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2nd Sunday in Lent
March 4, 2007
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
This second Sunday in Lent is also the beginning of Women’s History Month and preachers have the opportunity to “preach against the text” when dealing with the story of Abram and to lift up the feminine images in the Gospel text as a much needed corrective.
The promises to Abram are the motor that impels the Imperialist designs of America and its surrogate in the Middle East, modern Israel. Astute preachers will see in the Genesis text the basis for Manifest Destiny. American Neo-cons have built unashamedly on ideas that sprung up in the Nineteenth Century. America was seen as the New Israel, the land occupied by the native nations of the northern part of the American Continent was seen as the New Canaan that God had delivered into the hands of the New Israel. This text must be truly “de-mythologized” and Modern Israel’s behavior needs to be exposed. Pastors must acquaint themselves with Jimmy Carter’s Palestine: Peace not Apartheid and with the relentless critique and persecution to which the former President has been subjected. It is important to note that most of the rulers of modern Israel are not observant Jews and that it is ludicrous to state that the text we have today from Genesis is the true foundation of modern Israel. Rulers in Israel appeal to a book they don’t follow and a God in whom they do not believe and the rulers of the American Empire appeal to selective passages in the Book and their God is a grotesque throwback to the Mars-like Lord of Hosts.
The Gospel text is rich with contrasting images of raw power versus tender protection. Herod “that Fox” versus Jesus the “mother hen” that wants to protect Jerusalem just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings is a clear invitation to lift up feminine images of God during Women’s History Month. Herod, the Fox, is still alive, rapacious as ever, ominously stalking today’s chicks many of whom are fooled by the raw power of the Fox and refuse the tender protection of the Christ.
These days there are wolfs in sheep skins and Foxes in feminine dark skins so we need more than ever the tender protection of the wings of our loving savior. For some reason Luke omits the part that Matthew includes about Jesus’ crying over Jerusalem. Tears from Jesus eyes might have been a little too threatening to the author of Luke. To compare him to a hen was “feminine” enough, to add tears might weaken the image that Luke wishes to convey about Jesus.
It is important to mention that the warning about Herod’s threat to Jesus comes from “some Pharisees” because too often preachers make the mistake of lumping all Pharisees together. First of all is important to remember that the picture of the Pharisees is painted by people who disagree with them, namely the early church, and we are bound to have exaggerated, or distorted images of them. I believe that it is important to point out that modern Judaism is a direct descendant of Phariseeism. To acknowledge the fact that there were sympathetic Pharisees who advised Jesus to run away from Herod the fox opens more possibilities to creative interfaith relations with modern Jews.
Ignacio Castuera, a United Methodist minister, is currently serving Trinity United Methodist Church in Pomona, California, and also serves as the national chaplain for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Rev. Castuera has served churches in Mexico, Hawaii, and California. In 1980, he became the first Latino District Superintendent of the Los Angeles District of the California Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.