Winston Churchill once sent a pudding back to a restaurant kitchen complaining that “It lacks a theme.”1
One could say the same thing about the thirteenth chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel, more of which we will hear next week, that it lacks a theme. Chapters 12 and 14 are mostly Jesus teaching His disciples with both parables and straight talk, valuable lessons about the Kingdom of God and where He fits into that Kingdom. The 13th chapter is book-ended by stories of people coming to Jesus with questions or comments, but as a whole it seems pretty random.
But, of course, Luke didn’t write his Gospel in chapters, it was us who chopped it up to make it easier to site and to study. And so maybe chapter 13 does have a theme.
On the face of it, it’s kind of funny that the theme of an entire chapter of the Bible would hinge on a chicken reference. Some chicken, though! It’s also a possibly depressing reference, the idea that us little chickens would be so bold as to ignore the motherly hen and go off on our merry ways. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you!”
It’s just a fact of life that we don’t always feel like we see the Lord. We find ourselves in situations in which we can’t feel His presence; it’s like He’s gone cold, ghosted us, like He broke up with us without even sending a text.
I know a young woman who has had, to put it lightly, a terrible year. Horrific, really, the type of year some people don’t pull out of. I sat with her the other day and she told me that through everything that has happened to her and to those she has loved, she has, at times, been angry with God, wondered if God was really there or if He cared at all. But she said that the worst part of her relationship with God over the last year is that at times she questioned God’s motives. Questioned His motives.
I told her that not only was it alright to question God and His motives, but that it was, in fact, an incredibly mature reaction, evidence of a faith that can get so far as to wonder if God even has our best interests at heart.
Hindsight being what it is, I wish I had had today’s passage on my mind. Because in the midst of what seems like condemnation, like God telling us to go jump off a bridge, is really heartbreak, the broken heart of God. O Jerusalem, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
That’s quite a chicken reference, but in the end, it’s the entire history of the world in one sentence, one lament of the Almighty. In prophets and angels and signs and wonders, the Lord has come to us over and over and over, to gather us up like, well, a mama chicken, but we would rather be somewhere else.
If there’s a theme here, it’s that God, His heart broken and yet full of love, still keeps coming for us. His heart breaks when our hearts break, when the changes and chances of this life put us down for the count, and in Christ Jesus, He knows exactly what that feels like.
Lent is a time of gathering, I think, as opposed to spending, to using. It’s a time for us to slow down, to gather for the Paschal feast, to prepare for joy. It’s a time in which we are gathered up, pulled in to each other and to the Lord, a time to see and feel anew what it is to be children of God. The Lord, in this season and every season, will never ever ever stop coming for us.
1Scott Hoezee, This Week http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/lent-2c/?type=the_lectionary_gospel