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Brood of Chickens
a sermon based on Luke 13:31-35
by Rev. Randy Quinn

It's curious in this passage that the Pharisees come to Jesus to warn him about Herod. Curious because the Pharisees have made it clear that they are not on Jesus' side (Lk 6:11; 11:53). Curious because Jesus already knows about Herod (Lk 9:7-9). And curious too, because when Herod finally meets Jesus he has questions, but presents no real threats to harm him (Lk 23:6-12).

These facts might lead us to the conclusion that there is something good in the Pharisees, that they are not all bad. Or we might conclude that there really is no threat from Herod and the Pharisees are trying to trick Jesus.

Maybe these Pharisees are trying to lure Jesus into a different place to fulfill a plan of their own. Or perhaps these Pharisees are trying to get Jesus to keep the lid on things; they’re thinking the threat of Herod may help them silence Jesus. Yet it could be that these Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus into saying he was working for Herod rather than for the Jews.

We don't really know and scholars are not all in agreement. What we do know is that our lesson last week suggested that the devil waited until another opportunity to tempt Jesus, making me wonder if this wasn't another subtle form of temptation.

"Stop making such a fuss here and I'll give you the gift of long life." To which Jesus gives a resounding "no!" He has a task to do and he is not going to be deterred.

"Tell that ol' fox that I have things to do and I'm going to do them," says Jesus (v 32). Now, it's pretty obvious that if the Pharisees are really trying to help Jesus, they would never bring these words to Herod. And if the Pharisees are trying to trick Jesus by putting words into Herod's mouth, they would never bring these words to Herod. But, if the Pharisees are working with Herod to put an end to Jesus, these words are going to add fuel to the fire and make it easier for Herod to impose restrictions on Jesus and his Disciples.

That never happens, so I suspect Herod never heard these words of Jesus, leading me to the conclusion that the Pharisees are trying to work the system to their advantage. They were simply trying to deter Jesus from continuing his ministry.

But Jesus made it clear that he knows where he is heading and will not be stopped in finishing his task.

In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey says that the two most important habits are to "Be Proactive" and to "Begin With the End in Mind". By proactive, he means choosing our direction in life based on what we value. And to begin with the end in mind means deciding where we want to be when we arrive at our destination. It's being what he calls, "Principle Centered."

Jesus expresses both concepts in this short passage. He does not let Herod or the threat of Herod or the threat of the Pharisees make his decisions. He chooses a course of action based on his own value system, on his understanding of what the important things in life are. He is proactive.

And he knows what the end he has in mind will look like. He will be in Jerusalem for the final days of his life, not here in Galilee. In the end, Jesus will accomplish the plan of God in his life, to bring healing and to bring salvation into the world.

His principles guide his decisions. We, on the other hand, are more often like a brood of chickens.

Like a mother hen, Jesus says, God wants to draw us under her wings and protect us. But we'd rather peck the ground in front of us and not pay attention to our direction, our purpose, our path. In doing so, we fail to see obstacles and dangers before us, but maybe worse yet, we also miss the opportunities and blessings that God has prepared for us.

We are neither proactive nor do we have a long enough range in our vision to see where we are heading. Instead, we react to whatever is pushing us right now or whatever we see in front of us right now. And we haven't a clue as to where our current path will lead us.

In all honesty, I haven't spent much time around chickens. What I know about chickens is based on third hand information and stereotypes I've heard.

Unlike ducklings, chicks don't necessarily follow their mother around. Chicks are too busy pecking. When a mother hen wants to protect her brood, she uses her beak to pull the reluctant chicks under her wings. The chicks are so easily distracted that they don't even recognize their mother's helpful and protective intentions.

And isn't that just like us? I, for one, am easily distracted. It happens all the time. Last week, I was at home when someone called with a prayer request for the prayer chain. After I got to the office I remembered that I left the note by the phone at home. So I went over to the house to get the note I'd written. While I was there, I saw that Ronda had left the trash out for me to take to the church. So I returned with the trash, and when I got in the office I realized I'd forgotten the note.

So I went home to get the note. This time Sherel asked me a question, and I found myself going to the store to buy some milk and butter. The third time I entered the office without the note, I called home to have Ronda read the note to me.

Easily distracted.

It's that part of our nature that is used in sporting events to draw our attention away from the real plan. We might begin looking where the ball is and miss the player going under the hoop to catch a pass and make a basket.

Last week on TV there were a couple of shows that showed how magicians use that to trick us into thinking they have done something 'magical'. In fact, they have done nothing other than to distract us long enough to change the props or players or sets.

Our nature to be distracted so easily is also what causes so many accidents on the highways. We find ourselves tuning in a radio station or watching an eagle fly by rather than keeping our eyes on the car in front of us and in our rearview mirror.

We are all easily distracted. We ARE like a brood of chickens. I don’t know if you’ve seen the Motion Picture version of Godspell. In one scene, the Disciples, who had heard Jesus preach for some time, forget his teaching about love. They begin to fight amongst themselves. They are pushing and shoving. They are pulling hair and punching one another.

It takes Jesus to call them back to their focus. Once called back, they are immediately reconciled to each other and the fighting stops. But the scene points out how easily they were distracted. And the truth is that we are, too.

We come to church on Sunday to worship God and find ourselves spending most of our time socializing with friends and family. We are easily distracted. We read the Bible faithfully at home, perhaps, and forget that the words written there are meant to form us and shape us.

We're like a brood of chickens.

We make a commitment to a Lenten Discipline of prayer and fasting, but we conveniently forget about it when someone offers to take us to lunch.

We're no different than the Disciples. We come to choir practice at church or Sunday School or a Bible Study, and rather than keeping the end in mind of transforming lives through worship and education and service, we peck at each other.

We're like chicks who have no direction in their lives. Throughout the forty days of Lent, we will find it hard to keep our focus. That's the nature of sin in our lives.

Today, I offer the image of the brood of chickens as a reminder of who we are. When we are clear about who we are and our need for God, I believe we find it easier to keep our eyes on the God who has created us, who has called us, and who has offered salvation to us.

If we keep our focus clear, we are less likely to become distracted. If we know who we are and whose we are, we can learn to become "Principle Centered" and allow the will of God to be the basis of our decision-making rather than the next thing in front of us that we may be tempted to peck at.

As most of you know by now, music is important to me. Music often will carry me through when nothing else seems to be working. So I also want to offer a song to you today, a song that may help you keep your focus during Lent . . .

Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.