Why the Chicken, Jesus? Why? {Book Club}

I think we need a cute bird. This picture of a baby owl was posted in my Connection Group Facebook page a couple of weeks ago. The CG member helped rescue this baby owl who couldn’t fly. Isn’t it the cutest baby owl ever!!!


Do you find yourself noticing birds more than before? At the VA leadership planning retreat when a scripture was read out loud mentioning a bird, we gave each other a knowing looking and smiled like we were in on a secret.

This week, however, do you feel like the secret is on us?

In Consider the Birds  by Debbie Blue, we are considering the hen. Prior to reading this book I had not given much thought to Jesus choosing to identify with the hen. Oh sure, I could quote without much thought the famous passage about Jesus weeping over Jerusalem and wanting to gather her children like a mother hen gathers her brood under her wings.

Let’s pause and let Jesus identifying with the chicken sink in.

We have looked at:

The pigeon/dove—the bird God chose to associate with the Holy Spirit.

The pelican—the bird church and art history have chosen to associate with Jesus because of the misnomer that pelican mother’s feed their babies from their blood.

The quail—the bird that shows up in the Exodus story and was used to demonstrate the concept of “enough.”

The vulture—who flies high, wobbles, and is a purity producer. God uses the vulture to show how death and decay are not “the end” in the way we may think they are.

The eagle—the bird many countries have been drawn to throughout history, thus symbolically used more than any other bird. Jesus doesn’t say he is like an eagle.

The ostrich—used by God as an illustration at the end of Job. Also associated with mourning. Though I’ve never heard an ostrich, the sound I think they make haunts me when I think about it.

The sparrow—mentioned in reference to how much God values and notices the small, common parts of life.

The rooster—are we surprised that the disciples can be seen as a group of roosters, jockeying for their positions? Jesus isn’t a rooster, he doesn’t have to jockey for his worth. Unlike us he knows his worth. He knows his identify.

We come to the hen. Jesus, who has all the birds in the world he could have used in his teaching metaphor chooses the hen to say, “This, this, is how I view you. How I love you. How I want to interact with you, but you would have none of it.” A chicken.

“It seems that all this might humiliate any god with dignity. Maybe God gave up God’s dignity in Jesus Christ because what is more important to God is to be with us, close to us—maybe this is actually essential to God’s nature in some way that is more pressing than God’s grandeur.”

Throughout this book Blue comes back again and again to the theme of power. I wish I wondered more why she bangs this drum again and again. But I know why she pushes back on power, because my own heart secretly seeks and craves power. Power for myself. Power for our ministry. Power, even from God. We’ve learned to package this longing in such a way that sounds good, even holy.

“It is understandable that we want a powerful God, but I’m not sure that desire really leads us to more truth, or more goodness, or a better world.”

In the Bible study (found here), Caitlin had us look at the verbs in Matthew 23:37. Kills, stones, gathered, gathers. She asked what they show us about God and about those who are not acting on God’s behalf. What a contrast in the verbs, eh? She wondered “in what ways have you felt ‘stoned’ or ‘killed’ recently? Does the stoning or killing seem to come from God?”

Would love to hear your thoughts on these questions or other topics this chapter stirred up! See you in the comments!


P.S. Next week is our last bird: the raven. The last week in November I’ll explain a book we will read throughout the next year in the midst of our “normal reading” (and a guest who will lead us!). In December we are going to read short stories again. The Christmas Wreck by Frank Stockton, How Christmas Came to the Santa Maria Flats by Elia W. Peattie, and The Pony Engine and the Pacific Express by William Dean Howells.


  1. M'Lynn November 15, 2016

    All three of the books I’m actively reading these days (this one, The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp, and The Gospel of Mark) have simultaneously converged on the Passion of the Christ this week. In the bird book the author quotes the sermon “How to Butcher a Chicken”…”I’d like to focus on the resurrection and skim over the walk toward death. It would be easier. But I won’t…we have the birth of Jesus walking ahead of us and the resurrected Jesus approaching from behind us. And right now we are in the middle–we are walking alongside the crucified and dying Jesus…With any luck the Stations [of the Cross] will move beyond a memorial procession and we will participate in our own passion of being emptied out, bled out, and begin transcending. But there is no transcending, no resurrection without death. There is no purification without destruction. We can’t know the light until we face the darkness. Grace sill exists, even if the darkness covers it.” And this: “[Jesus] lays down his life, his sword–he walks out of the ring, so that we may likewise be free to do so. Imagine the space that might open up outside the sphere of competition, what might grow outside the confines of the ring.” “Jesus is calling us all to come to be something that stretches us out of our old selves beyond our limits.”

    So, I’m leaning into “the walk toward death” and trying to learn the hard lessons God has for me right now instead of skipping Mark 15 like I’d rather do. I read it backwards like an essay for English class when you’re checking for misspelled words and grammar mistakes to try to take it all in. I see Jesus betrayed, abandoned, dying and loving us all at the same time. It’s definitely where I needed to be looking this week.

    And by the way…I have been terrified of baby owls ever since my sister and her husband rescued a nest full of them a few years ago. They make the scariest noises and give looks like they’re gonna kill you…even after you rescue them!! (I saw her video…she saw it in person…she’s never looked at owls the same) 🙂

    1. Amy Young November 16, 2016

      M’Lynn, you know I wish I was the kind of person who focused on the deeper more important thoughts you shared . . . but what has stuck with me since I read this yesterday? Owls! How can that cute little owl above be scary? And make a terrible noise? But I believe you :)!!!

      And you’re so right about reading a passage forward and not backwards. Since we “know the ending” it easier for me to switch to auto pilot reading . .. but when I slow down and approach a passage as if I didn’t know what was going to happen? I see things I’ve missed.

      1. M'Lynn November 16, 2016

        Oh, Amy! This was some much needed comic relief. And my sister gets those comments often…”How can baby owls be scary??” LOL. After seeing that video I hope to never encounter one. Maybe the owls in the video were a bit bigger…more like TODDLER owls?? And…no need for a deep response to a deep comment. I just appreciate the space to share! Now to start reading about Ravens. I’m immediately thinking of the ravens we encountered at the Tower of London. Those are some freaky birds. I wonder if Debbie will mention them. There’s folklore surrounding them I’m gonna go research before I get my facts wrong. Looking forward to next week 🙂

  2. Elizabeth November 24, 2016

    Funny how some chapters grab me so much more than others. This was not a very “grabby” chapter, but there were some noteworthy parts:

    “Perhaps Jesus was prescient when he compared himself to a hen; we have certainly had our way with him — caging and packaging.”

    “Maybe the story of Jesus is like the story of a God who will let himself be domesticated — a God who chooses it.”

    And then she went into a good portion on the Incarnation which I absolutely loved. I underlined almost that entire section. So that was a win.

    And the section on voluntarily giving up power — very very good. I love how she ended it on the body and blood. I love anything to do with Eucharist.

    And one last thing, a personal note. She talked and talked about how chickens are all very sad, even chicken meat is sad. Well, I can’t help but like the chicken. Both in our home in America, next door to a lady who kept chickens, and on the streets of our home in Asia, I love watching chickens strut about. They are hilarious to me. I can’t help smiling when I see a chicken walking about. Of course both those instances were not caged chickens, they are and were free range chickens (yes even my American neighbor let her chickens range freely, even into my yard). So to me there is something so lively and life-ly about chickens strutting around, on whatever continent I find myself.

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