Easy there Chicken Little!
November 13, 2022
Scripture: Luke 21:5-19
The folk tale ‘Chicken Little’ in its popular form dates back to the early eighteen hundreds, however versions of the tale go back in both Eastern and Western literature some 25 centuries. Depending on the particular ending which does vary from good to terrible, the tale has differing purposes; however it is a tale that has endured and can continue to teach us. I apologize to whoever the original authors were as I have sought to adapt the story to our gospel passage today. So without further discussion, let me begin…
I am not really sure what political party Chicken Little belongs to, if she even has a preference…I suppose you could fill in that blank if you wish. And I also do not know which church she calls ‘home’, but I do know she has a fondness for frequently visiting various churches to hear different preachers preach. Over time she has visited most of the major denominations, along with a handful of home-style fellowships, always searching for the one that will best suit her fancy, as well as answer her many questions. Her good friend Goldilocks has told her over and over that there is surely one out there that will most definitely feel ‘just right’…but so far Chicken Little has not found it.
On this particular Sunday morning Chicken Little tried yet another one of the local fellowships to see if perhaps this was the one that would best suit her taste. The preacher was a large and impressive man whose voice was loud and quite convincing. The church was a fairly large one and the dedicated congregants hung on his every word, taking copious notes to review on their own during the week. Noticing this, Chicken Little decided that perhaps she should pay very close attention as well, for surely such a large number of people couldn’t be far off the mark.
On this day the preacher was teaching from Luke‘s gospel in the 21st chapter where it tells of Jesus’ dire warnings of events in what seems to be the near future. The preacher did not spend too much time on the actual text of the reading, but very quickly launched into a series of fearsome warnings that the end of the world as we know it was just around the corner, and that if people were not right with God then they might be left behind when the rapture came…or perhaps even worse. His style and delivery were very smooth and convincing as he pulled words and phrases out of context to make his point, and though Chicken Little had heard this line of theology before, this time she found herself strangely taking it to heart and suddenly started to shake so badly that many of her feathers were in danger of falling out completely. Totally terrified of the warnings she had just received, she decided to run from the church in order to go and warn her close friends that they all needed to get ready or else! Picking up her things she turned and ran out of the church, flapping and squawking as the puzzled note takers just looked up at her in surprise…for his part, the preacher just kept moving along…
Feathers a-flying, she headed down the street to her friend Henny Penny’s house, determined to let her friend know of the terrible news she had just now received. Henny Penny saw her coming as she flapped and squawked her way towards her house, and as Chicken Little reached up to knock on her door, Henny Penny opened it before her. ‘My, my Chicken Little, what has got you all a-flutter’, asked Henny Penny. ‘Oh dear’, began Chicken Little, ‘I have just heard the most terrible news in church. The end of the world is close at hand and we need to spread the word so that people will be safe from the terrible things to come!’ ‘Really’, asked Henny Penny, ‘How can you be so sure?’ ‘The preacher said so and backed it up with scripture from Luke’s gospel’, said Chicken Little, ‘we need to go out and warn all of our friends before it is too late!’ ‘Okay’, said Henny Penny, and she joined Chicken Little as she headed off towards the old millpond where their friend Ducky Lucky lived.
As they approached the pond, Ducky Lucky was nowhere in sight, probably because he had been out all night at the racetrack trying to live up to his name. Unfortunately, as per usual, his luck had not been so great and he had gotten in quite late and decided to sleep in to forget his sorrow….along with, his now empty wallet! Chicken Little and Henny Penny found him asleep in his nest over in the tall reeds by the inlet and shook him awake shouting that they had very important news to share.
Still groggy and not all that pleased with the rude awakening, Ducky Lucky buried his head deeper in the soft grass moaning, ‘Go away you two, can’t you see I am trying to get some sleep?’ ‘Oh, but Ducky’, started Chicken Little, ‘we must tell you that you need to get up immediately and come with us to help spread the word that the ‘worst of the worst’ is about to happen.’ ‘Yes’, chimed in Henny Penny, ‘Chicken Little heard in church this morning that the whole world as we know it is about to come to a violent end. The preacher recounted various signs in the gospel that seem to point to the end being fast upon us and we came to tell you so you could help us spread the word before it is too late’!
Now fully awake, and beginning to catch a bit of the fear and hysteria the other two were sharing, Ducky Lucky promptly got up and gathered a few of his things in order to go off with the other two. ‘Why are you bringing all that stuff’, asked Henny Penny? ‘You do not need to bring anything, you just need to come with us as we spread the word and then wait for the end to be here, surely you will not need any of your old belongings’. Undeterred, Ducky Lucky hung on to his wingful of his most important things, and took up the rear as the other two set off hurriedly down the road towards the old barnyard that was the home of old Goosey Loosey.
