Saturday, April 07, 2012


Although the house resided on a busy four lane street, it had a wood deck off the back, that over looked 2-1/2 acres of grassy yard and a narrow strip of woods. After we moved in we realized that under the deck various animals had built dens: woodchuck, possum, rabbits.

One year we were startled to discover that a red fox had moved in under our deck. Actually it was a couple, a male and a female red fox. By late winter, the baby foxes made an appearance.

As spring unfolded we were delighted to see the fox family, usually late at night, out in the yard, playing. Papa fox would place himself way out on the perimeter of the yard to act as watch guard – his eyes intent, surveying the area, protecting his brood. Meanwhile momma fox brought one or two babies out of the den and taught them to follow, and play, and become fox. Although we only saw one or two at a time, as they grew in size, we saw more and more, a total of 8 baby fox. For the next few months the fox family and the Pilarski family learned to live side by side. Even our dogs would watch quietly through the sliding glass door as the fox babies played and learned about life.

Easter came early that year. I remember celebrating at church and then with family. It was late when we finally headed home. I anticipated a quiet cup of tea. But no sooner had we arrived home than we discovered that something was amiss. Our animals knew it first – the dogs were pacing and grumbling, the cats positioning themselves in one window, then another, exuding a low yowl. Dan and I began to investigate the situation. We discovered that one of the baby fox had fallen down a window well. Three feet below the surface of the ground, the baby was stuck at the basement level of our house. It appears that in their nocturnal playing the baby had wandered off and fell into this open chasm. The momma fox was beside her self, trying to look out for the other seven babies and call her fallen baby back to her. But the baby was unable to climb up a three foot drop lined in sheet metal. The pitiful cries of the momma and the frightened mewing of the baby fox set my dogs and cats on edge.

Dan and I called the wildlife rescue company, but they would not intervene. . We knew better than to try and fish the baby out with our hands, and we didn’t have a long net. Nor could we open the window from the basement and grab it. We knew we had to find a way to get the baby out, if for no other reason than the crying of the baby fox was upsetting everyone. There would be no sleep until something was resolved. Finally Dan decided to build a ladder to put into the well and hope the baby could and would climb out.

And so we did. Using a 1 x 6 board as the base, we nailed wooden strips across the board creating a solid platform with steps. As we built the ladder, the crying escalated. The dogs got more anxious, the cats yowled louder, and it took more effort to keep our kids calm. Then, as if the chaos wasn’t bad enough and the anxiety high enough, and our fatigue great enough, we realized that a second baby fox had fallen into another well, and so we now had to build two ladders. The screech from sawing wood and the pounding clamor of hammering nails added to the cacophony.

But at last the ladders were built. Uncertain what the momma fox would do, we cautiously went outside. Hearts thumping we wondered if her protective instincts would prevent her from letting us help? I kept a careful eye on momma fox, while Dan slowly placed a ladder in each of the wells. The momma watched intently, never moved. She seemed to trust us, to understand that we were trying to help. Silence filled the air, sharp with anticipation, and, hope...

Back inside the house, we turned off all the lights. In the dark we watched as the momma fox gently called the babies. To our amazement, one baby figured out how to climb the ladder. As the baby came to the surface of the ground the momma caught her by the scruff of its neck and hauled it to the safety of the den. And, then the second baby climbed out. And the momma grabbed it too and brought it to the den. Within thirty minutes of placing the ladders in the wells the babies were safe. And our house was quiet.

Its morning and Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb where Jesus is buried. She’s traumatized from the brutality of the day before. Weeping, distressed, wild sounds escape from her lungs. Then someone calls her name, and like the baby fox climbing from the depths of the well, Mary’s awareness rises, and a new clarity emerges. She recognizes the voice. It is Jesus, Rabbouni, the teacher, it is the resurrection. It is new life.

The resurrection is the great mystery of the Christian faith.  We call the resurrection the “Paschal Mystery.” It means God’s love poured out anew in the light of Christ, symbolized by lighting the tall Paschal candle. For Christians, Jesus is the fullest expression of God’s love. Jesus manifests God’s love through acts of compassion and justice. God uses human hands and hearts to manifest God’s love, through Jesus, and through us. We help build new homes after the destruction of a tornado or hurricane. We give food or money. We sit and listen. We hold a hand. We share in laughter. We wipe tears. We gather as a community of faith; we light a candle, sing some hymns, say a prayer, and share the cup of wine and the bread. 

Lent and Holy Week call us to pay attention, to be mindful of the needs of the world, and to invest our lives in healing the brokenness in and through our lives, in and through the world. Lent, Holy Week and Easter are liturgical reminders that healing is a process, it takes time to fine wholeness once again. Easter embraces the healing process.

As my friend Janine wrote in her reflection  for Easter: “Easter is not a time when we are required to be happy because everything is fixed and figured out. It is a time when even the most wounded of us can assert that Jesus is not in the tomb even as we face that our loved ones will not come back (and we will still struggle and suffer from the circumstances of life). Jesus has transcended death. We don't know all of what that means; we don't have to. We can be trembling and astonished, but fear is not the point. We can still meet Jesus and be with him without trying to be stronger or happier or wiser than we are. We can be afraid, confused, and grieving, even as we believe that the Lord is risen indeed.”

Easter reminds us that the deep truth of the Paschal Mystery emerges in and through all of life. In times of sorrow, tragedy and chaos God tends to us. God’s compassion is like a ladder, offering us a way up from the well of despair.  Jesus called to Mary, and in response, she rose from the well of despair with a new awareness, a new sense of reality, hope. It’s Easter. Nothing has changed, and yet, everything is different.
In the resurrection Jesus assures us,
God, is with us.

Happy, or not, it's Easter, there's hope!


Purple said...

Oh, Terri, the fox story is so touching. Hope...yes...through all the chaos. Blessings as you preach this.

Happy Easter.

Janine Goodwin said...

Terri, the fox story is pure grace, and unforgettably told. "Fox ladder" is my new prayer image. Thank you.

Robin said...

I LOVE this sermon. Resurrected fox kits. And us.

Homily for the Festive Eucharist at the closing of the Episcopal Women's Caucus

The readings that we chose for the service tonight were all picked specifically for this service because they lift up the role of women ...