In Sunday’s Gospel lesson, Jesus describes himself as a mother hen longing to gather her chicks under her wings. The chicks, however, would have none of it. I wonder if Jesus knew that one of his own chicks would lead the fox to the nest to pierce his defenseless heart.
There he stood, wings outspread and breast exposed, but not a single chick took shelter that night beneath those wings. They ran away, everyone for themselves. Love–ultimate, selfless, redeeming love–poured from his heart but found no takers. It looked for all the world as though evil had won.
Jeremy jumped out of bed with a start, having been awakened by his mother’s shouts. It took a moment to get oriented. Finally, he understood what she was saying: the barn was on fire.
Pulling on his jeans and boots, he ran toward the well to draw water, but it was too late. The fire was too far along when they discovered it. The barn was gone.
Fortunately, most of the animals got out. Even Bessy the old milk cow managed to break down her stall and escape. As morning dawned and they surveyed the damage, Jeremy walked beneath the charred rafters, which were all that remained. He almost stumbled over the body of a dead chicken, and he wondered why it hadn’t made its escape.
As he bent to collect the remains before they began to stink, four chicks suddenly scurried from beneath the dead hen’s body. Their soft, yellow down looked pure and clean against the soot and ashes.
Jeremy realized that the mother hen could have escaped. It wasn’t the gate or even the fire that trapped her. It was her love. She laid down her life for her babies. Suddenly, Jeremy felt like kneeling. Although he’d been out of church for a long time, he still remembered that it was Jesus who compared his love to that of a mother hen. For just a moment, Jeremy simply wanted to nestle beneath those wings of love.
Maybe you are feeling like life has burned you. There is still a place you can go to be loved just as you are. This Sunday, I plan to go to church and give thanks for that love and ask to be forgiven for forgetting.
Rev. Michael Piazza