The Gospel for last Sunday offers a unique and surprising image for God. . . a sheltering hen.
Some Pharisees come to Jesus and warn him to leave, for Herod wants to kill him. Instead of saying thanks for the alert, then escaping to relative safety, Jesus tells them he is going to continue “casting out demons and performing cures.” He will go on battling evil and bringing healing, which is precisely what has gotten him into trouble in the first place. In this vulnerability, Jesus continues to transform the lives of those who come to him for help and for healing.
Then Jesus laments over Jerusalem, “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen haters her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Jesus wishes to gather the people of God for safety, nurture, comfort, and warmth. Just like a mother hen gathers her brood close when there is danger.
Our world expects us all to work for strength and to embrace power. In contrast, Jesus offers an image of vulnerability blended with strength. I found many images of hens sheltering their young online, so I gathered a few to share. In these pictures, we see how tiny and slight the chicks are, and how relatively powerless the mother hens seem. We notice the close connection, and the way the young shelter so close to their mother. We see intensity in the gaze of the hen, sizing up a threat. We even see a hen and chicks so close to each other that the young are almost entirely hidden . . . they are so sheltered in their mother that only their tiny legs are visible.
These images remind me that vulnerability and strength are not opposites. That God is at work in the world today, battling evil and bringing healing, gathering us when we are most vulnerable and in need. Sheltering us with comfort and warmth, with nurture and care. Bringing us close. –ara
You pull me close under your wings.
Cover me with safety and warmth when I am in danger.
Help me to find peace and comfort so near you.
Help me to rest in your care.
Then fill me with the courage to go out again.