Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Christ the Mother Hen (Wednesday of Holy Week 2015)

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! [Matthew 23:37]

Guard me as the apple of the eye;
   hide me in the shadow of your wings [Psalm 17:8]

 On this night before the night Jesus was betrayed, I'm thinking of these verses and how often I find urban people don't quite understand the image of God as mother hen. I've heard sermons talk about how Jesus was comparing himself to this ridiculous creature as some form of humility. 

Farm people know differently. 

As a kid on the farm, there was this time I got too close to a banty hen and her brood of chicks. She fiercely chased me a good 25 yards, both of us running as fast as we could, before she decided I was far enough from her chicks. 

And if a chicken hawk or other predator would come into view, she would puff up and call the chicks to her and guard them with her own body. They'd run under her and disappear, safe (so long as the predator wasn't big enough to carry off the hen herself!). 

To me, the image of Jesus wanting to call Jerusalem under his wings is a desire to play protector, to manifest his fierce love for Jerusalem. 

The Psalm line I've sung hundreds of times in a compline service. It's a gentler image, I suppose, less fierce than Jesus's frustration with Jerusalem. Yet, the protection is there, the safety. 

As that farm boy who got chased by a banty hen, I nonetheless wished I could shrink down to chick size and disappear into the puffed up feathers of that mama bird. I imagined it to be warm, that sleepy kind of cozy, safe to rest in the darkness there. 

I'm not entirely sure what this has to do with the Wednesday of Holy Week. Perhaps you do. 

It's just been on my mind all day.  

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like something I had heard about it being an image of a mother hen interposing her body between her chicks and whatever danger they faced as they were gathered under her wing on the other side of her body. Or, you have to go through me first!