“Never work with children or animals” they say. As if one out of two wasn’t enough, tomorrow I will be preaching with the aid of a live (and very tame) chicken! Yes, really. I will be preaching on Hosea 11.1-4 and Luke 13.31-35.
Lord, may the words that we speak and hear and share lead us ever closer to your living Word, Jesus Christ. Amen.
I’ve brought a special surprise guest to help us think about today’s Bible readings. If you were listening very carefully to the readings, you might be able to guess who it is.
[ask for guesses]
In today’s gospel, Jesus talks about wanting to gather the children of Jerusalem “as a hen gathers her brood under her wings”. Today is Mothering Sunday, which is a good day to look at some of the images in the Bible which speak about God as Mother. We might be more used to thinking of God as Father, but perhaps we can learn something new about God by thinking together about what it means for God to be like a mother hen, and us like God’s chicks under God’s wings.
[wonder about hen, chicks, etc: I wonder what it feels like to be a chick under the wings of the hen? I wonder what it feels like to be under God’s wings? protecting, sheltering, safety, etc]
Our other reading today contains an image of parenting which will be familiar to many – that of a child learning to walk. Many of you may have had the experience of hovering anxiously as a child takes their first unsteady steps, or you may have seen that happening. Indeed, if you look around the congregation today, you’ll probably see some examples of exactly that. And that is how God is with us – a parent watching over us, ready to catch us when we fall.
You might have seen how very young children when they are first learning to walk will, if they feel unsteady, just reach out a hand and expect someone to be there to take it. That’s what God is like with us too – always ready to help and guide us when we reach out.
I remember as a teenager being allowed to take my little sister to the park. I was about 13 and she was about 4. She was playing on the climbing frame and I was sitting on a bench and suddenly she yelled “Look, Ruthie, catch me!” and leapt off the climbing frame. But of course, I was still on the bench, some distance away, and could do nothing.
We all have times when we fail to protect those we love, when someone we care for stretches out a hand and we aren’t there, when they call to us and we aren’t there to catch them when they fall. We are, after all, only human. But God is not like that. God is always there. God always catches us when we fall, and takes our hand when we reach out. God always hears us and answers.
Let’s look again at our special guest. Why does a hen protect her chicks, and shelter them under her wings? Quite simply, because she can’t not, it’s part of her nature. That’s part of what it means to be a hen. And why does God protect and shelter and love and care for us? Because that it what it is to be God, it is in God’s nature. God is love, and God’s love for us is infinite and perfect.
Our love for each other is not perfect. We will fail, we will need to ask for forgiveness from one another, and for help from God. But we are held in God’s love and called to live out that love as fully as we are able. May God lead us all more and more into God’s perfect love. Amen.