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Message from Our Pastor

Excerpted from Pastor Hoffman's March 17th homily.  Relevant text: Luke 13:31-35

At least 49 people were shot to death at two mosques during midday prayers Friday (March 15) - gunned down by an immigrant-hating white supremacist who used a helmet-mounted camera to broadcast live video of the slaughter on Facebook. 

My first thoughts: “O dear God, not again. Will it never end?” 

Having been to the Mosque in Berlin (CT) for the interfaith Thanksgiving service, I had an image in my head of what it might look like inside that New Zealand mosque as prayers were being said. Each in their own part of the mosque barefooted men and women standing, or bowing, or kneeling, beside each other in prayer to Allah. They would have been easy targets. 

Will it never end? 

It doesn’t matter which side of the gun control issue you are on or which side of the “Make America Great Again” isle you stand; we need to stop bickering, stop debating, stop blaming, and bring such violence to an end.

I’m not trying to make a political statement. I am echoing Jesus’ own words to us from today’s gospel reading: “Jerusalem, 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!”

Jesus might say today, “My children, O, my children, you who kill each other for supremacy, for -isms, for retaliation, and just because you can; how I have longed for, oh, so long, that you would come together, as one brood of chicks to their mother. But, you would rather peck at each other until you are too wounded to live, or until you are carried off as prey.” 

It has been said that people don’t like to come to church for the sad services. This isn’t meant to be a sad sermon, but there is sadness in this gospel lesson. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. He is about half way there if you use the chapters of Luke’s gospel as your time line. 

The Pharisees have slyly set out to deter him, but Jesus refuses to be distracted. He knows full well that he will die in Jerusalem, but he presses on, nonetheless. He is as determined to fulfill his calling.

Our theme during Lent this year is “Living Lent, the Animals Tell the Story.” It will be a few weeks before we get to the hen in our series, but her theme is that a hen reveals a mourning savior. 

How many hens would we need to mourn each of the senseless deaths? Not just the mass shootings like Christchurch, or Paris, or any of the 51 that have occurred in the US over the last three years – including three already this year – but, also, the senseless deaths occurring every day in hardcore crime cities like Detroit, Chicago, or Baltimore, or the gang and drug cartels of Mexico and central America, or the domestic disputes ending in murder-suicides? 

Are there enough hens? Will it ever end?

One of the things I learned about hens gathering their chicks is that the hen doesn’t really do the gathering. She doesn’t run around trying to collect her chicks when there is danger. Instead, the hen stays still; and the chicks run to her.

I also came across an article about ducks. One of the reasons ducklings brood under their mother is that, in doing so, they acquire some of the mother’s oil on their feathers to protect them from the weather and water. I don’t know that chicks have that same need, but I am certain the we Christians do. 

We need Christ not only to rub off on us but to penetrate our hearts and lives. And it is in our spending time with and under the wings of God that we gain the strength and courage and hope to stand firm in the presence of evil and all that is oppressive and unjust and violent in our world and in our towns and in our schools and in our homes and in our churches. 

Will it ever end? Not until each and every one of us sees each and every other person anywhere and everywhere as a brother or sister – as a fellow chick – and is willing to make room for one more under the wings of the God who created us all. 

So come, let us nestle together under the wings of our awaiting God and be fed and nourished in body and spirit, so that we have the courage, and the energy, to stand firm in our faith, and stand up for our brothers and sisters. Then maybe, just maybe, one day there will be an end. Amen.


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