The Fox and the Hen

Sounds like an Aesop’s Fable, doesn’t it? Yesterday Sr. Wantabee led a Bible study with her little ole people on Luke 13:31-35, where Jesus cries over Jerusalem. Jesus is warned by the Pharisees that Herod wants to kill him and he turns to them and says, “Tell that Fox….” and then he turns and gives one of his famous soliloquies, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how I longed to gather you under my wings as a hen gathers her chicks….” What do we have here? Jesus crying, Herod the Fox, and God the Hen! Wait one moment, you might say. When is the hen ever the hero in a story? Didn’t Henny Penny lead her friends astray into the den of Foxy Loxy when she thought the sky was falling? Being “chicken” is not an adjective we aspire to! So what is going on here. Let’s dig deeper.

Why do we cry? The people answered, sadness, fear, pain, loneliness. Yes! There is a discrepancy between what is and what we know could be. Tears respond to death, to danger, to injustice, to abandonment..all of the above because we know it is not right. Jesus cries over Jerusalem because Foxy Loxy is leading them and not a Hen who wants to gather them under her wings. Hmmm.

The red fox is the most numerous animal in N. America. It is not large, it is red, it is fast and sleek. It knows its territory and if left in its territory, will survive as it out tricks its enemies. Hence it is described by adjectives like “sly,” “tricky,” and perhaps beautiful with its red fur and fluffy tail. How does it differ from the hen?

First, a fox lives in a cave, out of view of man. It is not domesticated, and not helpful to humanity. The hen on the other hand lives in a hen house, and scratches around the chicken yard with her flock of young, producing eggs for humanity. Herod lived in his palace and avoided the responsibility of making a decision about the fate of Jesus. God lives out in the open, available to all, helping humanity-his sun rises on the just and the unjust.

The fox, when chased by the dogs, will run a 2 to 3 mile circuit around his territory, leading the dogs for days until they are exhausted. It was once seen by an observer that a fox led a pack of dogs in a circuit and then ran into a log. Out the other end popped another fox who ran the next circuit and who then ran in the log and out popped the first. In winter time, the fox will lead the dogs across ice that he can transverse but which the heavier dog will fall through. The fox evades the enemy. The hen on the other hand, when the snake enters the coup, starts squawking and sounding the alarm. It has been known to hear the noise and upon arrival to find one chicken with the head of the snake in her mouth and another chicken with the tail of the snake in its mouth! Sr. Wantabee once heard the squawking of the chickens in the middle of the night, ran outside and found a six foot cobra in the coup. How often do we think of our leaders as foxes leading us in circles around the questions of economy, healthcare, war. None of these issues ever seem to resolve. We are skeptical of our leaders these days. Meanwhile, when we think of God we think of God and the ten commandments, sounding the alarm about what is unhealthy for our lives and our society. Don’t kill each other. Don’t slander each other. Don’t steal each others wives or possessions. God is not quiet about danger, as much as we may resist his warning.

Thirdly, when trapped, Sr. Wantabee was sure she had heard the story of the fox who chewed off his own foot to escape. She had never heard the story of a fox laying down its life for a friend. On the other hand the story is there of the hen, in the face of a brush fire, clucked her peepers under her wings, hunched down and the fire passed over her. The farmer, upon finding her body, moved her charred remains only to find the peepers ok underneath. God, like the hen, gives his life for his people. Unlike the hen, though, he rose again.

Do we cry today because of the discrepancies between what is and what might be? Are there pieces of the fox that we see in our own lives that we need to repent of during this lenten season? How blessed we are to have a God who is like a hen, and a savior who is a lamb. Both are animals we do not so much admire but then when was God’s wisdom the same as the wisdom of the world?

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