The winter pause we feel today, sun struck and slightly muddy, brings to mind backyard gardens and farms of all sizes that will soon be waking up. We’ve made it through another winter, almost. One of the first signs of spring will be incubating eggs in farm stores. These amazing little containers of possibility, of life, are remarkably strong and fragile at the same time.
Imagine for a moment a mother hen, preparing the nest in a private spot. She will pluck feathers from her own breast to line the straw she pushes into place. setting down over her brood-to-be. She will fluff her feathers, not just the beautiful colored over coat, but also the tiny pin feathers underneath. She will practically double her size as she creates warm air for her clutch of eggs. Can you see her wiggle her tummy a bit as she settles into a comfortable position? She will set for 21 days, three weeks! Most of us get restless after sitting for less than an hour. The broody hen will move only once or twice a day to do what is necessary for her own existence.
The day comes when she feels a new energy under her, the eggs moving. Inside tiny beaks start to chisel their way out of containers that are now too small for their growing inhabitants. Shells cracks and ugly little creatures of wet matted down wiggle out. The hen nudges and fluffs. The hatchlings snuggle back under her. Feathers grow to cover their down. She teaches them to eat and drink and protects them from aggressive birds. The chicks return to rest under her.
Each day the chicks grow stronger. They venture further from the hen but know where to return. Its quite a sight to see adolescent chicks trying to nestle back under mama for the night. Eventually they explore the boundaries of their world. Some will learn to roost in the coop. Others will try to get as far as they can out into the wild world, curious and vulnerable.
In today’s gospel reading Jesus used the image that expresses his longing to draw us in when he knows we are in danger. And we long to launch out on our own, to roost beyond the coop,
We’re chicks who are curious about the fox, curious enough to go nose to nose with the exciting, the charismatic, the dangerous ones we can fail to recognize as predators until its too late.
What is it Jesus wants to draw us into? Psalm 27 holds clues. It is full of images of hospitality in God’s home. It’s a hoe that is not a static place, but a dynamic, moving life. Of bold beauty and confident attachment to our creator.
Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident. One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple. 27:3-4
Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD. 27:6
In the Psalm is the cry of the chick seeking its mother hen:
Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation! 27:9
Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence. 27:11-12
Jesus wanted more than anything to teach the people God’s way.
And, in the gospel, we have seen it starting to work: followers who set everything aside to pick up this opportunity. And at least some of the community elders, Pharisees, care enough to warn Jesus in this passage. These leaders most learned in and attached to the past must see something in Jesus that makes them want to preserve his future.
Let’s do a line by line reading of this short but packed passage together today.
13:31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you."
What opinion do we usually get of Pharisees (thumbs up or thumbs down)?
But now we see some Pharisees actively seeking Jesus to protect him. It reminds me of the mother hen! They share his desire to protect the vulnerable against danger. works against our black/white preconceptions. Daniel Oppenheimer, in the March issue of The Atlantic writes: So quick to denounce or praise, and to demand to be told which side everyone is on, we forget that politics also offers parables of second thoughts and transformation. Ideological changelings, if we catch them midflight, remind us that ‘belief is complicated, contingent, multi-determined.’ They can show us too, how hard it is to be a person in the world, period, and how much more confusing that task can become when you take on responsibility for repairing or redeeming it.”
Are there people we make assumptions about based on the group they’re part of, or our previous experience of them? How willing are we to see others’ second thoughts and transformations?
Continuing our passage….13:32 He [Jesus] said to them, "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.
I don’t know about you, but when I’ve experienced a threat, I have to wrestle with the distraction it creates. Jesus is so focused on what he is supposed to be doing and he is so trusting of God’s care, that he doesn’t miss a step.
Jesus is not even trying to escape death. He is confident enough in God’s purpose that it doesn’t seem to concern him. Knowing John the Baptist’s fate its only natural for the Pharisees and Jesus’ followers to assume Jesus ‘would be the same. But he is, as John himself said, “more powerful than I.” Jesus’ purpose is not to escape the king or persuade the king. It is to compel the people to know that their home is under God’s wing.
