By Rev. Chris Jorgensen
May 9, 2021
Video of entire service: https://www.facebook.com/hanscomparkchurch/videos/740617526614067
Scripture: Luke 13:31-34
Jesus is one fierce Mother.
I have come to appreciate that this week. For a long time, I have treasured verse 34 of the reading we heard today. I’ve loved Jesus’ words here. He says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.” Every time I hear these words, I think, “What a compassionate, loving, gentle Mother God we see in Jesus!” These words have helped me imagine God as a Mother who nurses and nourishes her children, a mother who gently rocks her children to sleep, a mother who kisses every boo-boo and wipes every tear. I do think that Jesus, through his healing and compassion, shows us that gentle Mothering God.
Yet there is more than that going on in this scripture. A/V team, can you throw that “Mother Hen” painting up on the screen for me? This painting, created by an artist named Lauren Wright Pittman, shows us Christ as a mother hen. It is inspired by the scripture we heard today. But this mother hen, she is fierce. Yes, she’s gathering her cute little chicks under her wings…but you get the feeling you would regret it if you tried to touch those chicklets.
We see that Jesus is one fierce mother here in today’s scripture if we simply go back a few verses from 34. Here we have some Pharisees warning Jesus that Herod wants to kill him. Now we are not sure if it’s a genuine warning or an attempt to trap him somehow. But we do know how Jesus responds.
He says to the Pharisees “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33 Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.” In other words, he says, “Go tell that fox Herod that I am about the business of actually helping people, actually healing people, and actually redeeming and restoring all people and all of creation. And yes, I know I must die in order to save and liberate my people, so I am going where they kill the prophets, into the belly of the beast, into Jerusalem.” Mother Hen Jesus stares down this fox and marches right into the den if it will save Her children.
Any mothers or parents out there who have had one of these fierce Mother moments? I have. I know you are not surprised. You know about my daughter Ruby. You know I have been a fierce advocate for her. You know that story.
But I’m not sure how many of you know the story of my son, Gabe. I want to make sure you know that he gave me permission to share all of this. I actually asked him to read this sermon before I preached it.
Now I know that when I first came to Hanscom Park, you probably noticed Gabe sitting each week with my husband Matt and daughter Ruby. You might have known that he came with us from Urban Abbey, the church where I was previously appointed. But maybe you didn’t know that it’s not typical or encouraged to sort of bring church members to one’s new appointment – with one exception, your family.
Gabe is part of my family, not biologically or legally, but about five years ago, Matt and Ruby and I adopted Gabe into our family. He is our chosen family.
Gabe and I worked together at Urban Abbey, and I had the privilege and honor of getting to know him. I was his coworker, his pastor, and his friend. So when he began to have serious mental health struggles and lacked a supportive family system, the Jorgensen clan decided to step in – with Gabe’s consent of course.
One of the reasons Gabe has a complicated relationship with his family is because he is transgender. Most of his family is not fully accepting of Gabe’s gender identity or sexual orientation. When he came out as a teenager, he was excommunicated from his family’s church – and his family stayed at that church. They chose the church over him. Gabe’s mom couldn’t be the fiercely loving advocate that Gabe deserves.
But I can. So now I have a 29-year-old, transgender, queer, kind, thoughtful, intelligent, quirky, beautiful son. Our relationship consists of such radical things as having him come over on Sundays to do laundry, giving him advice about car repairs, co-signing on apartment leases, and just being there for him when things get rough. And like any adult child, he’s there for me when I need him, too.
So if you’ve ever wondered why I am so passionate about the inclusion and affirmation of LGTBQ people, here’s why. They are literally part of my family. But even before I adopted Gabe, they were part of my family because we are all the children of God. God made our gay siblings, our trans siblings. She is their fierce Mother. She is our fierce Mother, and we are called to do her mothering work in this world.
