There seems to be an odd human tendency to walk in the steps that others have trodden before us, sometimes regardless of the unfortunate consequences of doing so. Then we stumble.
Jesus was confronted by a people (Jerusalem is mentioned in the gospel as a representation of Israel) who had repeatedly walked in ways that had led them away from their covenant with God – and away from God. And who had stumbled as a result.
Jesus offered them a new direction, in which they could turn around – repent – and avoid the pitfalls made before them. That invitation extends to us, too. Those who heard Jesus did not always pay attention. Do we?
Jesus mentioned the desire to protect the people like a hen protects her chicks – perhaps knowing that chickens are not always very clever, and sometimes stray from the safety of the coop.
There were then plenty of foxes (like Herod) preying on the people, and there are similar predators today, although they tend to manifest themselves not only in the clothing of self-serving leaders, but also in the form of insidious characteristics such as apathy, indifference and cynicism.
This is something that the Apostle Paul recognised, at a time much closer to the life of Jesus, yet still distant from him in culture and context. He found it necessary to urge his readers to live by the apparently upside-down standard of Jesus, and not to be beguiled by the values of the secular, materialistic world.
As we journey through this season of Lent, we might think about what path it is that we tread; whether we are walking in the fresh path to which Jesus invites us; where we might be prone to follow in steps that make us stumble; and whether we are chickens that accept the shelter of Christ’s mother-hen wings, or sit stubbornly in the branches where the foxes find us.
And whether the vicar uses too many metaphors!
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