Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 • Psalm 27 • Philippians 3:17-4:1 • Luke 13:31-35
A recent nature film about the Southwest U.S. had a scene involving a snake, a small chipmunk-like animal, and her young, who had fled to the tunnel-nest at the mother's warning sound. The snake had sensed the presence of food and was moving towards the nest; it was up to the mother to protect them. In what seemed an impossible feat, she managed, jumping and cavorting around the snake until the energy to be expended seemed not worth its time, and he left the scene. Similarly in today's story, the chicks head to the mother hen and her protective wings in the presence of danger.
For most species, danger is a part of everyday life. For humans, fear is somehow heightened by knowledge. With Abram, we know that our family is vulnerable. With the psalmist, we are aware that false witnesses may rise up against us. With Paul, we see those whose earthly success abounds, comparing ourselves to them with some alarm. There is much to be anxious about.
Jesus is somewhat matter of fact about the problem. For him, he sees what he has to do. He knows that he is a prophet; he knows what happens to prophets; and he is even clear about where it is going to happen: Jerusalem. He takes a moment to grieve about the city, which he loves, and its inhabitants, who do not have the sense of endangered baby chicks in knowing where to go. But his clarity about himself and his own calling keeps him from worrying about what he is to do, or where he is to go. He knows.
Following the path of being clear about oneself and one's direction in life is a constant challenge. The metaphor of the baby chicks will only take us so far: we cannot spend our lives huddled together against ever-present threats. We can, though, use our families and communities as ways of cooperatively working towards commonly held goals. We can use our families and communities to decrease our sense of aloneness against dangers lurking ahead. And each of us can use those we know best to help us get clear about the path ahead as an individual: how it fits, what it will require, and how one can stay focused on it, despite the risks. Sometimes these are major life decisions. Often they are the day-to-day choices that one must make to lead the life one hopes to lead, and to become the person one can already imagine becoming.