2nd Weekend in Lent - 3-13-2022: "Foxes and Hens"

2nd Weekend in Lent - 3-13-2022: "Foxes and Hens"

March 13, 2022 | Ryan Arnold

Passage: Luke 13:31-35

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    A message about misguided politicians, the religious leaders who follow them, and Jesus.

    Who do you follow? When journeying through life it’s a good question to ask.

    Today’s brief text from Luke 13 finds Christ talking about just that. And he does so in a novel way. The scene begins with a familiar setting, Jesus in dialogue with the Pharisees. They’re the religious elite group more concerned with laws than love.

    But this particular conversation has a twist. Instead of challenging, questioning or threatening Christ as they most often do, the Pharisees seem to offer helpful advice.

    Get away from here, they warn Jesus.  For Herod wants nothing more than to see you dead.

    Herod. Aka a tainted politician who married his brother’s wife. John the Baptist had criticized Herod for it. It went against Jewish law. And Herod had killed the prophet because of it.

    And here Herod was, threatening to kill another prophet, once again.

    Instead of following that warning, Christ instead offers a reply.

    You go and tell that fox something for me, he replies. Tell him I’m 

    Busy casting out demons,
    Busy curing the people.
    I’ll be casting and curing,
    Today and tomorrow.
    On the third day I finish my work.

    That fox.

    Jesus wasn’t exactly giving Herod a compliment.

    That fox.

    Aka an animal known for being wily, sly, a trickster. Foxes are smart, and often seemingly up to no good. They like to hide in underground dens until they run out and attack their prey. Foxes aren’t pack animals, there is no group they protect. They only look out for #1.

    When my daughter was a toddler she loved watching Dora the Explorer. Every time Swiper the Fox came on the screen she’d get a little scared and hop right into my lap for safety. Because after watching for a while she knew the plot line: Swiper the fox was always trying to steal something. Swiper, no swiping!

    Calling Herod a fox suggests Christ knew of some working alliance between the tainted politician and who the politician had sent. Like Swiper the Fox, the Pharisees had a reputation. After studying scripture for a while we realize they too, were often up to no good.

    Not leaving the scene, even amid threat of death, suggests even more. For Christ was too busy healing and freeing people from that which held them down to be worried over local leaders that wanted him to stop.

    The text also makes clear something else.

    Jesus takes his orders not from sneaky, sly fox politicians.
    And not from the religious elites they are sometimes in cahoots with.

    Jesus knew Herod was a political authority.
    But Herod was not, his ultimate authority.
    For Christ was on a mission from God.

    And there was no one on earth that would slow that mission down.

    Standing there defiantly, continuing to heal, Christ began to lament the nature of the world he had come to save.

    How often I have desired to gather you together, Jesus begins.  Just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, he continues. The analogy is unique in scripture.

    A hen.

    Jesus self-described in a way that just might surprise.

    A hen.

    A feminine noun. Said differently Jesus had qualities of the divine feminine baked right in to him.

    A hen.

    Aka an animal known for how they –

    Care for,

    A hen puts her brood under her wing, ensuring no harm comes to them. And when predators are near, including sneaky foxes, everyone under the hen’s care is safe.

    And that’s what Christ wants for us.

    To nurture,
    Care for,

    If only we would stop wandering off to follow sneaky foxes who only look out for #1.

    Today’s text shows Christ chose not to follow local laws when they were in conflict with the will of God. Which raises a question, what happens when our laws ask one thing of us, and our faith another?

    Said differently, how do we nurture, care for and protect others, when local lawmakers tell us not to? Here’s one example.

    In 1991 Arnold Abbott began feeding the homeless on the beaches of Ft. Lauderdale. Doing so was illegal, there were laws and ordinances against it. The city demanded he stop. Abbott continued. He and his volunteers had the right to feed the homeless, he replied. They only wanted to eat on the beach like anyone else.

    After years of tussles with authorities in 2000 Abbott successfully sued the city. Feeding the homeless was his religious right, he reasoned. The local religious studies professor that testified in the trial argued all major world religions require charity to the poor. The court agreed.

    Abbott, who is Jewish, said he was simply following the teachings of Jesus.


    While that ruling settled things for a while in 2014 the tides turned again. Ft. Lauderdale passed another ordinance, putting even more requirements on feeding the homeless. Now portable toilets had to be available. And if they weren’t? Then you could face significant fines. Or up to 60 days in jail.

    Coverage of this showdown, between local politicians and a man feeding the homeless, went viral. News crews came from across the globe to tell the story.

    Abbott found himself, once again, surrounded by political foxes. But this mother hen would not stop gathering God’s beloved, caring for and feeding hundreds of people each and every day.

    “I am my brother’s keeper,” Abbot said. “I’ve been fighting injustice all my life.”

    Worried about the negative publicity Ft. Lauderdale was getting, the city stopped enforcing the law.

    The latest chapter of in this City vs. serving saga happened last Fall. After another group sued for their right to serve meals to the Ft. Lauderdale homeless a federal appeals court found the ordinance violates the groups First Amendment rights. With that ruling, feeding the homeless, outdoors, was on the right side of the law once again.

    Sadly, Abbott died two years before this last ruling. When he died, at the age of 94, he was still breaking city ordinances each and every day. Over the course of his lifetime he had served hundreds of thousands of meals, illegally, to those without enough to eat.

    For now, God’s justice has been served, in the form of meals for many of God’s beloved that too often go without. And it took the breaking of local laws for that to happen.

    This story is far from over. An attorney for the City says they plan to appeal.

    Who do you follow? When journeying through life it’s a good question to ask.

    Ideally the politics of our land align with the will of a good and loving God.

    But that isn’t always the case, is it.

    If you ever find yourself having to choose between caring for God’s beloved and following the law –

    Remember this tale of foxes and hens.

    For like Christ we too, are on a mission from God.
    May we journey well.  Amen.