Now Goosey Loosey had had a very hard life indeed. He had been quite the athlete as a young goose and had starred on several championship ‘Flying V’ teams in both regional and state competitions. Time and acrobatic maneuvers had taken their toll however, and Goosey’s body had just about plumb wore out. All of his joints were extremely loose and achy now, and he very seldom flew anymore except in dire emergencies. Chicken Little, Henny Penny, and Ducky Lucky found him out in the barnyard sunning himself on an old lounge chair, catching a few rays and reading the daily ‘Goozette’.
‘Goosey’, exclaimed Chicken Little, ‘I’m so glad we found you! You must come with us at once! I have been to church this morning and have heard the most troubling news. It was almost as if a nut fell right on top of my head as I listened to the preacher tell of the imminent end of the world that Luke speaks of in his gospel. We have to tell all of our friends, we can’t waste any time because it is that urgent! Come please and help us!’
Goosey had heard these sorts of things before and was not inclined at first to jump on this particular band wagon, but he liked Chicken Little, even though she could be a bit flighty at times, and so he decided to hear her out. Not before he quoted a bit of Luke’s gospel himself however. ‘Chicken Little’, he started, ‘Did you also hear that Luke said that all those who followed after Jesus were surely going to be arrested and then persecuted’? Chicken Little gasped, ‘No, I did not hear that part’, she said quietly, but then recovering quickly she added, ‘But if the end is coming soon anyway what does it matter if we are arrested for a short time, at least we will be safe in the long run!’ ‘Safe’, snorted Goosey, ‘do you really think that prison is a safe place?’
‘Oh Goosey’, exclaimed Chicken Little, ‘Please come with us and help spread the news, I am afraid that if you do not then even you may perish! And now that you have aged somewhat and do not have your former athletic prowess, perhaps you should stick with us, there is always safety in numbers.’ ‘Okay’, said Goosey Loosey, not at all sure that he believed the other’s tale but not sure he wanted to risk the consequences if in fact they were telling the truth.
By now they were all exhausted from their journey, but they carried on nonetheless for they absolutely wanted to go and tell Woodsy, the wise old owl who lived in the pine forest on the far side of town. So off they went, feathers flapping, joints aching, and belongings tucked securely under wings. Chicken Little had often consulted with Woodsy for he was known for his down-to-earth practical view of things. He had attended seminary some years back and always seemed to have a handle on things, very seldom getting his feathers in a rustle. Chicken Little was sure Woodsy would want to hear the news and would join them, in what had now become a life journey with deep and important purpose.
Drawing near to the old oak tree where Woodsy stayed, Chicken Little, Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, and Goosey Loosey all called out loudly for the owl to come out. At first it seemed as though he might not be at home, but as they continued to shout out his name the groggy old owl appeared in the entrance to his home and stared down at the fearful and quite boisterous foursome. ‘What is it?’, he asked, ‘Can’t you see I am sleeping? I am up all night keeping an eye on things for you all and daytime is when I get a chance to rest. Can’t you come back another time, perhaps later this afternoon?’ ‘Oh no’, began Chicken Little, ‘we have come to tell you the most dreadful of news. I went to church this morning and heard that the end of the world as we know it is very, I mean very close at hand. And we need to go and tell all of our friends in order to keep them safe from the oncoming calamity. Surely Woodsy, you need to know this too, and we felt that with your reputation for wisdom and all that you could be very effective in helping us to spread the word quickly.’
Ignoring the attempted flattery, Woodsy flew down to his gathering of friends. He could see that they were all in a panic but he was not sure at all that it was justified. ‘What exactly did you hear in church this morning?’, he asked Chicken Little. ‘Well’, Chicken Little began, ‘the preacher read from the 21st chapter of Luke, and then told us that the whole passage was a prediction of terrible things to come…and that if we were not ready then absolutely awful things might befall us. I saw many people there who believed him and they all were taking notes on what to believe, and what to do, and not do…I was so sure he was telling us the truth that I got very frightened and ran out to tell all my friends. That is why we all are here…we wanted to come and warn you as well before it is too late’!
Patiently and quite lovingly Woodsy began,‘My dear, dear friends’, you are all upset over nothing. In Luke’s gospel Jesus is sharing that the end of the Temple in Jerusalem is in the near future. He is sharing that the end of the Jewish faith that is centered in the Temple and not in one’s heart is going to end very soon…and in fact the Temple was overthrown and totally destroyed in the year 70 A.D. He is not saying that everyone should just up and abandon their lives and run willy-nilly through the streets crying out warnings. And Jesus specifically said, Chicken Little, that there would be many speaking in his name saying that the end was near and not to follow after them. He warned that there would be many false prophets and cautioned us not to follow after them or be taken in by their extreme and dire predictions. It sounds as though this preacher might be doing just that sort of thing.’
