henchicksunderwingMessage for Lent 2 on Luke 13:31-35 on March 13, 2022 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas. Our theme for Lent has been, "Grow Your Heart."

Since moving from Frisco to Richardson, I have finally gone to the new dentist close to our new home. I am embarrassed to say he has offered to come to St. Luke’s to teach all of you how to brush your teeth properly—because he is afraid you are all following my bad example (I wish I were kidding!).

I have a Sonicare, the automatic toothbrush—which I am supposed to let do the cleaning for me. I am not very good at that. So, my dentist has had to use filling amalgam –not for fillings—but instead to fill in at the base of my teeth where I am brushing off the enamel and wearing away my gums.

I joked with him that maybe I am trying to brush away my sins—which means I am an even worse example than poor toothbrushing since I am a Lutheran pastor who’s been ordained for almost 33 years to preach one primary message and that is grace--Gods’ unconditional love, acceptance, and forgiveness of us in Jesus Christ.

So why am I brushing the hell out of my teeth and gums?

But grace is hard to accept, isn’t it?

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!

Yes, grace is hard to accept. Jesus laments that Jerusalem—or all of us—are not willing. It’s so simple—that Jesus loves us as we are, forgives us freely, accepts us and embraces us, giving us the freedom to grow from there. But it’s hard to really accept that kind of love –I mean really accept it—down to our enamel, deep in our bones in a way so that we can treat ourselves differently—so we can treat our body with love rather than harshness or shame, with kindness rather than like a disappointed drill sergeant.
Or what about that internal conversation we always have going on in our heads. You know we talk to with ourselves more than anyone else—how well do we accept God’s grace for us there in how we talk to ourselves in our own head? Most of us are not very good at accepting grace in this internal conversation—using more criticism and “should, coulda, woulda” and “why didn’t you” and “you musts” and we save kindness for everyone else but us.

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’ lament over Jerusalem is a maternal lament—so much outpouring of love and acceptance and inclusion to offer—but we have to be willing, I have to be willing, you have to be willing-- to accept that deep, forgiving, comforting, protective, fierce kind of maternal, Godly, grace-filled love.

But we resist—Jesus is hanging there with his arms open wide, and we recite a creed, and we believe our faith statements, but we hold back parts of ourselves, corners of our heart, sections of our lives, ways of thinking where we do not allow love and grace to permeate, to free us, to change our behavior, our self-talk, our thought patterns.
There are many reasons why— for me, it’s always feeling unworthy and feeling like I have to earn it. For others it’s feeling that we do not matter, or a fear of being abandoned or betrayed, or unsafe, or that we are not special enough, or we simply have too much anxiety to trust anyone, including God. Whatever our gut issue, it comes back to being in control as way to manage our life and emotions.

But here is Jesus who knows us and lived like us and put on our skin and knows every last one of our anxieties worries and gut issues, looking at us and saying,
“you are behaving like a scared little chick in a storm. I am right here. You are scratching and clawing away at life to get to the place where you already are by grace. Come on in, tuck under my wing, my love, you’re already here, grace is for you, for all of you, for your whole life, and for all the other chicks in your life.”
How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings,
Can you become willing?

Can we embrace the freedom of letting go of the negative control, for the gift of embracing the freedom and kindness of grace? By grace we have been saved, yes, yes of course we can.

So the way are growing our hearts this week of Lent is to identify one area of our life where would like to move from being unwilling to accept God’s grace to being willing to tuck under Jesus’ wing of love and forgiveness, and acceptance.

So, where are you treating yourself with harshness instead of love and kindness? What is one area you can become willing to let go of controlling your own way and come under Jesus’ wing of love and let forgiveness, wholeness, and acceptance of yourself in that situation flow through you and give you a new way to approach it--- a new way to behave, exercise, or talk with yourself, or manage a habit.

I talked with my friend, Karen this week and she has always struggled with procrastination, and we talked about what this would like for her to stop beating herself up for it and embrace grace. And she laughed when I told her the toothbrush story, because me being hard on myself came as no surprise to her. So we talked about how I can slow down and use it as a time to pray rather than rushing to get the next thing done. 

Because my issue is not ultimately just about tooth brushing—when myself care routines are so harsh, they do damage, I have not allowed God’s grace and love to permeate this part of my life---I need to tuck under Jesus’ love and acceptance and forgiveness and reimagine them from a place of unconditional love how all my self-care habits can come from kindness and acceptance rather controlled “you better shape up” kind of harshness. (If you hang out with my long enough you realize everything can have spiritual significance—even tooth brushing!).

Growing our hearts this week involves accepting Jesus unconditional maternal love for us, as he embraces us in all of who we are, and loves us into the freedom of grace.
When you become willing for Jesus to love you in this fierce and tender, unwavering maternal way, just imagine all the harsh stress you can be freed from! Just think for a minutes if you released just some of the shame, guilt, unworthiness, fear, anxiety, lack of trust, self-criticism and judgments you carry—what energy will be released! This is what the Apostle Paul meant when he said for freedom Christ has set us free. To stand off by ourselves unwilling to come under Jesus’ complete wing of love is to be trapped and stuck. But to run, willing and ready to allow Jesus’ complete forgiveness, acceptance and grace wash over us and spill into our thoughts, our behaviors, our actions, how we treat ourselves—that releases and frees us like only God’s liberating love can.

We become magnets of grace who exude love and possibility because people drawn to those who shine the light of Christ and love to the world; people are drawn to those who are overflowing with love. (And in case you were wondering, it all starts with patiently and softly rolling your toothbrush down from the gums on the top, and up from the gums on the bottom!)

I would love to hear how YOU are becoming more willing to accept Jesus love and grace more deeping into your life, as we all become greater beacons of light as God loves us forward into our higher selves.

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