The fox and the scorpion
OPEN: The Tale of the Scorpion was an old Native American parable that went as follows:
A scorpion was walking along the bank of a river, wondering how to get to the other side. Suddenly, he saw a fox. He asked the fox to take him on his back across the river.
The fox said, "No. If I do that, you'll sting me, and I'll drown."
The scorpion assured him, "If I do that, we'll both drown."
The fox thought about it and finally agreed. So the scorpion climbed up on his back, and the fox began to swim. But halfway across the river, the scorpion stung him. As poison filled his veins, the fox turned to the scorpion and said, "Why did you do that? Now you'll drown, too."
"I couldn't help it," said the scorpion. "It's my nature."
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I tell this story about animal and insect nature because today’s selection from the Gospel of Luke invites us to consider our natures and the Nature of God.
2000 years ago people saw God in Jesus.
For some it took awhile to understand what they had seen. Some did not really ‘SEE’ until much later. Some watched a great man die and that was all. Some people did not see anything special at all. . .
Yet at some point in life, especially for people raised with stories about Jesus, we must decide for ourselves how we ‘SEE’ (understand) the nature of God thru Jesus.
An imagining exercise:
Rather than put up lovely art work with artists’ renditions of their images of God, I want to explore an ‘imagining exercise’ with you. Take a moment and Think about God. What do you see? What image comes to mind?
Your images, call out
It might be a description or a simile;
God is like... Be as descriptive as you want.
Your images, call out
You’ve heard me tell the story of asking Jr. High group to tell me what God looks like. Expecting mostly typical ‘old man’ images, One young woman said when I invited people to pray, she ‘saw’ a big purple cloud settle down over everyone in the congregation. That was her image of God...a very different kind of ‘Purple Haze.’
Now, Let’s name the various images from the Bible that describe the Divine Presence. They may be images that characters in the Bible understood to be God, or similes used in biblical stories.
What do you remember?
wisdom, mother hen, shepherd, stillness, wrestler, cloud (pillar), fire, soldier
Text Let’s look at today’s text to find an image of God. . .
1st we note in this brief encounter between the Pharisees and Jesus things are not always as they seem.
We find many puzzling contrasts in a few brief verses.
- Pharisees warn Jesus, they seem concerned for him. (Do you find this puzzling? Why?) It could be if Jesus’ left town their life would be easier, but still there’s the sound of genuine warning by those who were often opposed to Jesus.
- Pharisees do not understand Jesus' nature
- They don’t SEE his identity nor understand his mission. They assume his best course of action is to avoid death. (“Dont take that scorpion up on your back..”)
- If we had been reading Luke as a complete book, we would have just ‘heard’ Jesus say, “Look! Those who are last will be first and those who are first will be last.” Then we read this sharp image from Jesus about Herod, the ruling Tetrarch. You’d don’t get any closer to ‘first’ in line that one of the rulers who sit just below the Emperor. Hmmm, what’s Luke telling us?. .
It’s almost as if this passage were written in code. Why does Jesus call Herod a FOX? ASK (Hospital, Dr. red on the floor?)
Sly, cunning, vorciously destructive, maybe crafty,
mostly - ‘as one who is impotent to carry out his threat.’
- Also-There’s meaning behind Jesus’ use of “today, tomorrow and the 3rd day” Can you tell what he’s implying? ASK
- Foreshadows 3 days before he rises from the dead
-But also a surface meaning about time. Time is short!
We know in Luke, Jesus’ ministry is only a year. He is already on the way to Jerusalem and we know what will happen there.
Jesus’ attitude and response also tells us that he is not afraid of what Herod can do. He will go on about his work, (Healing, Casting our Demons) He will keep on keeping on, today, tomorrow... Even tho he knows his time is short.
Time is not only short for Jesus, Time is short for Jerusalem too. Jerusalem seems destined to repeat its history of rejecting the people God sends to save it. We are reminded about prophets in the past who warned Jerusalem ---and were killed for their words.
Jerusalem is unable to really SEE Jesus. They can’t see, understand, or accept his mission. Beverly Gaventa points out that, "Ironically, tragically, the city that houses God’s Temple also houses a persistent refusal to hear God’s word.”
Jerusalem loves to HATE the people God sends.
We have to ask ourselves if WE REALLY see Jesus? How do we know him? Is it by his name? Is he ‘Jolly Jesus’, ‘Judging Jesus’? Is he Judicious Jesus or is he just Jinxed?
It’s tempting for us to point to Jerusalem and shake our heads, after all we know better. (many scholars point out) "Jerusalem is guilty of continuing to work, to operate by their own definitions of what is right and faithful, even when their definitions are contradicted by 'God's own agents".
Yet how different are we? How often have we kept on living by OUR own defintions of what is right, what is just and appropriate to religious law, -OUR interpretation of Holy Law? - - - Even when we are sent those who would open OUR eyes and hearts to another way of justice - for the 1st and the LAST?
No wonder Jesus shakes his head as HE points to Jerusalem, then reaches out his arms to offer a tender embrace. . . “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,...How often I have wanted to GATHER your people just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. . . . . . . . . But you didn’t want that.”
The tender image of a mother offering shelter and protection is the IMAGE Jesus leaves us with as he rejects the warning & journeys ever closer to the threat.
This is the IMAGE of God that we see in Jesus---
Who - even tho he was sure he would be STUNG, he carries all humanity on his BACK - the very same people who will turn and sting him. . .
THIS THEN, is the true NATURE of God, the Divine One who offers us LIFE - a way across the stream, a new path, a chance to be more than what OUR nature suggests.
And this Beloved Jesus offers new life again and again, to the least likely of all people, to the ones standing LAST in line; the outcasts, the sinners - and he offers it to us again and again.
Which brings us back to the tale of the scorpion - an ALTERNATE tale of the Scorpion and the Monk.
END: Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process he was stung.
He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in. The monk SAVED the scorpion and was again stung.
The other monk asked him, "Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know it's nature is to sting?"
"Because," the monk replied,
"to save is my nature."
1 Beverly Gaventa Texts for Preaching Year C (Louisville:WJK,1994)206-208
2 Joel Green NT Commentary-Luke (Grand Rapids:Eerdmans,1997)538
3 ibid 537
5 Gaventa 206
6 J. Green, 538