‘But’, protested Chicken Little, ‘He also said that we would hear of wars and calamities all around us and that would mean that the time was near, and surely that seems to be the case lately, I mean just listen to the news every day!’ ‘Yes’, said Woodsy, ‘But he also said in verse 9 that when signs such as these appear, that first, you should not be terrified, and second, you should not assume that this means that the end is near. Jesus promised to be with us every step we take when we choose to follow after him in his ways. He said that all this, that all these signs will occur at some point, and I would add, even more so as the old ways of the world prove to be insufficient carriers of God’s love and grace, but Jesus was trying to share that there is still much more work to be done first’.
‘Work’, asked Chicken Little, ‘What kind of work? Isn’t it enough that we go around spreading warnings to all that the end is so near…don’t you think that that is important enough work for us as faithful followers?’ ‘Perhaps it might be if in fact that preacher was telling the truth and not sensationalizing the message’, began Woodsy, ‘but in fact since the end is not necessarily very near at all, it is more important that you spend yourselves trying to help those around you who are in need, and in so doing become a part of bringing about a new day of hope and promise, right here and now’.
‘In my studies’, continued Woodsy, ‘I have read in the New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary that ‘if we have the means to relieve suffering and oppression, but instead spend our time in idle preoccupation with end-time prophecies then we are actually perverting the actual gospel message’.’
At this Chicken Little, Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, and Goosey Loosey grew very quiet, not wanting to be a part of anything that sounded so very wrong. ‘So you mean that we should not worry about the end of time at all?’ asked Chicken Little softly. ‘That is right’, said Woodsy, ‘in fact you need to learn to follow after Jesus with all your soul, might, strength, and your heart. You are all called to be bringers of hope and relief to those living in dark places and to use all you have seeking to bring about justice and peace.’
‘But what about the persecutions?’ asked Goosey Loosey, ‘I have heard that followers of Jesus will get arrested and perhaps even persecuted for doing the things you are suggesting’. ‘You know Goosey, you are right’, replied Woodsy, ‘But is there truly any better way to spend your life than to give it over completely in the service of our Lord of Love? Even if it means that it may cost you a little?’
‘As I see it’, said Woodsy, ‘there are three possible ways to look at all these ideas you have been talking about. There is the first way, which is the way you all were when you first came to me, all a-flutter and afraid that the end is near, rendering you all pretty much hopeless and useless in ways that count. Often people who are totally preoccupied with end-times concerns are as we say, ‘So heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good’. They have lost sight of the fact that we are all called to a work of goodness and compassion and not simply to the shouting out of warnings from every street corner.
Fortunately, many people see that sort of hysteria for what it is and pay it little mind. And that leads us to our second way to look at this problem. Many realize that the doomsday prophets are really kind of ‘out there’ and choose to ignore them. But there is truth in Luke’s gospel that is calling us to account, even though it is not telling us to run around like a chicken with its….oh never mind. Anyway, many ignore the end-times stuff and in the process end up ignoring the Spirit’s call to action as well…choosing to rest in their comfort rather than to upset the applecart of their daily life. These people are also being beckoned by the Spirit to get more involved and to listen more deeply to Luke’s message. These people are being called to the third way of seeing this scripture.
And that is that there are some, thank goodness, who see the doomsday stuff as the misinterpretation it really is, and feel called instead to give of themselves and of their resources fully in seeking to alleviate suffering and hardship whenever and wherever they see it. These people are in a close and trusting relationship with the Holy Spirit and give of themselves in this most needed way. This third way is the way that you all should be considering my four feathered friends.’
‘You mean we don’t have to fear’, asked Chicken Little. ‘You mean we are safe’, asked Ducky Lucky. Laughing, Woodsy said to his friends, ‘Not so fast, I said you did not need to worry about the end, but indeed the road before you will not be easy, it will surely have plenty of rough spots and hard places. What I am trying to share with you is that you can trust in our Lord always to walk alongside of you, that the hard times and the rough ways are not places you must go alone, but rather that our Lord will be ever at your side. And also…that you need to worry more about how you can help one another, than anything else.’
‘But’, began Henny Penny, ‘How will we have enough to go around’? We are all of modest means and barely have enough for ourselves. How can we go out and serve as you say, surely we will not have enough?’ ‘Henny my friend’, said Woodsy, ‘read Luke again…Jesus says he will provide all that is needed to do his work, even the words you will need to say…you will not be left on your own I promise. Now, let’s all relax and calm down a bit…perhaps you should all come in for a cup of tea with me. This has been a long and exhausting day for all of you, come in and rest…take Jesus’ yoke upon you and he will give you rest I tell you truly.’
So Chicken Little, Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, and Woodsy the old and very wise owl all sat down for a nice cup of hot tea…resting up for the journey, the real journey that lay ahead of each one of them…
…may we all find the courage to do the same…