That Fox! Jesus called Herod. He’d been told he’d better hide, Herod was after him. And he knew it was no joke. John the Baptist had been beheaded. So he added, Tell him I’m still alive, and still doing all the things he fears the most. I’m paraphrasing here, Jesus was more specific, about things he was doing that empowered poor, sick people. But the point is, Jesus knew Herod’s motivation was fear.
Foxes kill chickens, among other things. They kill because they are hungry, and chickens, flightless birds who are fenced into people’s yards, are an easy meal. Years ago, in Massachusetts, I knew an eye surgeon at a Harvard teaching hospital, an eminent man, who kept chickens in his yard in a rural town where I preached and he was a Deacon. He was an irenic fellow by nature, yet he hated foxes so much that one day, when his wife called to report a fox was in the chicken coop, he raced out of the hospital, jumped in his car, sped home, seized his gun and followed the blood trail of his chickens till he found that fox and shot him. Those were fine chickens, he told me later, gentle. I raised them. I loved them. And I wasn’t going to let that fox destroy them.
This is exactly what Jesus thought of Herod, just a slobbering, blood-thirsty fellow who was out for the easy kills. And Herod, for his part, thought of Jesus as an easy kill, a chicken. It’s interesting that Jesus, on his way into Jerusalem, weeps over the city, calling all its people chicks he would like to protect. He’s likely thinking of Herod as the one he wants to protect the people from, as well as the painful death that awaits him.
Gauging the easy pickings seems to be an important part of the 2016 political calculations. The chicken coops are full of evangelicals, or African Americans, or millennials, or folks in the military. The candidates all strive to offer what these groups want, the things they believe will empower them. But their motivation is to become foxes, to become the power against which there is no defense. And like foxes, they will use any chickens they can find as their fuel, for their hunger is huge, and nothing else will fill it.Jesus, in his rueful blessing, Would that I could shelter you as a hen does her chicks under her wing, adds, but you would not let me.
The system: Herod’s savvy and manipulative reign, his power-sharing relationship with Rome, the corruption of taxes by the military and by the Temple itself, and the perpetual wealthy one percent who like things the way they are: is the problem. Herod has said Yes to the same temptations Jesus refused: Herod lusts to rule his world; Herod will control the people by controlling their food; Herod defies God and Temple by his actions.
The 2016 Hunger Games in America have us all mesmerizedly watching a large field of competitors killing each other off. At the end of each primary a knell sounds for those who are no longer in the games. Those who are left go into hiding briefly, to nurse their wounds and plan their next hunt.
No wonder the people are voting for the two candidates, Trump and Sanders, who proclaim, This picture has to change, the system as it is must be transformed.
No wonder the candidates who were thought to be inevitable are in fact, in trouble, for they are both saying, the system cannot change, and we are the best at playing the System’s Games.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord, says Jesus. Herod, despite his prominent role in Temple rituals, is not that one, Herod comes in his own name, for his own sake, desiring his own power. And Herod lives in overwhelming fear, of losing the power he has gained.
The one who comes in the name of the Lord will hold up to the people a vision of hope, liberation, and justice for the poor. This has always been the vision of God.
In the final Hunger Games, Catniss Everdeen learns to bring an end to the enslaving world that runs the Games and has given all the wealth to the one percent. She must shoot an arrow, not into another contestant, but into the force field that holds the Games together.
That force field is the Fox and the Chicken Coop. Once Catniss sees this, once she understands this, she can do it.
And once she has done it, she discovers that the learning of peace, how to be a hen with her chicks, and the unlearning of war are the blessings brought by the One Who Comes in the Name of the Lord. And these blessings are not brought by all the Other Ones, who are trying to be the best foxes in the 2016 games.
Images: Film Poster for The Hunger Games.
American Red Fox, in winter coat, standing in snow. Wikipedia page, Fox, American.