April 18, 2019
I’m hoping you have had a truly Holy Week. The liturgies and the scripture readings are so very powerful. I hope they touched your soul deeply. With all that, somehow I have found myself dwelling this Holy Week on a gospel we had back on the Second Sunday of Lent. “At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you. Jesus said to them, ”Go and tell that fox, for me ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today, tomorrow and on the third day I finish my work…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.”
Let’s look at this imagery used by Jesus. He calls King Herod a “fox.” In those days, “fox” did not symbolize “clever.” In Jesus’ time the word “fox” was a putdown. Herod thought he was a lion but Jesus is saying “you little weasel.” You have no power over me. I have a job to do.
And he compares himself to a mother hen protecting her chicks. That image took on new meaning for me after the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. A 28 year old first grader teacher Vicki Soto literally draped her body over those of her young students. When the gunman came to her room he shot and killed her but she saved the lives of those students. Jesus uses that image to describe himself and his mission.
That image of the fox and the hen describes metaphorically what happens in Holy Week and what Easter means for us. The hen image – no one has done a better job with this image than the
great preacher from Atlanta, Barbara Brown Taylor. I simply quote her insight:
“It may have looked like a minor skirmish to those who were there, but that contest between the chicken and the fox turned out to be the cosmic battle of all time, in which the power of tooth and fang was put up against the power of a mother’s love for her chicks. And God bet the farm on the hen… Depending on whom you believe, she won. It did not look that way at first, with the feathers all over the place and chicks running for cover. But as time went on, it became clear what she had done. She had refused to run from the foxes, and she had refused to become one of them. Having loved her own who were in the world, she loved them to the end. She died a mother hen, and afterwards she came back with teeth marks on her body to make sure they got the point: that the power of foxes could not kill her love for them, nor could it steal them away from her. They might have to go through what she went through in order to get past the foxes, but she would be waiting for them on the other side, with love stronger than death.”[i]
The message of Easter – love is stronger than death.
The Rt. Reverend Douglas J. Fisher
Bishop of Western Massachusetts
[i] Barbara Brown Taylor. “As a Hen Gathers Her Brood,” The Christian Century, February 25, 1986, page 201