Sermon - Mary Penninga
No Sermon Text
The text for this week is a bit problematic. I can't figure out why the creators of this lectionary put these two stories together in the same week. Maybe they were just trying to cover more ground. If any of you can see a connection, please share that with us on Sunday. The questions below will address the two stories separately.
Luke 13:1-9, 31-35
1 At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 He asked them, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did." 6 Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 So he said to the gardener, "See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?' 8 He replied, "Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.' "
1. Vs 1-5 seem to be related to what is often called "the problem of evil" ("theodicy" for you word nerds; from the Greek: theos (God) and dikea (justice)). This is the question raised by the existence of evil, and illustrated by the murdered Galileans and the accidental deaths when the Tower of Siloam fell--How can a just, powerful and good God allow innocent people to suffer? How do you answer that?
2. (From Wikipedia)
In the New Testament, the word translated as 'repentance' is the Greek word
behind one's mind"
is a compound word
'meta' (after, with), and 'noeo' (to perceive, to think). In this compound word the preposition
combines the two meanings of time and change; so that the whole compound means: 'to think differently after'. Metanoia is therefore primarily an after-thought, different from the former thought; a change of mind and change of conduct, change of mind and heart or change of consciousness.
So, in the New Testament, repentance is not simply feeling sorry for your sin. To repent means to change your mind; repentance is "thinking in a new way". Apply that understanding of repentance to vs 3 & 5 above--"unless you repent (unless you change your mind), you will perish as they did..." What does Jesus mean? What change is he suggesting they make?
3. Vs 3 & 5 again: This may be a place where words are chosen carefully and on purpose. Jesus says, "Unless you repent, you will all perish as they did". He can't mean simply that they will die, because everyone dies whether they repent or not. And can't mean they will die in the same way, because murder and falling towers are both rare events. So what did Jesus mean by "as they did"? How did they die?
4. Vs 6-8. One commentary on this parable suggests Jesus is represented by the man who owns the fig tree and that Jesus is feeling a bit cranky with these people who refuse to repent--to change their way of thinking, and who seem to be fruitless and stuck. What do you think of that interpretation? What would you do with a fruit tree that stubbornly refused, year after year, to bear fruit?
31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." 32 He said to them, "Go and tell that fox for me, "Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33 Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.' 34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.' "
5. "Some pharisees" warn Jesus about Herod. What conclusion can you draw about pharisees from that detail in this story?
6. Notice how Jesus uses the "fox and hen" metaphor in these verses. Who is in danger from the fox?
7. Old Testament metaphors for God and the Messiah include things like lions, eagles and bears--strong predators, in other words. What is the significance of Jesus using a female chicken as his symbol? (See the picture attached to this email--rather precious, I think)
8. v. 34--Jesus seems to be speaking for God in this verse, and a lot depends on the tone of voice with which you read it. Read v. 34 first as a "judgment" against Jerusalem and then read it a second time as a "lament" over Jerusalem. What differences do you notice in the feeling or the meaning of the saying? Which tone do you think Jesus used? Why do you think that?
9. v. 34--The English words "desired" and "willing" in this verse are translations of the same Greek word. This verse could read, "I was willing...you did not desire..." Find the meaning in this metaphor of chicks not desiring the warmth and safety of their mother's wings. What does it mean to say God "desires" us (and try not to use the word "love")?
A little something extra from Barbara Brown Taylor (source: http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=638)
"A hen is what Jesus chooses, which -- if you think about it --is pretty typical of him. He is always turning things upside down, so that children and peasants wind up on top while kings and scholars land on the bottom. He is always wrecking our expectations of how things should turn out by giving prizes to losers and paying the last first. So of course he 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."