Prophets and Disciples

by Rev. Canon David B. Tabo-oy

“ A third time he dives only to be thwarted by the determined self-sacrifice of the mother hen. She is too big to be a target and the chicks are too safe to be seized so he flies away.”

34″O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 35Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ (Luke 13:34-35)

This is the Gospel lesson we heard read on the second Sunday this Lenten Season. The verses above are Jesus’ lamentation over Jerusalem when he was informed that Herod would like him to be killed. Jerusalem, the home of the Jewish Temple, is here called the prophets killer. There are always three groups of persons within the casual crowd: reactionaries, prophets, and mutineers. The reactionaries in their greed condemn the prophet as a mutineer, and kill him; the mutineers in their bitterness condemn the prophet as a reactionary, and kill him.
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Prophets in the Bible were killed because they are fearless in telling the public about the excesses of the leaders at that time – both in the Roman government and those in the synagogue (religious). They are fearless in telling the truth in accordance with God’s truth. Who killed the prophets? The kings, the rulers at those times with their soldiers!
In 2007 I had the opportunity to be a part of the United Nations’ interest and endeavor to investigate the extra-judicial killings here in the Philippines in the forum dubbed, “Meeting with United Nations Special Rapporteur” with Philip Alston as head of the delegation. The reports I heard which were presented to the group of Mr Alston were not new – they have been in the news months and even several years ago. I also personally know one of those murdered. But the reports and accounts I heard that evening have put together the fine and bold strokes of killings in Northern Luzon and the Cordillera regions. Put together it is a gruesome picture of killing orgy and impunity. And the group of Mr Alston’s concluded their investigation by indicting the military as guilty of most of the killings recorded.
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After more than a decade, the story continues although not as bold like before but extra judicial killings of outspoken people against the excesses of those in power continues. The same in countries where the socio-political and economic situation is unstable.
Why were they killed? Most of them were killed because they opted to stand with those who are the ‘least of the brethren’– forgotten, helpless, and seeking for the truth. They were killed because they were fearless in telling the public about the injustices perpetrated by those who are supposed to do otherwise especially for the poor, deprived, and marginalized in so many ways.
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How did Jesus express his grief over Jerusalem as a prophet-persecuting city? He leaves us with an unforgettable image, an image tender and gentle and surprising. Listen again to what he says: “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Surprisingly, Jesus pictures himself as a mother hen, eager for her little chicks to find shelter beneath her soft, comforting wings. Have you ever seen a chicken hawk go after its prey? The old mother hen is often aware of the presence of the hawk in time to gather her chicks under her wing. With a furious fuss she squawks till her brood is safe by her side. She fluffs out her wings and protects them with her own body. The chicken hawk dives and the old hen turns her body toward him and cocks a wary eye without moving from her chicks. The predator comes in again for the kill and the mother spreads her wings even wider. A third time he dives only to be thwarted by the determined self-sacrifice of the mother hen. She is too big to be a target and the chicks are too safe to be seized so he flies away.
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This is the second Sunday in the season of Lent. This is the season where we are called to meditate and look deeper where our faith is anchored. The Episcopal Church in the Philippines continues to respond to its portion in doing God’s mission through a new vision-mission which is framed by the Season of Intentional Discipleship of the Anglican Communion where she is a member. Last week in Quezon City I had the opportunity to give a lecture to some diocesan convention delegates and seminarians on this topic. I told them that discipleship is a commitment to be lifelong follower of Jesus Christ, and the life and actions of the disciple are to be shaped by Jesus’ teachings and values. Discipleship may also be summarized as Christian life and living, Christian formation or spirituality – the effects of faith on head, mind and heart of a follower of Jesus daily in all spheres of influence.
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Starting out or continuing on the journey of Christian faith or discipleship can look very different for people – it depends on where they live, their family background, their age. For some the journey of faith has immediate challenges – even dangers. For others it is the natural outworking of growing up in Christian context.
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So Jesus was killed by the insurrectionists in the mob and by the reactionaries in the temple and in the state. Always we must cleave and listen to the prophets. Without them we have no standard from God and no movement toward God; life stagnates into foulness. The path is dangerous yet we are assured that God is with us and that even death cannot silence the prophets to proclaim the truth. “If God is with us, who can be against us?”
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Jaques Maritain, the great French philosopher of the last century, said there were really only three questions that had to be answered: “Who am I?” “Where am I?” and “Where ought I to be going?” Jesus knew who he was, and where he was, and where he had to go. Lincoln knew. So have all great leaders and great men and women of faith known. Do we know? Or are we out of focus, our goals fuzzy and ill-defined? Our world is so insane, but not any more so than the world of Jesus. Most people in his day, went to work every day, and came home, and were pulled this way and that. And they didn’t ask the big questions very often. We remember Jesus because he did. (esermons.com)
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Justin Welby the current Archbishop of Canterbury in speaking about being purposeful in following Jesus or Intentional Discipleship said, “The best decision anyone can ever make, at any point in life, in any circumstances, whoever they are, wherever they are, is to become a disciple of Jesus.”**

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