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2 Lent {Scout Sunday} - Luke 13:31-35

When offered evacuation assistance two weeks ago, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky now famously replied, "The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride."

He might just be brave enough to be a scout.

A comparable scene is unfolding in the gospel.

Herod has a target on Jesus' head, and some Pharisees—yes, those Pharisees, who so often spar with Jesus—warn him to escape.

But Jesus refuses to let Herod's threats hijack his agenda.

He will die in Jerusalem, not Galilee, just like so many prophets before him.

And then Jesus takes a second brave step.

He cries.

Faced with immediate danger, animal and human instinct is to choose one of three options: fight, flight, or freeze.

President Zelensky, offered flight to safety, chose to stay and fight.

Jesus chooses none of these.

He doesn't freeze, or run away, or fight back.

He leans into the situation with lament.

He knows the political situation: Rome will storm Jerusalem and be ruthless in its devastation.

Perhaps if Rome butchers only him, and others see and carry forward his way of love to short-circuit the cycle of violence, Jerusalem's children can survive and live in peace.

But Jerusalem will not heed his holy maternal instincts.

The people panic and run off in every other direction, like chickens with their hen cut off.

They cozy up to Rome, or try to beat it at its own mastered games of violence and power politics, or escape to the hills, or live in denial, or some other version of attacking, avoiding, or becoming the danger.

Jerusalem won't trust Jesus' impulse to disarm the enemy with truth and healing love.

They won't settle under the protective wings of God's greater and gentler power.

The fear is too fevered, the paranoia and panic too high.

So Jesus pauses to cry.

Paul shares his sad song.

For many live as enemies as the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears.

Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things.

So many of the children God loves get stuck in fight, flight, or freeze: so many of us get trapped in violence, escapism, or paralysis; destroy it, dodge it, or do nothing about it.

The wise, terrifying way of the cross is to enter it, endure it, love it, transform it, and trust the

God beyond our gut who has other options we would never imagine.

The lost art of lament is a step in that direction.

Our impatient, nervous, hyperproductive culture tries desperately to avoid it.

Do people really need three to five days off of work to grieve a dead relative?

Shouldn't they just get over it and move on?

Don't dwell on it, don't wallow in it, don't sit with it for more than a few minutes—does the funeral really need to last a whole hour?

I think one reason that our Stephen Ministers need so much training is that their sacred calling goes against every message we absorb: they are called to be present, listen, don't advise, don't judge, don't fix, don't rush, accept, embrace the pain.

Give others time and safe emotional space to vent, spew, rant, complain, cry.

Give Jesus time to weep over Jerusalem's disastrous choices.

It's tempting to shake him, remind him that he's the Son of God who can bend history to his will; why don't you fix this with force—the cowardice that we misconstrue as strength?

Why, God, do you refuse to fight when by definition you will win?

Because fighting and winning is losing.

Because fixing and solving is stealing back the life and power God freely gave us.

Because God refuses to treat us as poorly or dismissively as we treat each other.

Because God makes choices based on love, not fear.

Jesus is a hen, not a hawk.

He will outfox Herod by changing the game entirely—not crushing others, not forcing outcomes, but shepherding and sheltering others even until it crushes him.

Biblical scholar N.T. Wright explains:

Fire is as terrifying to trapped animals as to people, if not more so.

When a farmyard catches fire, the animals try to escape; but, if they cannot, some species have developed ways of protecting their young.

The picture here is of a hen, gathering her chicks under her wings to protect them.

There are stories of exactly this: after a farmyard fire, those cleaning up have found a dead hen, scorched and blackened—with live chicks sheltering under her wings.

She has quite literally given her life to save them.

It is a vivid and violent image of what Jesus declared he longed to do for Jerusalem, and by implication, for all Israel.

But at the moment, all he can see was chicks scurrying off in the opposite direction, taking no notice of the smoke and flames indicating the approach of danger, nor of the urgent warnings of the one who alone could give them safety.

The Pharisees, like so many of us, misdiagnose the real danger.

The fox won't get Jesus, but the fire will.

And Jesus refuses to fight fire with fire—because that spreads it farther and faster.

Jesus enters the fire and absorbs it to put it out.

Jesus endures the violence without retaliation to overcome violence itself.

Jesus embraces sadness as part of the steep price of love which he is willing to pay.

Jesus suffers death to break death's iron grip.

Jesus enters the fear to put it out.

He doesn't accept either ammunition or a ride.

He doesn't accept distraction from the day's political drama or the frantic despair it provokes in others.

He stands firm and continues to cast out our demons, like war and fear, and to perform his cures.

On the third day, when the inevitable buckles to the unimaginable, when the fist of death itself is cracked open by his Easter victory of life, the curing will be complete, his work will be finished, and our utterly new reality at home in peace and in joy will begin.

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