The Second Sunday in Lent; Year C (2/28/2010)

God: A Mother Hen?

Lessons: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 Psalm 27 (5) Philippians 3:17--4:1 St. Luke 13:31-35

Prayer of the Day God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross you promise everlasting life to the world,  Gather all peoples into your arms and shelter us with your mercy, that we may rejoice in the life we share in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

13.31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33 Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34 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! 35 See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”

St. Luke 13:31-35 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

How do Christians speak of God? What words and images and concepts do we use to communicate what we believe about the One who is our Creator and Redeemer and Sustainer? Throughout the ages, many different images have been used by people of faith. Some ways of describing God come from the world that surrounds us. Eastern images of God have always shown a person with facial features that are Asian. African religious artists provide us with images of a dark skinned God. Some of the most familiar pictures of Jesus which come from our continent make him look a whole lot more like someone who might live in Norway than someone who might live in Palestine. Most images of God have the features of a male, often an older man (usually with physical characteristics that resemble those of the artist). Other images of God have to do with how we’ve experienced God: God as a majestic, powerful being who rules from on high; God as a dear friend, who walks with us through the garden; God as one with a preference for those who are disadvantaged in this life; God as showing favor on those who are faithful. Christians have a wide variety of ideas and opinions as to what God is like — in appearance and in behavior.

This weekend’s Gospel lesson speaks of God in a very interesting manner. We read these words, from Jesus: 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. [St. Luke 13:34]

Jesus describes himself as a mother hen who desires to gather her chicks under her wings, and protect them from danger.  By doing so, Jesus seeks to help us understand that this is one way God moves in our midst. It is a lovely, gentle image of God.  The image of a God who softly and tenderly calls us home. The image of a God who loves us like a caring mother.

For some, this is a bothersome image. Some have trouble picturing God as a female, much less picturing Jesus that way. We have heard God described, for so many years, as “He” that this concept seems somehow out of the norm. But here it is: Jesus describes himself as a mother hen; one who seeks to wrap his loving arms (or is it her loving wings?) around us, and protect us from all the powers of this world that would harm us.

I wonder if the corollary to that message isn’t even more troublesome than the picture of God it provides. Because if God is pictured as a mother hen who desires to protect her vulnerable, helpless chicks, then you know who we are in that image don’t you? We are the vulnerable,  helpless chicks. If there is one message more troubling than that of a feminine God, it is that of us as being helpless

Even if the images aren’t immediately appealing to us, there is a powerful message here about God. God longs to have us near. God desires to be with us in times of danger and trouble. God calls to us, and gives us the freedom to respond or not. And in many ways, God has done just that, calling to us, like the clucking of a mother hen: Through the words of the Bible. Through the voice of this community of faith. Through the testimony of other brothers and sisters in Christ. Through the prophetic word that calls us to change. Through the meal that unites us. In these ways, God calls us home.

May we hear that call, and respond to that love, and be gathered with all the faithful under the loving and caring wings of our God.


David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel: 1. Why did Jesus call Herod a “fox?” 1. What about image of a mother hen is helpful in understanding God? 2. How does the vulnerable, protective hen remind us of the Christ who suffered for us?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel: 1. What do I think of when I consider God? 2. What does it mean for me that God wants to nurture me, and care for me? 3. What might I do to more readily trust in God’s caring touch? Amen.