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Delivered By
Pr. David Fleener
Delivered On
March 17, 2019 at 10:30 AM
Central Passage
Luke 13:31-35
Subject
Lent 2C
Description

Pr. David Fleener

Sermon: March 17, 2019 – Lent 2C

Luke 13:31-35

The Fox and the Hen

 

 

The fox went out on a chilly night,

he prayed to the Moon to give him light,

for he'd many a mile to go that night

before he reached the town-o, town-o, town-o,

he had many a mile to go that night

before he reached the town-o.

 

He ran till he came to a great big bin

where the ducks and the geese were put therein.

"A couple of you will grease my chin

before I leave this town-o, town-o, town-o,

a couple of you will grease my chin

before I leave this town-o."

 

He grabbed the grey goose by the neck,

threw the gray goose behind his back;

he didn't mind their quack, quack, quack,

and their legs all a-dangling down-o, down-o, down-o,

he didn't mind their quack, quack, quack,

and their legs all a-dangling down-o.

 

Old Mother pitter patter jumped out of bed;

out of the window she cocked her head,

Crying, "John, John! The grey goose is gone

and the fox is on the town-o, town-o, town-o!"

Crying, "John, John, the grey goose is gone

and the fox is on the town-o!"

 

Then John he went to the top of the hill,

blowed his horn both loud and shrill,

the fox he said, "I'd better flee with my kill

He’ll soon be on my trail-o, trail-o, trail-o."

The fox he said, "I'd better flee with my kill

He’ll soon be on my trail-o."

 

He ran till he came to his cozy den;

there were the little ones eight, nine, ten.

They said, "Daddy, better go back again,

'cause it must be a mighty fine town-o, town-o, town-o!"

They said, "Daddy, better go back again,

'cause it must be a mighty fine town-o."

 

Then the fox and his wife without any strife

cut up the goose with a fork and knife.

They never had such a supper in their life

and the little ones chewed on the bones-o, bones-o, bones-o,

they never had such a supper in their life

and the little ones chewed on the bones-o[1].

 
 
 

We don’t need an old folk song (as fun as it may be) to tell us that foxes kill chickens and other livestock. They are regarded as pests in many parts of the world. In his commentary, the Scottish William Barclay (perhaps describing his culture as much as that of the ancient Middle East), wrote that the fox was a symbol of three things: slyness, destructiveness, and worthlessness.[2]

 

So when Jesus calls Herod Antipas a fox, he is taking a serious risk to his own person. Barclay also notes, “It takes a brave man to call the king a fox.”[3] This Herod, by the way, was one of the sons of Herod the Great: the same Herod who murdered the babies of Bethlehem in Matthew’s Gospel. This Herod is the ruler of Galilee, where Jesus is from. Luke has quite a bit to say about this member of the Herodian dynasty. We first hear of him in back in Luke 3, when we learn that John the Baptist had “criticized (him) harshly…because of Herodias, Herod’s brother’s wife, and because of all the evil he had done.”[4] Luke then tells us, “He added this to his list of evil deeds: he locked John up in prison.”[5] We later learn that Herod, who murdered John, wanted to meet Jesus himself.[6]  Later in Luke’s Gospel, he will get to meet him, enticing him to work some kind of miracle.[7] Herod is a “fox-like” character – cunning, ruthless, and destructive. This part isn’t particularly remarkable. As long as human civilization has existed, many rulers have had these “fox-like” tendencies. We’ve always had leaders that have enriched themselves at the expense of others, that use others to gain the power and privilege they seek, and leave destroyed lives and relationships in their wake.

 

What is remarkable is that Jesus compares himself to a hen. To the prey of the fox. But not just any hen. Jesus is an in-your-face, bad-ass hen that spares nothing to protect her chicks. Jesus the hen doesn’t run away from Herod the fox. He doesn’t skitter away in fright. He tells the Pharisees straight out that he will not be bullied away. Jesus will indeed continue on his way to Jerusalem, but for now, he has work to do where he is.

 

Jesus is our mother hen. Think about the jarring nature of that image. We often don’t think of Jesus as a mother. After all, as some men so often point out, Jesus was male. That’s true. But remember St. Gregory of Nazianzus’ statement (Gregory was a 4th-century bishop and theologian):

 

For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved. If only half Adam fell, then that which Christ assumes and saves may be half also; but if the whole of his nature fell, it must be united to the whole nature of Him that was begotten, and so be saved as a whole. Let them not, then, begrudge us our complete salvation, or clothe the Saviour only with bones and nerves and the portraiture of humanity.[8]

 

That means that in some way, Jesus assumes all of humanity in himself. Jesus assumes male and female, mind and heart, body and soul. The only thing not assumed in and redeemed by Jesus is our sinfulness. Besides, our sinfulness is not really part of our human nature. The mass murder in Christchurch was not an expression of humanity, but an expression of satanic, animalistic evil that is within each one of us. Those parts of ourselves that are like the destructive fox are going to be consigned to the flames. The prophet Malachi says that “he is like the refiner’s fire or the cleaner’s soap”.[9] Jesus, our mother hen, has come to do what all good mothers do: to raise us from spiritual infancy to maturity, to be who we were made to be – people who reflect the full image of God. He does this by refining us from our sinfulness. (What mother, after all, is not acquainted with discipline?) He does this by doing, again, something that mothers do – he feeds us with his body. Just as a mother feeds her baby with her body, so Jesus feeds us with himself. The 14th-century mystic Julian of Norwich said it very well:

 

The human mother will suckle her child with her own milk, but our beloved Mother, Jesus, feeds us with himself, and with the most tender courtesy, does it by means of the Blessed Sacrament, the precious food of all true life.[10]

 

Jesus also protects us from all threats and evil, especially to our eternal person. When I had a health scare in 2011, I thought that I might die in a few months. (If you remember, that was the Sunday I had to miss worship to go to the emergency room to get a CT of my head.) My mom told me, “If I could take it from you, I would.”

 

Jesus does take our sins and sicknesses upon himself. He protects us and goes toe-to-toe with those who would destroy and scatter us. Jesus is not just our Lord. He is not just our Brother. He is our Mother as well – a Mother who will protect us all through our lives until we reach our heavenly home.

 

Martin Luther summed it best in his explanation to the 2nd Article of the Apostles’ Creed:

 

….He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned human being. He has purchased and freed me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death. He has done all this in order that I may belong to him, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in eternal righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as he is risen from the dead and lives and rules eternally. This is most certainly true.[11]

 

Jesus, our Mother, has redeemed us, purchased us, freed us, and still feeds and protects us, no matter the wiles of the foxes of the world. This is most certainly true. Amen.

 

© 2019, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.

 

 

[1] “The Fox”, lyrics public doman. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fox_(folk_song) on March 14, 2019.

[2] William Barclay, The Daily Bible Study Series, The Gospel of Luke, (Westminster: Philadelphia, 1975), 186.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Luke 3:19, Common English Bible.

[5] Luke 3:20, CEB.

[6] Luke 9:27-29

[7] Luke 23:6-12

[8] Gregory of Nazianzus, To Cledonius the priest against Apollinarius, Retrieved from https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf207.iv.ii.iii.html, 3/17/19.

[9] Mal. 3:2, CEB.

[10] Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, chap. 60, trans. Clifton Wolters (Baltimore: Penguin, 1966), 169-170.

[11] Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 355.