I am delighted to be leading the service and preaching on Sunday, however I was stumped by the challenging nature of this text. I admit, these are not passages I am familiar with. Initially the first few times I read them, I thought the two readings were at odds and yet I see links and truths in both, tied together by the themes of fear and love. The tower collapse in Siloam makes me think of institutions and other things that crash down around us today, that might lead to destruction or even loss of life. While I am sure most of us cannot relate to the idea of a tower literally crashing on us, we can empathise with the feeling of collapse after the year we have all had. Things in our world do crash down around us, often when we least expect them to. When they crash, we can often find ourselves rushing to ask; “What did we do wrong?” or “Why, do we deserve this?”. I am sure the people in Siloam pondered these same questions after the loss of 18 in their community. In a word, I would say those people, much like us did ‘nothing’ wrong or to deserve it. These stories, these times in our life, are often not only about the thing that goes wrong, but how we respond when trying to cope with the aftermath. After a big, or even small crash, it may be hard to pick up the pieces, as we can be held back by a strong feeling of fear. After the past year we have had, maybe we are still needing to lament in the rubble of our lives, or like the verses about fig trees, we may be ready for new replanting/rebuilding, or we might just need to stop and rest under the loving wings of our God. Speaking of wings, the second section of the reading is where we will spend most of our time together on Sunday, so please remember what was written here for context. This second passage conjures up imagery of Herod the present fox-like monarch threating to kill and destroy the life of Christ. What is Christ’s antidote to this threat, a chicken. The image of Jesus as a defiant and strong mother hen, is one we are probably not all that familiar with. Yet, time and again, God protects us under wings, wings of love that cast out fear, that could be fear in response to destruction or death or something different. We see Christ continuing to wrestle with forces of great power, whilst still ministering to the disciples and people of Israel (the little chicks) day to day. As we think of Christ like a hen, I cannot help but think of another time later in Scripture where Jesus spread his wing like arms to lovingly protect us all then, now and into eternity. I am of course referring to the cross where his act of sacrifice, humbly and lovingly enabled us to be gathered in to receive new life. As we continue through the period of lent, let us lament what may be gone/destroyed, or rest under wings, or prepare for what needs to be rebuilt/replanted, but do so with a spirit of love and not fear. We need not be afraid for the love of God protects us all. Join us on Sunday to explore the themes of fear and love, whilst being ready to also be gently challenged with some different images and names for our God. Every Blessing, Zak Hanyn.
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