I was reminded this week of the children’s fable, Henny Penny, better known as Chicken Little.
The story tells of a day when the central character of the story, Chicken Little, is hit on the head with an acorn. Immediately she comes to the conclusion that the sky is falling, and decides she has to tell Cocky Locky. On hearing the news Cocky Cocky decides that this information must be shared with Ducky Daddles. Now of course the story doesn’t stop there, as Ducky Daddles wants to share it with Goosey Poosey, who in turn shares it with Turkey Lurkey, who suggests they take the news to the king. On their way to the king, the group led by Chicken Little run into Foxy Woxy. The latter offers to help take the news to the king by offering to show Chicken Little, Cocky Locky, Ducky Daddles, Goosey Poosey and Turkey Lurkey a short cut to the king. The shortcut is of course a trap. Realising the trap, the band ran away from Foxy Woxy and made their way to the king with the news that the sky is falling.
The king is met by the band and listens to their tale, after which he picks up an acorn and reveals that the sky is not falling, but Chicken Little had simply been hit on the head by an acorn. It is a story about fear and hysteria which is caused when people jump to conclusions and incite fear in those around them.
The king in the story is the voice of reason and a calming influence where there was such confusion. He had the wisdom to consider what was before him and rather than repeat what he had been told, as had the other characters in the story, the king looked at the facts and realised there was a far less dramatic solution to Chicken Little’s experience.
In this version of the story, Chicken Little and his band are not completely naive as they saw through the scheme of Foxy Woxy, but they failed to be as discerning when the news of the sky is falling came from a trusted source. There in lies the danger.
It is easy to repeat what we are told as a self evident truth. Perhaps you have heard versions of the sky is falling. The church is dead or dying. Christianity is irrelevant.
G.K. Chesterton once reflected that, “on five occasions in history the Church has gone to the dogs, but on each occasion, it was the dogs that died.” Five times there would have been the refrain “the sky is falling.” The Church at large and local churches will have moments or seasons when it can feel like the sky is falling, but sometimes we have just been struck on the head by an acorn. Stay calm. Follow the example of the king who did not believe everything he was told, nor did he jump to a dramatic and negative conclusion, but remained the calm wise voice.
Next time you feel like the sky is falling, hold on the words of Jesus to Peter, when he said, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”