sufficient, the other that Jesus isn’t even an option.
            And both, both are caught up in a lie.
They’ve bought into the strength of that fox Herod, the power of the enemies of the Cross of Christ.
Both over and against the magnificent power found in the weakness of the cross of Jesus Christ.

            And how does that happen?
            How do we decide Jesus isn’t enough for us?
            I suppose these days it is because we buy into what our culture tells us, becoming citizens of Heaven and America, just as the Philippians were citizens of Heaven and Rome.
            We buy into the myth of scarcity and the fallacy of choice.
            Think of it, we can get so revved up by the messages of our society:
That success and having more are one in the same
That we have such a limited life that we have to spend every ounce of it getting the best!
            We can grasp onto these messages so tightly that we loose our grasp on God.

            I think of the comedian Aziz An-sari, who describes these phenomena well in his book “Modern Romance” and his TV show “Master of None.”
In one scene, he is ready for Lunch and he wants Tacos, so he looks up on Yelp where the best Taco stand is, and there are so many different metrics you can use to judge a Taco, that by the time he makes a decision on where to eat, the place is closed.
            So too, he finds woman after woman to date on a dating site, and ultimately he can’t decide who is the best person to contact, and therefore goes away single.
            Or look at TV, for every half hour we get 8 minutes where we’re told we’re worthless unless we choose the best product.
            The world we live in is so anxious about getting “the best” of everything that it can’t settle for anything.
            We’ve bought what the world is selling. We’ve managed to forget the resurrection and have come to believe our life is such a scarce thing that we must be so very careful how to spend it.
            Listen to that… spend it. Spend our life. We’ve made ourselves into a thing instead of a person!
            We’ve forgotten that we’ve been given this life! Our life is not a commodity to be horded and sparingly spent, but a gift.

            A gift… a free gift.
            Think of that strange covenant God makes with Abram. If it was a sensible covenant both parties would sign it
—both God and Abram would walk through the blood and guts of these sacrificial animals
—but no, the smoke and flame of the presence of God goes through alone
—it is an unconditional promise, one predicated on God’s gift to Abram.
            And so too, the citizenship Paul preaches, we’re citizens of heaven because the heavenly one is transforming us from humiliation into glory. It is a gift of God.
            And so too, this warm shelter at the hen’s bosom, calling her chicks to rest in the safety of her wings. Pleading that we take her gift, her motherly love,  and get away from the world when it insists on being fox-like!
            And so too, our lives! Gift!
            Let us hold fast to the promise of God, that God is for us and therefore none can be against us.
That life isn’t for spending, but for living, living this great gift God has given us.
            Living it! Knowing our choices, though they matter greatly, do not matter as much as the choice God has made through Jesus Christ. Therefore we can live freely,
nestled gently under the wing of the Mother Hen.
Living boldly the gospel in the face of all that would stand against it.
Living as citizens of Heaven, here on earth.

            Trust that this life isn’t one of constant fleeing, jumping our own fence when God comes to check if we’re alright, and give us back our ball.
            Trust that God isn’t a fox, trying to eat us.
Life isn’t the struggle of carnivore against carnivore,
each choice we make some kind of blood sport,
a maelstrom of anxiety.
            No. God is not a meat eater.
God is our Shelter in times of trouble, our Helper and our Salvation in all times of need.