28 February 2010/Lent 2C
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek
We Are The Wings Of God
The last time I preached on these lessons at Good Shepherd, I noted the following:
1- How against type that the Pharisees are warning Jesus to go into hiding from Herod.
2- Jesus calls Herod a fox, which is a cutting insult since foxes were considered inferior hunters next to Lions – the symbol of Judah – The Lion of Judah.
3- And by contrast Jesus likens God [Jesus- the Word] to a mother hen.
Thus, I no doubt concluded, here is one of the Bible’s many female images of God. At the time we were struggling as a church to accept women as priests let alone female images of God, yet there it is in the Bible from the mouth of Jesus.
This image cuts two ways. We are God’s chicks. Ever see a mother hen try to get all of her chicks under her wings? As soon as one gets in two more squirt out! The agrarian crowd listening to Jesus would get the humor in all this.
But, and with Jesus there is always a big but, in Lent we are meant to consider how often we, as God’s chicks, squirm out from under God’s protecting wings and try to live on our own. Lent is a time to make our way back under God’s wings.
On the other hand, taking the rubric on page 298 in the Book of Common Prayer at all seriously, by Water and the Holy Spirit we are incorporated into the Body of Christ, the Church. That would make us the Mother Hen for others in today’s world.
So the first time I preached on these lessons at St. Peter’s, I was preparing a children’s sermon. I wanted a song to teach the kids, but could find no song about God as a mother hen. So necessity being the mother of invention, I wrote one: I AM the Wings of God.
Note how it begins with God’s name from the burning bush: I AM who I AM. Then the second verse acknowledges our identity with the Word of God, Jesus his Son. The third attempts to remind us that eternal life with God is now – not some future time, but as the Buddha teaches us, it is always now – eternity is now. By extending God’s protection to others, we participate in God’s eternal glory, which as we pray in our collect today, is to have mercy.
Shortly after leaving Good Shepherd I came to a similar awareness of a baptism I did before coming here. I was at Christ Church, Winnetka. I baptized a five year-old girl, Eleanor, and her mother. At brunch afterwards, I was eating quiche and drinking a glass of wine when I felt a tug on my pants leg. It was Eleanor with a question, “Can you still see the cross on my forehead?” Meaning, of course, the cross traced with oil sealing her as Christ’s own forever. It is also a sign of her answers to five important questions, including: Will all that you say and all that you do proclaim the good news of God in Christ? Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons – not some people, or lots of people or a few people, but all persons? And will you seek justice and peace for all persons respecting the dignity of every human being? “I will with God’s help,” she had answered to all of them!
I said “Yes, Eleanor, I can still see the cross on your forehead.” And I remember thinking, “That’s a good question for all of us. Can others see the crosses on our foreheads?” A cross we just had retraced on Ash Wednesday, a ritual we repeat every year to remember who we are and whose we are. A week later as I was vesting there was a tug on my alb. It was Eleanor again. I asked her what it was this week. She asked, “Can you still see the cross on my forehead?” It would be years later before I would write this song: Can You See The Cross on My Forehead?
By the way, Eleanor is getting married later this year!
My understanding of the Good News of Jesus Christ hinges on that rubric back on page 298 in the Prayer Book, and the opening story in Jesus’ adult life – his baptism by John in the River Jordan. As he comes up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descends upon him like a dove – not a dove, but “like a dove” – and a voice from heaven announces, “You are my Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”
If by baptism we are incorporated into the Body of Christ, when we come up out of the waters of baptism there is a voice that says to us, “You are my Beloved – with you I am well pleased.”
Accepting that as the truth about who we are and whose we are, is one step into getting back under God’s wings and becoming the protective wings of God for others. Know that you are God’s Beloved.
Paul says this to the church in Philippi, “He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his Glory… stand firm in the Lord in this way, my Beloved.”
There it is again. God in Christ says to us, “You are my Beloved. I am well pleased with you.”
You are the Wings of God.
Can you see the cross on my forehead?
You are God’s Beloved. God is well pleased with you.
Life lived with God, under her wings, never ends!