Sermons 2003-2004

"The Hen and the Fox", Lent 2C
Home | Christmas Eve A, "Are we really ready?", Luke 2: 1-20, 24 December 2004 | "Finally! Well, almost...." Advent 4A , 19 December 2004, Matthew 1:18-25 | Faith and Doubts, Advent 3A, 12 December 2004, Matthew 11:2-11 | John the Baptist, Advent 2A, 5 December 2004, Matthew 3:1-12 | Left Behind? Advent 1A, 28 Nov 2004, Matthew 24:37-44 | Some King of kings! Proper 29C, 21 November 2004, Luke 23:35-43 | "Not one thrown down", Proper 28C, 14 November 2004, Luke 21:5-19 | All Saints and for all the saints, 2004C, 31 October 2004, Luke 6:20-36 | The Lambeth Commission Windsor Report, the Pharisee, and the tax collector, Proper 25C, 24 Oct 2004 | "Lord, teach us to pray." Proper 20C, 17 October 2004, Genesis 32:3-8, 22-30; Luke 18:1-8a | "It's all in the choosing", Proper 23C, 10 October 2004, Ruth 1:1-19a; Luke 17:11-19 | "Increase our faith", Proper 22C, Luke 17:5-10, 3 October 2004 | Proper 21C 2004, 26 September 2004, "R&R: Response and Relationships", Luke 16:19-31 | Proper 19C 2004, 12 September 2004, "Lost and Found", Luke 15:1-10 | Proper 18C 2004, 5 September 2004, "Preaching or Meddling", Luke 14:25-33 | Proper 16C 2004, 22 August 2004, "The Narrow Gate ", Luke 13:22-30 | Proper 15C, 15 August 2004 | Proper 14C, 8 August 2004 | Proper 13C, 1 August 2004 | Shrinemont: "Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses", Proper 15c, 15 August 2004 | "Lord, teach us how to pray," Proper 12C, 25 July 2004, Genesis 18:20-33; Luke 11:1-13 | The Summary of the Law and the Good Samaritan: "Go and do likewise" Luke 10:25-37, 11 July 2004 | Independence Day 2004. "The Creative Tension of the Church: Who is to be included?" | "Now! Now! Now!", Proper 8C, 27 June 2004, Luke 9:51-62 | "Star Throwers", Proper 7C, 20 June 2004, Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 9:18-24 | The more things change the more they remain the same, Pentecost 2C, 13 June 2004 | "O Holy Triune God, most Holy Trinity; here are we. Send us." Trinity C, 6 June 2004 | "Come, Holy Spirit", Pentecost C , 30 May 2004 | "That they all may be one", Easter 7C, 23 May 2004 | The Holy Spirit: Paraclete, Pneuma, Ruach, Easter 6C 2004 | Agapate Allelous: Love beyond each other, Easter 5C 2004, 9 May 2004 | The Good Shepherd and the five people you meet in heaven, Easter 4C 2004 | "The God of the Second Chance -- and of many chances", Easter 3C, 25 April 2004 | Baptizatus Sum: I am baptized, Easter 2C 2004 | It is NOT an Idle Tale: Easter Sunday, 18 April 2004 | Palm Sunday-Passion Sunday Roller Coaster: What We Want or What We Need? | Who are the Wicked Tenants, Lent 5C 2004 | The Prodigal Son -- and so much more | God, the Gardener, and the Fig Tree | "The Hen and the Fox", Lent 2C | The Comfortable Rut of Ordinary Temptation | "Getting from Uh-oh to Aha", Luke 9:28-36, Epiphany Last C, 22 February 2004 | Jesus, Jeremiah, and the Beatitudes: What to Make of it All | The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon: God working in the world | Jesus, the Archbishop, and Annual Council The Dark Abyss of Schism | The Nature of Revelation: Jesus' Sermon at Nazareth | The Miracle at the Wedding in Cana | The King of kings and the Lion King | "The Magnificat, Watching, and Waiting" | "Gaudete in Domino semper: Rejoice in the Lord always" | A Voice crying in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Lord." | "Standing in the Day of Battle: Isabel and the Gospel" | Dogma, Doctrine, and the Theological Enterprise | The Little Apocalypse | Jesus and theWidow's Mite | One Priest's Response to the Election of Gene Robinson | The Great Commandment: Jesus Meant What He said | Who is blind? | Eyes on Jesus and minds on mission! | Tradition or Traditionalism? | Credo: Be doers of the Word and not hearers only." | Who do YOU say that I am? | "It's about Power and Winning" | Contact Wicomico Parish Church
Lent 2C 2004 Luke 13:22-35

(Note: The Website program does not support certain punctuation marks and they have been automatically removed.)

One of my earliest memories is of Augusta, Georgia. It was in the early days of American entry into World War Two. It was during the first several years of the mobilization of the vast Army, Navy, and Air Corps sent across the seas to liberate Europe and Asia from the Axis conquest. My father was a Captain of Infantry, commissioned from the ROTC unit at then Clemson College on his graduation in 1936 and now recalled to active duty for the build up. He was stationed at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

Like all junior ranking families during this tumultuous time there was no housing on post and we had to fend as best we could. I remember that where we lived was a cozy little place in the yard of a much larger house. It had a large room or so it seemed to a three year old in 1942 with an efficiency kitchen, and dinette and a sitting area. There was a bedroom I had a cot in the corner and my parents had the double bed. And there was a bathroom.

