“In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing (Luke 13:33-34)!”
The words of Jesus quoted above are spoken during the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the home of the temple, the priestly leadership and the ruling council. Many first century Jews had pinned their hopes on Jerusalem. They believed the Messiah would come to the great city and rule from there to make God’s people free, once and for all! The words of Jesus come as a shocking contrast to this hope. They express perhaps his sharpest critique and deepest grief over the great city. Listen again to the Lord’s passionate lament: “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”
Now, let’s turn those words back to ourselves. Hear them as though spoken to you and the many ‘children’ of God’s church. “I have longed to gather you together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” Hear the deep love, the longing of God to bring reconciliation, the heart of God that draws near to heal. Hear the invitation to communion with God and rest in God, the promise of God’s protection.
Now, hear the chilling indictment, “but you were not willing.” What is the source of our resistance to God? For some of us it is prideful independence. We sense that we must let go of that to be sheltered under the wings. For some it is our, frenetic anxious efforts to control our lives and circumstances. There is no room for that under the wings. For some it is the crazy notion that all good things must be earned. There is no room for that, either, because we are welcomed under the wings by grace. Under the wings, you are in an attitude of trusting, receptive reverence.
Whatever your resistance may be today, let it go. Hear this as God’s invitation to you, and welcome it: “I long to gather you together with all my children, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” Sit quietly for a few minutes and contemplate the height and depth and breadth of the love of God. Be sheltered there.