READING: Psalm 27; Phillipians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35
SERMON : "Of Chicks and Eggs"
Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
for the upcoming Sunday. Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.
A few years ago Cybil Shepherd
herself the mother of twins and a native of Memphis,
was asked to name the twin hippopotami born in the Memphis zoo.
The only hitch was that the mother hippo, Julie, wouldn't let
anyone close enough to the babies to determine their sex.
Apparently the two 40 pound babies paddled or walked just under
Julie and nobody but nobody wanted to upset a momma who weighs
more than a luxury limo by getting too close.
I don't know exactly what a hippo does to protect her young but I
suspect it wouldn't be pleasant.
The upshot of the whole affair was a long delay in naming Julie's
offspring. In any case it didn't seem to matter a whole lot.
Julie continued to care for her babies: feeding them, protecting
them, keeping them close to herself and away from danger. And
the babies, untroubled by their nameless state, didn't stray from
Julie. As young and as stupid as they basically were they still
knew a good thing when they saw it: - that good thing being a
two ton, funny looking, grey and pink creature who seemed to
always provide them with just what they needed. Why should they
In some respects, hippos, cats, and just about any other animal
you'd care to mention know more than people. The young at least
have sense enough to stay close to momma; close to food,
protection, warmth, and nurture.
You won't find kittens turning away from the warm fur they know
so well. Chicks don't stray far from the protection of the hen's
wings. Such behaviour would be counter to their nature--counter
to the natural order God created.
Sure its instinct, but for all of that even the least intelligent
animal offspring stay close to the one who gave them life;
they cry out to the one who nurtures and protects them.
- that's another story. Only human beings stray;
only the children of God exhibit the unnatural behaviour of
turning away from the love and protection of the God who made
"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning
those who are sent to you! How often would I have
gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood
under her wings, and you would not!"
In those words of Jesus we hear the voice of God's lamenting.
We hear the sound of God's heart breaking.
With the tender fierce love of a mother
God loves his children.
And yet, says Jesus, the children have strayed:
they have killed the prophets and stoned those sent to them.
As a mother hen spreads her wings over her brood, so God would
spread protective wings over his people. But unaccountably,
unnaturally, unrepentantly, they would not.
What chicks and kittens would not do -- could not do -- the
children of God have done: they have counted the love and
protection of God as nothing, choosing instead to go their own
"Behold your house is forsaken."
And the mother hen weeps.
How could such a thing be? How could the children of Israel
have been so foolish, so unnaturally rebellious as to turn away
from the warm wings offered to them? Especially when those wings
had brought them safe through so many difficulties.
Especially when God had delivered them time and again from their
enemies, and bestowed on them so much that was the envy of the
people around them.
Hard questions these.
But harder yet is this question:
- How could WE do such a thing? - How can WE be so foolish
or behave so unnaturally as to stray from the sheltering love
The questions turn back on us - because times come when even the
strongest among us desperately feel our lack of security,
the absence of protective wings over us
the unnatural distance that so often seems to exist
between ourselves and the pacifying presence of God.
Or can some one of us boast otherwise?
Can any one of us say that we have never
trembled through a troubled night
or felt the dread of death or of old age as it draws ever
nearer to us or to those we love?
Who among us has not felt the fear of loneliness,
or not worried about our children's future fate,
or not been agonized by the phobias surrounding our jobs and
Is there anyone here who has not experienced the pain of a
relationship gone sour and the added burden of knowing our own
participation in love's withered passing?
Who among us can say that there have not been mornings when we've
been ashamed to look in the mirror at our own reflection because
of something we've said, or done;
ashamed because of how we've hated, envied, lusted, or lied
while we wandered far from God's wings?
"How often would I have gathered your children together as
a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would
God's lamenting cry rings sharply in our ears because we too
-- We would not hear the call of comfort, the cry of invitation.
-- We would not trust our worries, our pain, our sin to the
wings of God,
preferring instead to peck here and there in the hopes that we
will stumble upon some morsel that will fill our stomachs,
numb our minds, and take our thoughts away from the
realization that more often than not WE TOO have wandered far
from the protection of God.
The story is told about a disciple whose marriage was in trouble
and so he sought help from his Master.
His master told him "You must learn to listen to
The man took this advice to heart and returned
after a month to say that he had learned to listen
to every word his wife was saying.
Good, said the master with a smile. "Now go home
and listen to every word she isn't saying".
We do not need to drown our minds in the sea of the day's
troubles: the irritations, hassles, and problems of work and
We do not need to come home and anesthetize our minds with food
and drink, household chores and hobbies, television, family
problems, family joys,even churchly commitments --
any and everything to keep from thinking about the damning
distance, the strange silence of God in our daily lives.
We don't need to do this because God is speaking to us,
He is speaking to us in the words he does not say,
as much as he speaks to us in the words that he does say.
"How often would I have gathered your children together
as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you would
Listen - hear - the voice of invitation is speaking,
the call to protection and holy love.
Come unto me, all you who are weary and
heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Even now the Mother Hen would gather us in the shadow of
outstretched wings, warm and secure next to the beating heart of
Even now God bids us to come, to trust,
and to rely on his protection and nurture
and guidance through our harrowing days.
And this is not the first time God has called us.
He has called to us when we prosper,
to remember from where all prosperity arises,
and to return to him and to give thanks,
and to share with our brothers and sisters
in holiness and righteousness.
He has called us in times of joy and certainty,
to acknowledge his part in it,
and to go to those who despair,
and share with them the gift of hope.
He has called to us in times of sin
urging us to relent and to return to him
in the confidence that we will be forgiven
and that life can start anew.
God has called to us many times -
that first call came long ago
when we were born in the water of baptism, in the blood of
Christ, into his family, his holy brood.
Through our baptism God births us and pledges to us the fierce
devotion, love and protection that we only dimly see mirrored in
the feral behaviour of animals.
But where animals can and will protect and care for their young
only for a time, God pledges love and nurture for an eternity.
This is true security, true protection we are offered.
Rather than some empty promise that nothing bad will ever happen
this promise assures us that whatever does happen to us,
whatever pain or problems may plague us,
whatever fear may face us,
whatever sin may assail us,
we will never be found defenceless or alone.
For we stand under the protection of God's wings,
shaded by God's forgiveness,
strengthened by the body and blood which comes to us.
I have a friend who grew up on a farm near Mission, B.C.
He tells a story about the day that the hen house burned
down on his grandpa's place just down the road. Ike
arrived just in time to help put out the last of the fire.
As he and his grandfather sorted through the wreckage,
they came upon one hen lying dead near what had been the
door of the hen house. Her top feathers were singed brown
by the fire's heat, her neck limp. Ike bent down to pick
up the dead hen. But as he did so, he felt movement. The
hen's four chicks came scurrying out from beneath her
burnt body. The chicks survived because they were
insulated by the shelter of the hens wings, protected and
saved even as she died to protect and save them.
"How often would I have gathered your children
together as a hen gathers her brood under her
This morning, once again, Jesus Christ calls you and me.
He calls us to the shelter of his protecting wings.
He calls you and me to the safety of his arms stretched
out for us on the cross.
He calls us to trust him, no matter what our fears, hurts, or
to trust that his outstretched arms are strong enough,
his wings broad enough to keep us safe.
And in the shadow of those wings we are saved. AMEN
copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1998 - 2006
please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.