The beauty of one of Jesus' illustrations was brought to me this morning when I contrasted one of the Gospel passages with an episode of the BBC series, "Spy in the Huddle" yesterday.
It is always important that the BBC balance public edutainment with inforatings, and therefore what could be more BBC than a programme about wild penguins?
Penguins are an interesting bunch. It is the male of the species that sits there, with an egg balanced on its feet, through the Antarctic winter - the male that protects the young chick. So why, one might wonder, did Jesus not compare himself to a male Rockhopper - instead describing himself as being akin to the mother-hen who gathers together her chicks under her wing?
A clue to the answer, it seems to me, is in the way the rock-hoppers deal with the vultures. Initially they're directly protective of the offspring - keeping them tucked in under their bellies. But as the encounter goes on, some of them revert to masculine type - chasing off the vultures, and in the process leaving their chicks vulnerable to other vultures. Testosterone, once again, rules over common sense.
The chicken, on other hand, gathers her chicks together and faces off the fox - in the process making herself vulnerable . Laying down her life, if necessary, for her brood.
Thus we have an example where the analogy of God is feminine, and would be more accurate than a masculine one. Our enclosed order of rock hoppers, the Little Sisters of the Holy Herring, would be looking sheepish this morning, if they weren't so utterly penguinish. They are saying that we shouldn't be blaming them as they're the bread winners, and it's the useless men that get it wrong. But I tell them the whole species is to blame, and they're Humboldt-ing the door after the horse is eaten.
And I am left reflecting that if, as some claim, the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament were given the once-over to remove female leaders and active female roles, then we are blessed that the Early Church had no idea of the existence of Rockhopper penguins. For if they did, and the theory of this masculinisation of the text is right, then that mother hen would have been turned into a father penguin. And our image of God from Matt 23 would be very different.