“A Hen & her Chicks” Colchester Federated Church, March 13, 2022, (Luke 13:31-35) Second Sunday in Lent

One of my favorite shows is Ted Lasso.  The show follows an American college football coach named Ted Lasso (played brilliantly by SNL alum Jason Sudeikis) who gets hired to coach an English soccer team (A.F.C. Richmond) by an owner who wants to torture her ex-husband by hiring this American coach who knows nothing about soccer.  Coach Lasso arrives in England and just does his thing with coaching this group of men to not only be better soccer players, but more importantly, to be good people who are the best versions of themselves.  The show has received critical acclaim, even winning the Emmy in 2021 for outstanding comedy series. 

One of the themes in Season Two is mental health.  A sports psychologist named Dr. Sharon helps players and coaches face some of their psychological issues.  We learn more about what people have been through in their lives.  There’s a poignant scene where A.F.C. Richmond is regrouping after a difficult loss to Manchester City at Wembley.  We witness one of the star players, Jamie Tartt, deal with his abusive father who comes into the locker room and berates him and his teammates.  Jamie ends up punching his father who gets escorted out of the locker room.  The shame and childhood trauma boil over as Jamie begins to weep as a former player (and rival), Roy Kent, just holds Jamie in silence.  So yes, Ted Lasso is not a typical sports comedy show.  Scenes like this make us think about mental health and that there are parts of peoples’ stories that we may not understand.  It challenges toxic masculinity and how men can profoundly be there for one another in a culture that too often teaches men to suck it up and show no emotions except anger.

When we turn to our Gospel story this morning, we find an emotional Jesus.  We witness Jesus’ sorrow for Jerusalem.  In just a few chapters, Jesus will look out over Jerusalem and weep.  That’s in Luke Chapter 19, “As Jesus came to the city and observed it, he wept over it.”[1]  In this moment of observing Jerusalem in Luke Chapter 13, Jesus is predicting what will soon come to pass, “However, it’s necessary for me to travel today, tomorrow, and the next day because it’s impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.  Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who were sent to you!  How often have I wanted to gather your people just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.  But you didn’t want that.”[2] 

We can feel his sorrow.  It’s interesting that the metaphor Jesus uses to explain how he’s feeling is a feminine image.  A mother hen gathering her chicks to protect them under the safety of her wings.  This is what Jesus wishes that he could do for the people of the holy city.  Yet he recognizes that his message is falling on deaf ears in some corners, and that he will be killed like the prophets who came before him.  Of course Jesus is emotional about all of this—because he was a human being.

From my time in the Holy Land I learned about (and visited) Dominus Flevit which means “the Lord wept”.  It’s a church on the Mount of Olives that commemorates Jesus weeping over Jerusalem.  The church is shaped like a tear drop and there is a large plate glass window behind the altar.  When one sits inside the chapel praying, the view behind the altar is a panoramic picture of Jerusalem.  The city that was near and dear to the heart of Jesus, the city where he journeyed to celebrate the High Holy Days.  The city where he was both crucified and resurrected and where his followers somehow carried on the faith despite the fearful times in which they were living.  As Jerome Murphy-O’Connor explains, “Medieval pilgrims were the first to designate a rock on the Mount of Olives as the place where Jesus wept over Jerusalem.”[3] 

It’s important to remember that the roadblocks Jesus encountered throughout his ministry were personal and that he took them personally.  He wasn’t some aloof philosophical figure sharing ideas, but never taking things to heart.  Jesus had moments of anger and sadness.  We see him lamenting over Jerusalem.  Lamenting is a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.  The Psalms are full of laments.  There’s the Book of Lamentations in the Old Testament.  Jesus will say on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you left me” quoting Psalm 22.[4]  Jesus is in mourning today.  Jesus wants nothing more than to gather the people of Jerusalem together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.  But that’s not the reality that he’s encountering, and it makes him full of sorrow.

There are many sins that the Christian Church has committed over the centuries.  Racism.  Sexism.  Homophobia.  Anti-Semitism.  The Crusades.  There are many wounds that those who claim the name Christian have inflicted on our fellow human beings.  We can’t deny this history.  Another sin the Christian Church has historically committed is focusing so much on the divinity of Jesus that his humanity has been downplayed to our detriment.  But Jesus of Nazareth, the man Christians believe was God incarnate, was a human being.  No doubt about that.  This is the mystery of the incarnation—Jesus was both fully human and fully divine.  Mary gave birth to Jesus and he died on a cross.  Jesus had friends and some of those friends betrayed him in the end.  Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners.  Jesus walked, talked, breathed, slept, and lived among us.  Jesus got angry and wept when his friend Lazarus died.  He wept over Jerusalem.  He wept in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus was rejected over and again and picked himself back up to keep teaching and healing.  Because of all this and more, we know that God is not so distant, remote and mysterious that we can’t even begin to fathom God.  Instead, God somehow took on the mantle of our humanity in the person of Jesus.  This is the beautiful mystery of our Christian faith. 

There’s this moment in Season One of Ted Lasso when A.F.C. Richmond (again) suffers a gut-wrenching loss.  As everyone is processing Coach Lasso announces, “I promise you there is something worse out there than being sad, and that’s being alone and being sad.  Ain’t no one in this room alone.”[5]  The promise of our faith is that God is with us.  It’s not that we won’t face moments of sadness, anger, betrayal, suffering, or disappointment.  It’s that God is with us in the midst of those moments and we are never alone.  We know this because of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We know this because of our Gospel story today—of Jesus desiring to be the mother hen gathering her chicks under her wings.  And if Jesus wanted to do that when facing his own trials, how much more will Jesus do this when we go to him for comfort and peace in our hearts and in our world?  Ain’t no one in this room alone.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

[1] Luke 19:41, CEB.
[2] Luke 13:33-34.
[3] Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700, 5th edition, 144.
[4] Mark 15:34.
[5] Ted Lasso, Season 1, Episode 10 “The Hope That Kills You.”

Photo by Rev. Lauren Lorincz