Sunday, 28 February 2016

Luke 13:31-35: A Lukan Passion Prediction

The juxtaposition of the metaphors of fox and chook in Luke 13:31-35 is one of the ways in which this passage is laced with Jesus' impending death and resurrection. While commentators pick up the chook metaphor and mention its protective and caring imagery, it strikes me that chooks are fox food, to put it bluntly. Jesus, the prophet who must die in Jerusalem like the prophets before him, will be the chook who gathers, but will accomplish this gathering by being eaten by the fox. (See John 11:49-52.)

In the Australian Anglican lectionary (APBA) this Gospel is paired with Isaiah 55:1-9 for Lent 3C. Those who are hungry are famished not because they have had their faces ground into the dirt (Isaiah 3:15), but because they have sought that which does not satisfy. The Living Water, the True Bread, Christ crucified and raised. A path his disciples follow, life through death, and not just for themselves but for others.

For our Lent study this year we are reading through Rowan Williams' Silence and Honey Cakes. It is a profound little book, using the Desert Fathers and Mothers as exemplars of dying to the false self built up through the self-justifications and obsessions that keep us from our true self in God and our neighbour. Despite surface appearances, the subtlety of their understanding of the frailty of our human nature and the grace that saves, is beautiful. They lived the invitation from Jesus to find life through dying to self and into God. And I know it is so true, but so difficult to live. It is not that we aren't all experts in loss and loss of self. If it were a simple matter of just experiencing loss, I suppose God would not have needed to send Jesus in the first place. But our losses in life alone are not the path to salvation, even though they can theoretically teach us so much. The problem is that we defend against them and feel them as loss only, and then seek to re-establish ourselves on our own terms. It is hard to accept that life comes through giving up, not filling up (Isaiah 55:1-9), surrender not survival. (Lk 13:31-33) We have to be coaxed to accept Jesus' call to life through death, partly when we get tired of fighting the losses, but mostly by being loved into letting them go.

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