I Would Gather Thee

I would gather thee

The fluff of a feather; the warmth under a wing. One glance at this painting makes me want to snuggle up to something warm and safe and hunker down. The scripture this painting is based on can be found in Luke 13: 34. Jesus is longingly looking over the city and says, “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!”

The artist, Liz Lemon Swindle, began painting at an early age and her first exhibitions were on the family refrigerator. Later in her career, her subject matter of choice became something she is passionate about—her faith. Liz says of this print: “God still longs to gather us today under his wing. He is anxious to protect us and provide comfort amidst the ever-growing storms that surround us.”

I find it interesting that just before Jesus used the metaphor of a hen, he compared Herod to a fox. Won’t a fox overpower a hen every time? Wouldn’t it be more comforting if Jesus had used an animal with a little more ferociousness than a barnyard fowl?

In one of her sermons on this scripture, Barbara Brown Taylor ponders the situation. She says: “But a hen is what Jesus chooses, which – if you think about it – is pretty typical of him. He is always turning things upside down, so that children and peasants wind up on top while kings and scholars land on the bottom. He is always wrecking our expectations of how things should turn out by giving prizes to losers and paying the last first. So, of course he chooses a chicken, which is about as far from a fox as you can get. That way the options become very clear: you can live by licking your chops or you can die protecting the chicks.”

The image of God as a hen lays bare God’s vulnerability and our choice. When you are the mother hen, all you can do is open your wings wide and gather as many as you can, but you cannot make the chicks come in regardless of how open the invitation is. The coaxing can still be ignored.

Taylor continues, “Jesus won’t be king of the jungle in this or any other story. What he will be is a mother hen who stands between the chicks and those who mean to do them harm. She has no fangs, no claws, no rippling muscles. All she has is her willingness to shield her babies with her own body. If the fox wants them, he will have to kill her first.”

As it turns out, that is exactly what happens. Jesus loses his life so we can gain ours. But we know that is not the end of the story…. Easter is coming.

Being Human connection: In this season of Lent, may we recognize, and repent of, our stubbornness to heed the plea of a savior who longs for us to come to him.

“I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’” -Isaiah 65:1

Featured image: Liz Lemon Swindle, “I Would Gather Thee,” used with permission. For more information, visit http://www.facebook.com/lizlemonswindle