You are not alone. Come share the journey.

March 13-Hens, Foxes and Ukraine

Sunday School Activities

Shall We Gather at the River – Bell Choir

Luke 13: 31-35
2nd Transfiguration Sunday
“If you have ever loved someone you could not protect, then you understand the depth
of Jesus’ lament.” That’s what American Episcopal preacher, Barbara Brown Taylor says
about this scripture. “If you have ever loved someone you could not protect, then you
understand the depth of Jesus’ lament.” Do you or have you loved someone you could
not protect—a very sick child, an addicted friend, someone with untreated
schizophrenia? With Black History Month fresh in my mind, I thought of what Black
parents often refer to as “the talk”. This is the conversation Black parents have with their
kids, particularly their sons, about how they should deal with the police if they encounter
them. It is a hard talk, a sad talk. And the stakes are really high, the stakes are life and
I imagine myself giving my children that talk, the sense of powerlessness, fear,
and sadness I would feel. How Jesus longs to gather Jerusalem, like her children, like a
mother hen gathers her brood of chicks under her wings. It matters not that Jeruslaem
wants to kill him, he will not let that stop him from loving in the face of their fear, from
protecting them from themselves. As Brown Taylor says, “All you can do is open your
arms. You cannot make anyone walk into them.”
Jerusalem—the centre of civic and religious power, the killer of prophets, of truth tellers
won’t be gathered, won’t walk into the open arms of love. Power that won’t subject
itself to love needs to be defended, it is fearful, it sees threats lurking around every
corner. Jesus knows what he’s walking into. Jesus knows the love of power kills; we all
know that. The last few weeks in Ukraine show us that. Yemen shows us that, Palestine
shows us that, China and the Uighyrs shows us that. The states of Texas and Idaho show
us that. They show us that you can’t love power and love Jesus. In the last two weeks
these states supposedly driven by Christian values have passed or are in the process of
passing evil, sinful legislation (those are words I hardly ever use) that will possibly
remove children from their homes and prosecute parents of trans children involved in
gender affirming treatments, treatments that would help children live into their true
gender indentities. It is the move of a Christianity rooted in the love of power, a
Christianity that is ashamed of their hen Messiah.
I admit I look at Ukraine and elsewhere, I read about Texas and Idaho and I’m not all
that crazy about a hen Messiah either. Brown Taylor asks, “How do you like that image
of God? If you are like me, it is fine in terms of comfort, but in terms of protection it
leaves something to be desired.”3
A hen, really Jesus? In the face of all we see. Couldn’t
God be more like that fox, Herod? How about a rooster at least? A rooster will defend
2 As quoted in a sermon by Stephen Fearing found at
3 As quoted in a sermon by Dr. Randy Hyde found at
its territory and protect its brood to the bitter end with all the ferocity it can muster. A
hen will cower down, spread out her wings, protect her young as best she can, but sit
vulnerably while the fox attacks. 4 Yet, this is the image Jesus chooses.
He won’t engage Herod and the other powers in Jerusalem on their terms. In fact,
“engage” is even the wrong word. Jesus isn’t responding or reacting to Herod’s power.
He’s just being who he is—a healer, a gatherer of people, a nurturer. The awful truth is
that it will lead to his death. As Brown Taylor says, “…this is the most vulnerable
posture in the world—wings spread, breast exposed—but if you mean what you say,
then this is how you stand. . .. Jesus won’t be king of the jungle in this or any other
story. What he will be is a mother hen, who stands between the chicks and those who
mean to do them harm. She has no fangs, no claws, no rippling muscles. All she has is
her willingness to shield her babies with her own body. If the fox wants them, he will
have to kill her first, which he does, as it turns out. He slides up on her one night in the
yard while all the babies are asleep. When her cry wakens them, they scatter. She dies
the next day where both foxes and chickens can see her — wings spread; breast exposed
— without a single chick beneath her feathers. It breaks her heart . . . but if you mean
what you say, then this is how you stand.”5
Will you choose the way of the fox or the way of the hen? Jesus says, “this is who I am,
who will you be?” There is no doubt that the agenda of the world is often dictated by
the Herods, the foxes, an agenda driven by coercive power, greed, and ego. But will we
let that be our agenda. The choice is ours, it’s for any of us who exercise power in
various settings. It’s Vladimir Putin’s choice and he has made it. How do we respond as
people of faith to this modern-day Herod and his invasion of Ukraine? Do we go further
than we already have? Direct military involvement, planes in the air, boots on the
ground? We all have varying responses, some of us don’t know, some of us see it as a
moral imperative to protect lives, some of us are worried about nuclear retaliations,
some of us never see violence as the answer. These are the questions with which we’re
faced when Herod sets the agenda, we wind up engaging Herod on his terms. The
answers inevitably come with compromise, they never completely reflect the allencompassing, redeeming love of God that breaks down all barriers, end all divisions.
But this is the world in which we live as long as Herods and foxes rule, as long as the
love of power is chosen over and against the power of love.
The grace of this scripture is to show us a different way that doesn’t put us in a position
where we must ask such impossibly difficult questions. The way of Jesus is the way of
healing, of vulnerable love, of gathering people together in community. It eschews
behaviours and ways of being that divide. The way of Jesus moves us toward unity,
with each other and creation and thus union with God. It is the way of the universe.
Lent asks us what we need to die to in order to choose the hen over the fox as our way
of being and moving in the world. Mostly I would say it’s fear, but we each need to
discern for ourselves.
This Jesus of ours is not a solution to our problems, this hen of a Messiah/Teacher gets
mauled by the foxes, by those who love power. This Jesus of ours leads us in a way of
being in the world, an unflinching commitment to vulnerable, sacrificial love, to God. A
way of being that is firm in the power of love. A power that shelters and nurtures all
who will come under her wings. Our Lenten journey continues. Keep going toward
Jerusalem. It’s not easy, death most certainly awaits, but so does resurrection.