I was free to play with the two young daughters who lived there. They were about five years older than I so I got to be pulled in wagons, dressed in various costumes, and treated as though I were a doll. I loved it, especially the attention the two young girls lavished on me.

Thirty years later at the end of the Vietnam War when I had finished the Staff College at Fort Leavenworth and was assigned to Strategic Plans on the Army General Staff in the Pentagon, I met those girls again. It was at Pohick Church, which I had joined in 1973. As I came to know the people there, I was chatting with two sisters, both married to colonels, one Army and one Air Force. The Army couple hes now a retired major general live near my daughter and grandchildren in Atlanta small world.

As career service people will, we traced the places where we had served. I told about my early memories of Augusta and Fort Gordon and that backyard place where I lived. They remembered playing with a little boy. I said that I think the family was named French at which they laughed wide eyed and said Thats us and you were the little boy!

And whats more, they said, You lived in our converted chicken coop. You lived in the hen house!

As I was thinking about those days getting ready for today, I thought about the other encounters I had had with hens and roosters chickens of every variety. I remember leghorns and Rhode Island Reds and other varieties I cant even remember. My grandmothers had all sorts of chickens running aabout their yards. I remember my grandmothers wringing the necks of chickens and hanging the headless corpses upside down from the clothesline to drain out the blood. And I remember the steaming stink when they then were plunged into fiercely boiling cauldrons of water to loosen the feathers as part of the preparation for food.

Most of all I remember as I grew up playing touch foot ball in my grandmother Dillard's front yard where the chickens had been running about and often coming up reeking and stinking afterward myself. It may explain why I am fond of neither chicken nor eggs surely it is unhealthy to eat anything from a creature than can cause such terrible smells.

I also remember my grandmother Scott taking me into the hen roost to gather eggs. I didnt really want to have anything to do with it, but I loved being with my grandmother. As long as I was with her the hens were docile letting her slip her hand beneath them and collect the daily egg. They knew her and trusted her. They also knew that I didnt particularly like them and they would spread their wings and peck whenever I was sent to gather eggs. They didnt know me like they knew her and they resisted.

In 1992 when I was a seminarian assigned for the summer to Cople Parish just up in Westmoreland County from us, I was sharply reminded of the hen image that Jesus used in his lament over Jerusalem. I was heading back to where I was staying about dark and on the country road ahead of me there was this turkey hen stopped and standing right in the middle of the road facing me. As I came closer I thought she would move but she kept looking at me and then to one side or another. As I stopped a few feet away I saw that she had her wings spread downward and that her brood, her chicks, were running in and out from under them on the road. I watched fascinated as she slowly brushed them along to safety into the woods beyond the ditch of the road. A hen gathering her brood under her wings.

I sat transfixed in the middle of the road myself for a while as the words of todays gospel were recalled to mind. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, cried our Lord. How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing.

But of this image, one commentator has said: Of all the images Jesus could have picked out of an aviary, a hen or chicken seems most bizarre! Chickens scuttle about, they hunt and peck for food. They certainly have never been used as a model for highly intelligent animal life. T hey are awkward and certainly not aerodynamic. An eagle has a certain majesty to it. Swans are beautiful and the mourning dove has a beautiful and maudlin quality about its call. Penguins are good swimmers and storks have, in some cultures, the reputation for bringing people good luck. Even hummingbirds can fly backward and are curious enough to gain our attention. But the lowly hen? To suggest this as an image of God is so remarkable, undignified, and unsettling that we hardly know what to do with it. If a hen is a metaphor for God it is hard to imagine what kind of a God that might point to! (1)

Well, perhaps not. Our God went battered and beaten and bleeding to his death on the Cross. That, too, is hard to imagine when we think about it.

But this is a lovely image of a mother hen facing danger and hiding her chicks under her wings, gathering them there to protect them.

There is an old story told of a grass fire in the barnyard. It burned through the dray grasses and scattered piles of hay with a high wind behind it, and the animals and birds simply did not have enough time to run and escape. When the fire had done its worst, the farmer came to look at the damage. He found in one corner a mother hen, its wings spread wide, its feathers black and burned. The hen was dead.

But when the farmer started to pick up the dead hen, her half dozen chicks ran out from beneath her wings. In the face of the fire, she had gathered them under her to protect them from the danger. And she saved them. (2)
It is and interesting and not accidental thing that Jesus had also said this about king Herod, when he was told that Herod wanted to kill him: 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.
There was a metaphor where I grew up in rural South Carolina for when someone was causing trouble that the fox was in the hen house. The trouble was that most people just sat by, clucking helplessly, and didnt gather the people the fox was after under their wings.
After the battle of Waterloo, someone asked Wellington if the French were brave. He said, "Yes, the French were brave. The English were only brave 5 minutes longer." (3) In difficult times, when the foxes are loose in the hen house, our task is to be steady enough, brave enough, to keep our eyes on Jesus and our minds on mission.

1. Is God a Chicken?, Aha!!!, 8 March 1998, p. 47, quoted in David Mosser, What City is Worth Weeping Over, for 7 March 2004.
2. A Life Given, Aha!!!, 8 March 1998, pp. 47-48, modified as quoted in Ibid.
3. As quoted in Stephen M. Crotts, Fear: How To Deal With What Nobody Wants, for 7 March 2004.