February 28, 2010 Lent 2 Luke 13:31-35
Foxes and Hens
An old man and his grandson were outside working in the yard one late spring day.
As they were working, a station wagon stuffed to the brim with boxes pulled up to the curb. Inside a husband and wife sat, scrunched together amid all their things.
They were moving into town, and needed directions.
After the old man told them where to go, the husband spoke again, asking “Could you tell me what the people are like here in this town?”
The old man paused and then answered with a question. “What are the people like in the town you’re leaving?”
“Oh they’re awful people” was the husbands response. “they’re greedy, they’re crafty, a bunch of back-stabbers really. None of them would lift a finger to help anyone else. We couldn’t get out of there fast enough.”
The old man stood for a minute and frowned.
He then thoughtfully replied, “That’s exactly the kind of people you’ll find here.”
The man’s face fell and he shook his head as they pulled away from the curb and went on their way.
A few days later, the old man and his grandson were again working in the yard, and a different station wagon pulled up to the curb, again packed to the hilt, again a husband and wife crammed in the front.
It was a different couple, but they had the same questions.
After getting the directions they needed, they asked the old man how the people were in this town, just like the first couple had done.
And like he had done before, the old man answered with a question…asking how the people were in the town they were leaving.
But this time, the couple spoke well of the people. “They are like family”, they said. “We didn’t want to leave…they were generous and kind and loving. We already miss them dearly”.
The old man paused. Then he smiled, saying “It sounds like you’re describing our town perfectly”. J
The car drove away, and the grandson turned to his grandfather. “How could you give two such different impressions of our town to complete strangers like you did, grandpa?” he asked. “Which one is the truth?” he asked.
The wise old man explained himself, saying “Both responses were true. The attitude of the driver tells a lot about what they will find when they get where they’re going.”
Which car are you in this morning? One is full of fear and suspicion. The other is full of love and trust.
…Jesus taught many things to those who had ears to listen.
He compared the kingdom of God to a single mustard seed, which grows into a tree with branches where birds can make their nests.
And from what I’ve heard of the mustard plant, you can either see it as an invasive weed (if you’re in the first car), or you can let Jesus turn your eyes to the beauty of its branches (if you’re in the second car).
He goes on from there and compares the kingdom of God to yeast that a woman works into flour until it goes all through the dough.
And if you’re in the first car, you can look at that and comment about how much work that is, to knead all that dough by hand. You can wonder why the woman doesn’t just get a bread machine, or go to Rhode’s for her bread. But if you’re in the second car, you might put on an apron and get to work.
Jesus teaches those who have ears to hear him, he teaches them to make every effort to enter through the narrow door, so as not to be left outside knocking.
He continues, teaching that those who are last will be first, and those who are first will be last in the kingdom of God.
And if you’re in the first car, you’ll condemn him and his teaching. You’ll be offended at his brazen claims. After all, you’ve worked hard to get where you are. What’s this business about coming in last?
If you’re in the first car, you’ll curse the man who dares to suggest that the power you’ve gained is an illusion. You’ll seek ways to kill anyone who thinks your power isn’t real. In that first car, you’ll try hard to punish anyone who offers an alternative to the reality you’ve created in your own head.
And in the first car, you’ll be in good company with king Herod, the fox who’s hoping to kill Jesus. In the first car, Jesus’ message sounds like despair.
But if you’re in the second car, your attitude is fixed on imitating Christ.
If you’re in the second car, you’ll hear this teaching and you might rejoice, to think that things can be different than how they are! The first will be last and the last first.
In the second car, that sounds like hope.
If you’re in the second car, you might long to take the brood under your wings, to offer protection and comfort to your offspring, even as the fox sneaks in to devour and destroy.
The first car is for foxes, the second is for hens.
See—the passage this morning, it’s about more than a king verses a religious leader.
It’s about more than political power verses religious power.
It’s about foxes and hens, it’s about station wagons packed to overflowing.
It’s about loving a city or a people that just won’t love you back, and it’s about fearing someone to the point of plotting their death.
Herod wanted to kill Jesus.
And to be honest, he had some pretty good reasons to do that.
Jesus kept talking about another kingdom, stirring things up all over the area, gaining followers wherever he went. If Jesus was planning a takeover, he was doing the right things. So it made sense for Herod to kill him.
In a fox’s world, it’s always fight or flight and might makes right.
So as we heard, some Pharisees warned Jesus what Herod was thinking. They knew that Herod had the motive, he had the power, and he had the willpower to do this. They feared for Jesus’ life.
And Jesus’ response really kind of surprises me.
It reminds me of the old TV show “MacGuyver”, where the hero is trapped with nothing but a roll of duct tape and some oranges and the big shot villain is amassing his armies to hunt him down.
The difference is that in ‘MacGuyver’, the hero is always the bigger fox.
In “MacGuyver”, the good fox always out-foxes the bad fox.
But in God’s story, Jesus longs to draw the chicks to him like a mother hen, gathering them under his wings, willing to die, but unable to kill for a people who won’t love him back.
A hen is no match for a fox.
All over the world people are pushing the ‘fear’ button as hard as they can, just like Herod.
All over the world, people understand that fear is a prime motivator in our world.
More often than not, we try to outfox the foxes, we try to defeat fear at it’s own game.
Insurance is based on fear. Parts of medicine are based on fear.
The politician who promises to best protect us from our perceived fears is the politician who gets the vote.
We’ve been trained and taught to fear that which we don’t understand, to fear that which is different, to fear change. And the people who can manage fear and use it as a tool—those are the foxes. Foxes are experts at using fear for their advantage.
For example, Herod threatened Jesus. He tried to invoke fear.
So what or who is threatening you?
Is it money?
Is it a bully?
Is it the threat of change itself?
We can’t do anything to stop threats from coming. But we can try to change our response when the threats come. We don’t have to outfox the foxes.
But we might not like the alternative.
Self-sacrificing, Mother-Hen love, that’s what drives out fear.
Like light dispels the darkness, love drives out fear.
Self-sacrificing, mother-hen love—that’s the most powerful force in the world.
Jesus sends the Pharisees back to Herod with a message.
He says : “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.”
In other words, he’s definitely not scared of Herod’s threat.
He’s basically saying “you want me, come and get me.” “I’ll be right here until I’m done, you old fox…then I’ll go to Jerusalem.”
Can you imagine how unnerving that would have been for Herod to hear? He’s already scared for his kingdom—otherwise he wouldn’t be plotting to kill Jesus.
I think Herod wanted Jesus to run—to fear for his life.
But Jesus is driven by love, and not by fear.
He knows what he’s about, he knows where he’s going, and he’s not afraid. He doesn’t allow himself to be pushed around by threats or danger.
And at the point you expect to hear his manifesto, his declaration of war on this fox Herod; right at the point in the story that you expect to hear him finally mass his followers and stage an assault—it’s at that point that he waxes poetic, weeping for Jerusalem, longing to draw them under his wings like a mothering hen.
You couldn’t find more of a contrast if you tried.
What’s it mean today, to respond to the fox of fear with the love of a mothering hen?
I think it means involving yourself in a mission that is bigger than you, and bigger than fear.
Pray with me as I close this morning…(open prayer)