At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you."
He 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.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.’Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!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.’" (Luke 13:31-35, NRSV)
Once upon a time there was a fox, a fox who went out on a chilly night. The fox looked up to the moon to guide him on his way. He headed toward the town. He was looking for a farm, where the farmer kept chickens and ducks and geese. He needed to feed his family.
An old folk song tells the story of that fox, and his success carrying off a duck and the grey goose. The farmer blows a horn of warning for the rest of the town, but the damage is done. The song tells of his family’s delight at receiving the goose, their joy in eating the birds’ bones.
It reminds me of a book my oldest loved when he was little, Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm. After a description of something that is just a thing animals do, the narrator says, “It’s not a pretty sight.”
We hear about the fox and probably feel the same way. It’s not a pretty sight, and yet the fox and his family depend on his hunting to survive.
Once upon a time there was a king in Jerusalem, and a man who called the king a fox. The king was Herod, and in the passage we just read, Jesus gets a warning that Herod wants to kill him.
Herod, you see, has a good arrangement going with the Romans who are occupying his country. He has a good relationship with the religious authorities, too. Herod knows how to move around to get what he wants. And Jesus? Jesus could cause the kind of trouble that might ruin everything for Herod, spoil the way he has organized his comfortable life. Jesus could blow the horn and let people hear what the fox is doing.
Herod –the fox – is making plans, and it’s not a pretty sight.
Once upon a time there was a hen, a little red hen. You know the story, don’t you? The little red hen lived on a farm. She found some grains of wheat, and those grains of wheat gave her a big idea. She would plant them and grow more wheat!
She asked her friends for help, but no one could be bothered to help her plant the grains of wheat, not the dog or the cat or the goose. And after the wheat grew? No one could be bothered to help her cut it, not the dog or the cat or the goose. “Not I,” they said, one after the other. And certainly no one wanted to help her take it to the mill to grind it into flour. Nor did they step up to help her when she was ready to use the flour to bake bread.
But when the bread was ready, all her friends wanted to eat it! The dog and the cat and the goose were hungry! They needed the bread, even though they had not worked for it.
When friends let you down, it’s not a pretty sight.
Jesus stood outside Jerusalem with an idea in his mind of what lay ahead. He was going to the place where a man might get killed for telling the truth. Prophets had been killed there before. He knew he would probably be one of them. I don’t think he was surprised to hear about Herod’s plans, but I don’t think he knew exactly what would happen, either.
And even though he wasn’t surprised, Jesus was sad, and probably a bit angry, too, when he talked about Jerusalem. He wanted to love them all, he said, the way a hen gathers her chicks beneath her wings. But he knew before getting there that the people would not trust him or rely on him as a chick does with its mother.
This story sounds like a lot of bad news, doesn’t it? Jesus gets a warning that Herod would like to have him killed with about as little regard as the fox had for the grey goose. And then Jesus makes us wonder whether we do any better than the people of his time at accepting his love and protection and care.
Even his friends will let him down, the very ones who are standing around with him when the Pharisees come to give their warning. They’ll be as sleepy and unmotivated as the dog, the cat and the goose. “Not I, master,” they will say, when he says one will betray him. “Surely not I!”
But this hen that Jesus wants to be is not like the little red hen. In the story, the little red hen bakes that bread, and then when her friends ask to eat some, she says no!! She eats it all herself!!!
Jesus is different. The Great Hen forgives. The Great Hen brings about forgiveness and love. The Great Hen doesn’t turn us away because we didn’t do the work along the way. What one of us has ever done anything good enough to deserve what he gave to us all?
None of us possibly could. When it comes to faithfulness, most of us are not a pretty sight.
But we are covered by his wings, beloved, and we are invited to share the bread that represents his life and his love for us. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.