We receive submissions for articles from time to time and this time Pr. Bruce Timm of Redeemer Lutheran in St. Cloud, MN submitted this sermon for your encouragement. Pr. Timm is the pastor of one of our newest regular authors, Nathan Redman.
Lent 2 C / “A Fox and a Hen” / St. Luke 13:31-35
4 March 2007 – Redeemer Lutheran Church
How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!
A Fox and a Hen. You couldn’t find two animals more different. Foxes are cunning, wily, sly predators. They sneak and steal and hide. Hens are doting, loving, protecting. They watch and care and call. A fox lives for its stomach. A hen lives for her chicks, her little ones.
They stand in contrast in today’s Gospel reading. Herod the fox. Jesus the hen. Herod is a fox – a cunning and sly little ruler. He has already killed John the Baptist. He rules by trickery and deceit. He only cares about his pleasure and his power.
The Pharisees are also little foxes. They have never been Jesus’ friends. From the moment they laid eyes on Him they have wanted Him gone. Now they feign concern. “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” The camoflage of care does not conceal their hatred.
But Herod is not the real fox nor are the Pharisees – the devil is. He convinces Herod that Jesus is a threat. He lures the Pharisees to love their religion more than their Savior. The Devil is the father of all lies. He’s lying to Herod and the Pharisees in the hopes of raising a ruckus in the hen house of Jerusalem. He wants Jesus dead. Be care what you wish for. You and I know the irony – Jesus’ death is the devil’s defeat and now that liar must oppose the very cross he wanted with all his heart. Now, in your life, the devil always goes after Christ’s cross, with lies
But, remember! The Devil is a fox. He isn’t going to show up at your door in a red suit, with a forked tail, and a flaming pitchfork and say, “Don’t believe that Jesus died for you on the cross!” You’re too bright for that. It wouldn’t take you too long to figure it out – “Heh, I know you! Get out of here! Or I’ll call my pastor.”
The devil isn’t going to say how wrong Jesus is for you. He might not even mention Jesus’ name when he steals up behind you. He’s will simply entice you with all the lovely, forbidden fruit that you’re eating and all the comfortable sins you’re enjoying. That’s what He did with Herod, the Pharisees, and Jerusalem. Herod, if you let this Jesus guy rule, you’re going to have to give up your wife, since she belongs to your brother. Listen you Pharisees, if the people listen to this preacher from Nazareth you’re going to lose your power. The people will see you for what you are – clean on the outside and corrupt on the inside. You might have to repent and you don’t want that to happen. The Devil would speak to the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce. He would warn them about how many tourism dollars they will lose if people stop coming for their pilgrimages and sacrifices should they believe that Jesus’ death for sin is the final and complete sacrifice to make us right with God.
The Devil isn’t going to blast Jesus. He’ll get you away from the cross of Christ with cunning and trickery. He’s a fox. He’ll convince you church isn’t necessary – if you’ve heard one sermon you’ve heard them all. Once baptized always saved. He’ll resurrect some unfriendly remark by a fellow member or some vote that didn’t go your way. Or the devil will simply encourage you to remain friendly with sin. That’s what He did with Jerusalem. Jerusalem never said they hated God. They just loved sin. Those pesky prophets kept preaching about sin and sometimes they hit your favorites – the ones you love. So what’s your favorite sin? What is it that you don’t want me to ask about? Stay away from that one preacher or one of us will have to leave.
If that Fox can’t consume you with sin he’ll devour you with despair. If he can’t get you to love sin he’ll tempt you to hate yourself. Look at you. You call yourself a Christian – your children don’t even go to church, your daughter’s living with her boyfriend, you’ve prayed and prayed and prayed, but God hasn’t answered. You can’t believe He loves someone like you – not after what you’ve done.
The Devil’s greatest success comes when he takes our eyes off the cross. He may indeed get our eyes to look upon our sin either in love or in loathing, but he cannot take Jesus’ eyes off of us. “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ Jesus does not fear Herod’s sword, the Pharisees’ schemes, or even Jerusalem’s rejection. It is not courage that compels Him – in this text He is not the Lion of Judah or the Eagle on whose wings the Israelites were carried out of Egypt. Here He is a mother hen – not cunning, but caring, not devouring, but doting. He’s heading to the cross because He must, He must for you, for Herod, for the Pharisee, for Jerusalem. He has come to finish sin, to to silence Satan, to destroy death. He has come to die in Jerusalem for Jerusalem. He has His eyes on you.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! The little ones are in danger. A fox is in the hen house. Someone is sneaking around looking to devour you. What does the hen do? She opens her wings. She spreads them wide. There’s safety under her shadow. She clucks and clucks for her little ones to come near away from danger. That’s Jesus clucking over Jerusalem, clucking over you. Beckoning you to the shadow of His wings – the Holy Christian Church, the assembly of all who hear the Hen’s clucking and come under His wings in baptism.
A mother hen is not the picture of strength – no fangs, no talons, no threatening roar. But don’t try to mess with her chicks. If you want them you’ll have to go through her. Imagine the picture. A fox is in the chicken coop. Mother hen calls her chicks under her wings. But now she can’t move. She’s tied herself to her chicks. Who’s the fox going to get? The hen will die to save her brood. The truly grand news is the ending on the story – the fox chokes on the hen, the very meal that he longed for killed him. That is Christ, Christ for you – spreading His arms wide to shield you from death and hell. Letting His blood be shed that He might save your life. Tying Himself to you – becoming man, being made sin for you. He has not come to devour you or fool you. He comes to save you, to gather you to Himself, to protect you from the fox’s bite, sin’s snare, and death’s hold.
Jesus weeps outside Jerusalem. He weeps because not everyone He dies for comes when He calls. This is the weakness of His love, the mother hen in Him – He won’t force you to come. Love doesn’t snarl and snap. He clucks and calls — for you. He wants you safe. Come away from your sin (it will kill you). Come out of your despair (The Devil’s lying to you). Come to me and live under the shadow of my cross. Live by my Word and at my Table. Your sins are forgiven. Your life is forever. Your resurrection is sure. He gather us like a hen gathers her chicks. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Bruce Timm
Saturday, Lent 1, 2007 anno Domini