By Rev. Joan Kessler
Luke 13: 31-35
It has been another difficult, dangerous and heartbreaking week for the people of Ukraine as the Russian invasion continues its march forward. We heard the stories and saw the images across our newscasts of the destroyed maternity hospital in Mariupol earlier this week. We continue to hear stories of women fleeing with their children to Poland, leaving their men behind to fight and defend Ukraine’s land and sovereignty.
But women are also fighting this war. And it was an image that was shared by one of you earlier this week that has brought home the sheer sacrifice… maybe you saw this picture also of a line of about eight strollers left by Polish women at a train station for the Ukrainian mothers that would be arriving and perhaps were unable to bring their own strollers with them. As one journalist speculated that maybe the Ukrainian mothers left strollers behind because they had witnessed an explosion level their neighborhood to a pile of rubble and the first instinct was to carry her child close to her body and pushing a pram was the furthest thing from her mind in that moment of leaving. The strollers were emblematic of what women know about war and their place within it. The courage, the perseverance, the fear and vulnerability these women have had to face these past days… we also heard of maternity hospitals where women deliver their babies in darkened hallways then whisked away to underground bunkers where they could be kept safe. Mothers faced with the question of where do they go and where can they raise their young families.
In this morning’s reading from Luke, we hear of Jesus on the way to Jerusalem and he received a warning from some Pharisees that Herod is waiting there to kill him. I find myself trying to identify with how Jesus must have felt in this moment… terrified… rejected… and yet, he announces to his adversaries that he will not be deterred, for he, like the prophets that have gone before him, know the dangerous place Jerusalem is to those who speak out against dictators and authoritarian rule. But Jesus does not present himself as a warrior ready to fight but rather as a mother, like a hen with her chicks, putting herself in harm’s way to protect her brood under the safety of her wing… but they will not come. The people reject Jesus and the mother hen’s wings… her arms… are empty.
I am not sure an image of a Mother Hen and her chicks has inspired much confidence this morning when we consider what is going on in our world. A Mother Hen isn’t going to put up much of a fight against the like of dictators or the war being waged in Ukraine. And this brings us back to the question in the introduction to our reading this morning about whether faith inspires protection or does it give us strength and courage to face our vulnerabilities? Jesus was never interested in military power and might but rather was interested in love of enemies and love for a neighbor and it is our challenge today to be God’s love in a world that easily knows hate and division. Fear and uncertainty and an ache in our hearts is with us as we consider what those Polish prams lined up on a train platform represent… the women and children who are not on the frontlines of battle but wage war in their own ways… striving to protect their families while they leave their men behind to fight.
I bring us back to the question raised in the introduction to our reading this morning: Does our faith keep us safe? What good or purpose does this image of God as a Mother Hen serve us if she can’t keep us safe? Maybe it’s not safety that keeps us from feeling afraid. Maybe it’s Love. The Foxes in our midst are always going to be dangerous. But from the presence of Love, we gather into places of welcome and belonging, and with this confidence, we rise above our fears and live life as Loving individuals that compromise Loving communities. Faith in God doesn’t bring safety. The Foxes still exist. Danger is not optional, but fear is. The opposite of fear is not bravery for they go hand in hand… but maybe the opposite of Fear is Love.
One of you shared with me a recent Jann Arden post to Facebook and I want to read an excerpt with you this morning. Jann, always astute with her words and the context of what it means to be a human being, has this to say about seeing the world through a more loving and compassionate lens. She speaks to what it means to live this one precious life in the midst of all the concern and conflict we are experiencing at this moment:
There is much talk of kindness in these troubled times,
much talk of forgiveness and tolerance and understanding,
but are we really, truly, being any of these things?
I was sitting at a red light in my car and it dawned on me, how tense I was,
how wound up and anxious and, well, scared of the general state of things.
I had to take a deep breath and remind myself, that all of these unsteady,
unwanted things, would subside-
and they will and they do.
We are a lot of things,
but we are NOT static.
We always move, we always adapt
and in doing so, we get smarter and bolder
and braver and more understanding. There are so many good people. There are so many helpful, authentic, lovely people. They are easy to spot.
They're always the ones helping other people. They are always the ones showing compassion and reason and mercy.
They are always the ones with an even hand,
extended outward, lifting us all up. The best is yet to come. And the worst is yet to come. This is human life. Being good hearted throughout it all, will give you plenty of happy days, because you'll be with the people that help you and lift you up. Your friends, are your treasure. Find the good people.
May the God of mother hens… of fierce love and protection and compassion, be with the people who know war. May we all be motivated to act from a place of Love rather than of fear. Could our best approach to helping to the fight the war in Ukraine be doing loving things, showing kindness and welcome and tolerance? It can feel very helpless and hopeless at times but we can remedy these feelings by finding the good people and maybe the not so good people and lifting them up and in return they will lift us up. May peace be sought and cherished this day and know that Love always wins the war.