2nd Sunday of Lent 24.3.13 Luke13.31-end

17 02 2013

The Fox and Hen

Jesus expresses the anger, anguish and agony which characterise his relationship with Jerusalam and all it stands for.

Luke 13.31-end

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’ 32He 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. 33Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed away from Jerusalem.” 34Jerusalem, 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! 35See, 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.” ’

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. What is motivating the Pharisees in verse 31?
  2. Why would Herod want to kill Jesus?
  3. Why is Jerusalem so important?

Heart Questions

  1. What do you feel when Jesus calls Herod a fox?
  2. How would you encapsulate Jesus’ feelings about Jerusalem?
  3. Do you like the image of the hen? Why?

Hand Questions

  1. Is there someone in power whom you need to confront?
  2. What place might you be inclined to lament?
  3. Whom might God be calling you to care for or protect?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you.  That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands.  Take your time.

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Epiphany 6.1.13 Matthew 2.1-12

30 12 2012

Wise Gifts

The British view of Christmas is dominated by Luke’s version. It would be fun to begin to work out what aspects of the story we miss by including so little of what Matthew offers. This passage, however, always gets in. It is the eighth lesson in the cycle of nine used at King’s College, Cambridge. When I was Chaplain there, someone wrote in suggesting we were wrong to stop at the end of verse 11 – the traditional version. We felt that they were right, and if you listen carefully you will hear that it now ends with verse 12. As does this gospel reading for the Feast of the Epiphany.

Matthew 12.1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.” ’

7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ 9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

‘Head Questions’

  1. What does Epiphany mean? How can you make people interested as you explain that?
  2. Do you agree that it is better to end with verse 12 than verse 11? Why?
  3. What is the meaning of the gifts?  How can you go beyond the lines of ‘We Three Kings?’ (see below for a PS)

‘Heart Questions’

  1. Why was Herod frightened? Can you build a sermon on the contrasts between wisdom and fear?
  2. The word ‘homage’ is used three times in this brief passage. How does it make you feel on each occasion?
  3. Sadly you know what happens next in this story: the slaughter of the innocents. What shadow does that cast over the treasure?

‘Hand Questions’

  1. Is there journey you need to take – following some sign that is calling you forward?
  2. How might your worship become more devout; your ‘homage’ more sincere and profound?
  3. What is your treasure?

P.S. In my book Healing Agony: Re-imagining Forgiveness I have a chapter called ‘The Gifts of the Wise’. In it I describe the gifts needed by those who find themselves helping someone who has suffered a shattering hurt to move forward in the direction of forgiveness using the imagery of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you.  That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands.  Take your time.





Sixth Sunday after Trinity 15.7.12 Mark 6.14-29

8 07 2012

Meet the Herods

This is the death of John the Baptist. It is a grim story.  This is the last story in which to expect to find Good News. The last story you expect to find in a Gospel.  But there it is. It is not the whole story – but an integral part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Mark 6.14-29

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, ‘John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.’ 15But others said, ‘It is Elijah.’ And others said, ‘It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’ 16But when Herod heard of it, he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.’

17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18For John had been telling Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ 19And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.’ 23And he solemnly swore to her, ‘Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.’ 24She went out and said to her mother, ‘What should I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the baptizer.’ 25Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’ 26The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

Reflections and Questions

‘King Herod’ v 14

This is not the one whom the wise men visited and then killed all the little children – but his son.

Some things seem to run in families. The police today talk of ‘high impact families’ which are usually multigenerational units of lawlessness. Abuse of power is learnt from parents… where does this thought lead you when thinking about the Herods?

John had been telling Herod…  v 18

that he should never have married Herodias. Most people turned a blind eye. But not John. 

‘Doing a Nelson’ is sometimes wise. Sometimes it is cowardly.  How can you be sure that turning a blind eye is a wise thing and not mere cowardice?

‘the King was deeply grieved’ v  26

His wife and her daughter had conspired and asked for the death of John. Herod had been outwitted.

This is the same Herod who to be was glad to meet Jesus just before his death and who was thereafter reconciled with Pilate. A sociable man, curious about interesting religious figures and people of power… what do you make of that?

‘When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb. ‘ v 29

This seems to be the last duty of disciples. It is very reminiscent of what happens after Jesus’ death.

We hear no more of John’s disciples.  What do you think became of them? Can you imagine them reflecting on all this as they heard of Jesus’ mission to Jerusalem and what happened there? What did they say to each other? What were their questions – and answers?