13:33 Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.'
Twice Jesus repeats “today, tomorrow, and the next day.” From writers who have a great economy of word that means “pay attention.” This is how Jesus spends his life. This is the way from which he cannot be deterred.
Now, what is this strange comment on Jerusalem? Is it really impossible for a prophet to be killed beyond the city? Others have indeed been killed before: Uriah, Zechariah, Manasseh, Isaiah. But it is not the only place biblical prophets have died. In Jesus’ day, voices of dissent are being shushed by their people and sacrificed by Rome. Its dangerous to make waves. You might say the coop is in lockdown.
Imagine for a second Jerusalem, what the city actually looks like in its setting. Built on a hill in order to see danger coming, with a wall to protect the people rulers were meant to gather in when there was a threat. Jerusalem, which is meant to be the Mother Hen, the place of safety for God’s people, this community is who will do Jesus in. And before we blame Jerusalem, we ought to ask how we’re treating both the vulnerable and the prophets in our own time and place.
13:34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!
Jesus’s tone turns to lament. Is he remembering the stones that could have become bread in the desert as he points to stones that become weapons?
How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
“On the one side lurks the fox,” writes [Alan]Culpepper in the New Interpreter’s Bible. “The Bible consistently depicts evil as dangerous and predatory, nothing one can flirt with without risking one’s life.” On the other side is an image that is redeeming and protective: “a mother hen who instinctively draws her young under her wing when danger threatens.”
Jerusalem, meant to be “hen”, chose to be “fox.”
And again, before we rush to judgement, we have to ask which we choose to be?
13:35 See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'"
“Until the time comes when you say….” has a definitive quality. You WILL see me when the time comes. In the fulfillment of God’s project, all come to that time when we are compelled to say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” We may come willingly, we may come kicking and fighting. But it is the end, the purpose of the creature to acknowledge the creator.
On the road to Jerusalem tension is building, danger is growing.
Remember that these words were written in hindsight. Luke’s writing and reading community had literally seen Jerusalem fall, to the Roman empire in 72 AD. At the same time, this story brushes aside any illusion that the fox is in control of the true picture. God had already begun building a new community of disciples, both Jewish and Gentile, tied not to time or to place but to person.
God did not save the city.
God saved the Son, and saves all who follow in the son’s journey, a journey that includes our own Jerusalem, the place of choices.
Jerusalem is Jesus’ human end point,
But more importantly, its his end in the Aristotelian sense of life’s ultimate purpose, what brings your soul, to life.
The new “city” is more dynamic than bricks and mortar.
The new “coop” for all God’s chicks is the Holy Spirit.
So why do we, in generation after generation, follow the fox? Why do we human beings keep hoping against Hope that predators, driven by their own human wants and whims, will save us?
There is no earthly wing to protect Jesus from harm, from death that comes from humanity’s choice to to submit to the fox. Jesus is under God’s wing, (Psalm 27) life that overcomes death. Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians)
The fox too will die, his killing unfinished. But on the third day we will see what it is to choose to be the hen.
-Steve Garnaas Holmes, www.unfoldinglight.net
As we lean into imitating your Son, help us learn from those who live according to the his example, rather than by the gods of earthly power and desire.
Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Draw us under the wing of his glory where we may stand firm in the Lord (Philippians 3:17-4:1)
 Atlantic P. 42. Quoting Daniel Oppenheimer Exit Right: The People Who Left the Left and Reshaped the American Century, The Atlantic March 2016 “The Leftist Origins of the Rabid Right: What modern conservatism owes to apostates from the opposite end of the ideological spectrum.”
 Cited in Christian Century: LIVING BY THE WORD, February 21, Second Sunday in Lent, Luke 13:31–35, by Malinda Elizabeth Berry