Second Sunday in Lent ~Year C
Saint Paul's Episcopal Church
March 4, 2007
"As a Hen Gathers Her
Brood . . . "
for the Day
Luke 13: 22-35
X Genesis 15:
X Psalm 27
X Philippians 3:17-4:1
I greet you in the name of God our
Creator, Christ our Brother, and the Holy
Spirit who sustains us and sanctifies us, empowering
us to love and to serve both God and Christ. (Pause)
story is told of a young girl -- three or four years old
-- hard at work in Sunday School one bright
late-winter morning. Her round face was scrunched in
concentration; her tiny hands gripped the fat crayons
tightly. The teacher walked up and asked, "Lucy, what
are you drawing?"
"I'm drawing a picture of God," Lucy
said -- without even looking up.
"But Lucy," the teacher said, "no one knows
what God looks like."
"Well, they will when I finish," Lucy
to your earliest days in the church -- perhaps to Sunday
School when you were a child, or to your first hearing of
the creation narratives, when -- as the book of Genesis
tells us --
said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light. And
God saw that the light was good . . . "
Genesis 1: 3b, 4a
back to your introduction to the faith
and remember that moment: What did you think God looked
like? If you had tried to draw a picture of God --
what would you have drawn?
What images of God do you carry?
there is no right answer here. Even Moses -- high
on Mount Sinai for the second rendition of the Ten
Commandments -- had to hide in the cleft of a rock while
God passed by. Even Moses -- were he here among us --
could only draw an accurate rendering of God's backside.
you image God?
It is an important question -- not one to trifle with.
Because the shape of our God-understanding dictates the
shape of our very life -- and our witness -- as we
move about in the world. We become like the God we
love. So . . .
understand God only as angry and vengeful,
our God-under standing will issue forth into lives full
of fear, anger, and revenge.
understand God only as gracious and
merciful, our God-understanding can yield lives prone to
spiritual laziness -- forgiving our own sins in a way
that minimizes what it is to come face-to-face with
holiness of the living God.
early God-image was an old man with a gray beard in a
flowing robe --
not unlike Don and Fred. I have since broadened my
God-image (sorry, guys!) and one of the things that has
helped me is passages like today's Gospel.
you have probably heard today's lesson from Luke
preached in the past -- especially the part about the
narrow gate and householder behind the shut door. It's an
easy text to preach -- and to misinterpret, as well.
however, I'd like to focus on the end of our Gospel
Lesson -- especially the next-to-last verse. Hear
again the word of God from the Gospel of Luke:
". . .
How often have I desired to
gather your children together
as a hen
gathers her brood under her wings,
and you were not willing."
desires to gather us around him as a mother hen gathers
her brood under her wings!
of first-century Palestine knew much more about hens and
chicks than we do -- likely someone in Jesus' audience had
chickens in their own backyard. For those of us who don't
have chickens, however, this passage can evoke a
bucolic, pastoral setting that is
winsome but incomplete.
chicks are fuzzy and busy and noisy and cute. Mother
hens are not to be trifled-with. Did you know that
breeders sometimes have to separate two hens -- both
raising a clutch of chicks? The hens can become so
aggressive in defending their own chicks that they kill
hens can also be amazingly maternal -- some breeds
turn the eggs they incubate five times a day, always
seeking to provide an even warmth for the growing chick
inside. Brood hens also focus intently on the task at
hand -- they will not eat until their chicks are
are warm and sheltering -- gathering the chicks
under their wings for a warming session sufficient to
sustain the chicks before they head out to forage for
Luke tells us that Jesus desires to gather us as a hen
gathers her brood under her wings! What a wonderful
image this is -- warm and nurturing and maternal. It's
a useful counterweight to another God-under-standing that
many of us carry:
"Immortal, invisible, God only wise.
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes . . . "
Invisible, God only Wise", Walter Chalmers Smith, 1824 -
(Remember that neither of these God-images is sufficient
unto itself -- we worship a both/and God in an either-or
world. Still, the consolation of this image of Christ as a
mother hen is hard to overstate.)
presents us here with a God who is fully accessible
-- hovering over us even -- and sheltering us under wings
of love. In fact, Jesus' words here echo an image that
appears over and over in the Psalms. And the only thing
that prevents us from resting under those wings of love is
our own unwillingness to be loved!
God -- in
the person of Jesus Christ -- comes to us offering us a
love beyond measure. Like the mother hen providing food
for her chicks, God in Christ has provided all we need for
a full and abundant life.
the metaphor of the mother hen, the hen provides the
food, but the chick has to eat it for himself. The
hen cannot accept the food on the chick's behalf. The
chick has to make its own choice and choose life.
it is with this fierce love -- these sheltering wings,
this eternal life -- that Christ offers us. Christ
can offer; we have to accept. This puts me in mind of
a reflection William Barclay made while commenting on this
passage from Luke:
. . nothing hurts so much as to go to someone and
and have that offer spurned. It is life's bitterest
give one's heart to someone only to have it broken.
is what happened to Jesus in Jerusalem; and still
to (humankind), and still (humanity) rejects
Study Bible Series,
"Luke", page 186, William Barclay
how do we respond?
Christ has come to us and offered love -- perfect love, a
love we would never dare hope or imagine. If it is our
job to choose love, to choose life, what might that look
like? Just this:
must (I must, you
must, we all must)
say "yes" to the
mothering love of Christ.
We must come in from
resolute self-reliance. We must
of his wings. We must eat the
food he has provided.
must respond to Christ's love
with a fierce love of our
loving those God puts before us, and telling them of
Christ's deep and boundless love for all of humankind.
response to Christ's love can take many forms
-- and certainly the Saint Paul's community offers a broad
cross-section of ways to love others on God's behalf:
join the group from Saint Paul's headed to Costa Rica
in August -- a trip for which John Shields and others
are doing the advance work even as we speak.
volunteer for the Augustine Project or Kid's Cafe
and help young people develop their reading and study
skills so that they can succeed in school and in life.
work with the Summer Enrichment Program.
donate to -- or build -- or both the Habitat House
that Saint Paul's will begin within the month.
volunteer with Mike Bradshaw in Saint Paul's Place
-- strengthening and staffing the mission-outreach
ministries of the Saint Paul's.
above and beyond all this -- we can all live a winsome
and attractive life. A life that bears the marks of our
emphatic "yes" to the nurturing love of Jesus Christ
-- the Christ who desired "to
gather his children together as a hen
gathers her brood under her wings . . . "
loves you as a mother hen loves her chicks
-- with a fierce love, with a love that would (and did!)
die to protect you and to save you. Say "yes" to that
love with you heart, and then
give witness to that yes with your hands.
Top of Page