The Mother Hen on the Cross

This blog post is coming a week late, but nonetheless, I wanted to share a wonderful sermon that I heard last week. The Gospel text was from Luke, and the specific verse that was the focus for the sermon was Luke 13:34: “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!”

In the ongoing struggle to use more expansive language for God, this is often one of the scriptural examples of maternal imagery that is cited. It is one of multiple examples where God–this time in the person of Jesus–refers to herself as female. If God can do it, why can’t we?

It seems pretty straightforward, but, in my experience, even though this passage is fairly well-known among Christians, I haven’t heard many preachers who actually do much with it.

But this time was different. The preacher started with the mother hen, but didn’t leave her on the ground, with wings and chicks. Instead, he carried this image of a desperately loving mother all the way to the cross, where Jesus, this same mother, hangs with her arms outstretched and her breast exposed–a vulnerable and intimate position that expresses her undying love for her children.

In this way, he interpreted the cross as the culminating expression of the passionate, ceaseless love of a mother, and her persistent desire to gather her children to her and protect them, to save them, her arms outstretched to encompass the entire world. It was really powerful, and very well done.

To me, it was just a great example of how, if we are brave enough to follow Scripture, we end up in some pretty amazing places, with images of God that are transformative and revelatory, that open fresh avenues for experiencing how God is in relationship to us.

It was a great sermon.

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