That’s why I went into the fox den myself this Friday, into the belly of the beast. I traveled to Kearney to submit a public comment on the proposed state health standards to the State Board of Education. People are quite upset about them because they address topics like gender identity, gender roles, and various family configurations including families with same sex parents. Here’s an example of a 3rd grade proposed standard:
Students will “Demonstrate ways to promote dignity and respect for people of all genders, gender expressions, and gender identities, including other students, their family members, and members of the school community.”
I am 100 percent behind this. Encouraging students to treat people of all genders, gender expressions, and gender identities prevents bullying and rejection of trans kids. Less bullying and rejection means less chance of suicide which is a real risk for transgender young people, especially those rejected by their families. Less bullying also means less violence against all transgender people. I am for this because it will make a safer world for Gabe and all our trans children.
But there were lots of people against these health standards in Kearney, and when I listened to them testify, I was surprised. I was surprised that the vast majority of them didn’t come right out and say intentionally hateful things about LGBTQ people. As much as I disagreed with their position that we should sort of pretend that gay and trans people and families don’t exist or we should treat trans kids by trying to stuff them back into the gender box that is causing them harm, I don’t think they meant to be hateful. I think they were scared. I think they were scared that somehow their children would be harmed simply by acknowledging the existence of trans people. I also wonder if they were scared that if their child came out as gay or trans, they might feel like they cannot fully love and accept them. How heartbreaking.
Now I want to be honest about my distinct lack sainthood here. I often find it hard to have compassion for those who seek to erase the existence of our LGBTQ children and families. But maybe it’s because I’ve been reading this scripture all week, that I couldn’t just say “forget them.”
Jesus doesn’t want to forget them. In the scripture today, Jesus has motherly compassion even for those who would kill him in Jerusalem. He says that he has longed to gather them under his wings like a mother hen. So maybe Jesus was there when I experienced the compassion I didn’t even want to have for those scared parents in that hotel conference room. In fact, I do desire nothing more for them than to be unburdened from their fear: to see that transgender people are nothing to be afraid of and that teaching their children about their bodies actually helps to keep all children safe. Because of Jesus, I can find that compassion for scared, nervous, worried parents.
But I don’t think we are called to have the same kind compassion for the foxes who lead people to believe that attacking trans kids is the way to keep their children safe. I don’t have the same compassion, and I don’t see in this scripture that Jesus has what we would call compassion, for the foxes who lead people to believe that attacking the vulnerable folks in our world will somehow keep us safe. I don’t have the same compassion for any politician or religious leader who uses our trans and queer kids as political lightning rods…and if I was following Jesus’ model in this scripture, I would say that if there are any Pharisees listening today, “You tell those foxes that we are onto them, and we are about the business of healing people and liberating people and restoring people to community – not using them to divide and conquer.”
I do have compassion for the chicks, though. I have compassion for those parents. I have compassion for them because what happens when they find out that one of their children is gay? What happens when they find out one of their children is trans? If they haven’t been taught that God is a loving parent to all of God’s beautiful, rainbow children, then how are they supposed to be loving parents when their child comes out? To think that politicians and church leaders are forcing parents to choose between loving their kids and loving God is almost too painful to say out loud.
Especially when it’s true that we are all just chicks. Jesus desires to gather us all under his wings, but I believe he has special compassion for those who have been excluded.
On the way home from Kearney, my friend Pastor Debra and I stopped to pick up lunch. We were both wearing our clergy collars, a fact that I had kind of forgotten, when the young man at the counter asked us if we were doing anything interesting today. We laughed, and I explained that we had been testifying before the State Board of Education about the proposed health standards. He inquired further, and Pastor Debra explained that we were particularly interested in working for the inclusion and affirmation of LGBTQ kids and families. When she said this, this young man’s whole body relaxed. His eyes smiled over his mask, and he said, “Oh, thank you for doing that. I’m gay, and I wasn’t sure where you were stood…” He then indicated that he had noticed my rainbow sheep pin, and even so, still wasn’t sure it meant what he hoped it meant.
How Jesus longs to gather us all in: that young man at the rural Nebraska food counter, my son Gabe, the scared parents in Kearney…all of God’s beautiful, rainbow children.
May we all be gathered in, so that we can live in love together.
May it be so.