Saturday, January 28, 2017

Saved by the rooster's crow

Homily for Chinese New Year 2017

For those of you who still remember my predictions gleaned from my good friend Lillian Too at the beginning of 2017, I’m going to disappoint you today. There will be no repeat performance of that cock-and-bull story of how things would simply be hunky-dory and so there’s nothing for you to worry about. The truth is, I don’t know what’s in store for this year. So, be worried, if you have to. But the good news is that I am going to speak about the cock, or to be more accurate, the rooster. Not the rooster of the Chinese Zodiac fame and how this totem would fare in your life this year, but the rooster of Christian symbolism.

Yes, a rooster is a Christian symbol, and “why?” you may venture to ask. The rooster has been a Christian symbol since God used it to show the weakness of man with Peter and the triumph of Christ in the resurrection. Remember how a rooster played a part in the story of Jesus’ own passion and death? When Peter said that he would never deny Christ,  Jesus spoke to him and said, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” St. Peter, in weakness, denied Christ, and yet, by God’s grace was called to leave behind his treason and to believe in the work of Christ’s redemption. The rooster reminds us that Christ welcomes all who have doubted and denied Him. Through the cross even the man who three times denied the Saviour was forgiven, loved, restored and sent out to zealously live for the glory of God. There is hope in the Gospel for sinners everywhere, for sinners like you and me.

Simply put, the story of the rooster provides us with a picture of God’s grace to sinners. It is an image of Peter’s failure and Jesus Christ’s triumph. The Church is not just a community of ready-made saints, but a story of sinners who are work-in-progress, growing slowly and incrementally as they push back the darkness in their lives to embrace the dawn of the resurrection.

This lead us to another layer of symbolism, perhaps a symbolism that has been lost to many of us urbanites. When was the last time you were awaken by the sound of a crowing rooster? Unless, you happen to be visiting your hillbilly cousins at the farm, the correlation between dawn and the rooster’s crow has been expunged from our memory. Scripture tells us that Jesus rose from the dead, “very early in the morning.” Thus the rooster’s crow announces the resurrection. The rooster reminds us that as Christians we are not children of darkness, hiding in the shadows of death and sin. The gloom of night has been scattered by Jesus' death and resurrection. As the rooster awaits the coming of the new day, so we await our new day in Christ.

Finally, because the rooster is the first animal to call out the dawn of a new day, roosters are a reminder of vigilance. Jesus used the example of the rooster when He said, “Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming — in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning …” Christians saw the alert rooster as an image to be emulated. As the rooster watches for the morning, so all Christians are to watch for the Lord who would one day suddenly return to judge the living and the dead.

Since we are on the topic of cocks and roosters, here’s one last trivia. If you’ve been to the Atlantic Coast of Portugal, you would see a distinctive emblem of the region etched out on every possible surface, house walls, porcelain ware, tapestries, laced dollies etc. Yes, it is the rooster. According to the local folklore, a miraculous rescue of a condemned man is attributed to a resurrected cooked Rooster. The story is about a man who was accused of theft. When he faced his accuser, he claimed that the dead bird on the table, a rooster, intended for the banquet would crow as soon as they put a noose around his neck. The judge ignored the warning and took him to hang nonetheless. True enough, the Rooster stood up and crowed, telling the judge of his terrible error. Thankfully, a poorly made knot kept the accused from dying and he was given his freedom to travel in peace. Nice story, right? I’m not sure if a rooster would help save the day, when my own head is on the chopping block.

As the rooster looks out and calls to the sky, may we be reminded to look to the sky as we see the Day approaching. Christ is returning. A new day is dawning. Let us be given, therefore, to repentance and faith. Come to think of it, the church is God’s little rooster too. As we call forth the message of repentance to a sinful world, may God bless our little rooster, our brave and relentless rooster, a rooster who will refuse to be silenced even when everyone is happy to remain asleep.

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