"The proof is in the loving"
As a young boy, I often went to visit my grandma. She used to have a chicken-coop in the backyard, and I – a through and through city boy – loved to visit the coop.
Of all the images of those days, I still have two quite present in my mind. One was mother hen roaming in the yard, scratching the dirt, and pulling back so the chicks would rush and find whatever bugs they could find.
Also, in the coop there was a very rough kind of ladder made with odd pieces of scrap wood where the chickens would go up to sleep. Usually, mother hen would go up the rungs. However, when she had chicks, she would stay on the ground, make herself comfortable, and all the chicks would gather safely under her wings.
I still hear the chirping of the chicks rushing in and the soft welcoming cackle of mother hen.
What it is interesting about the image, is that the dangers and challenges of the world beyond mother hen’s wings did not change at all. In fact, the chicks still were vulnerable.
However, the chicks knew that they were not alone. Whatever lurked beyond mother hen’s wings, they were in a safe place. Under mother hen there was warmth and shelter.
Both in Luke and Matthew, Jesus compares himself as a Mother Hen who wants to gather all her chicks under the safety of her wings.
Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, writing about St. Luke’s lesson wrote that, “A ‘Mother Hen’ of a God doesn’t keep foxes from being dangerous. A Mother Hen of a God keeps foxes from being what determines how we experience the unbelievably beautiful gift of being alive.
“God the Mother Hen gathers all of her downy feathered, vulnerable little ones under God’s protective wings so that we know where we belong, because it is there that we find warmth and shelter.
“But Faith in God does not bring you safety. The fox still exists. Danger still exists. And by that, I mean, danger is not optional, but fear is.
“Because maybe the opposite of fear isn’t bravery. Maybe the opposite of fear is love.”
And that is what mothers and those who have been like mothers are to us. In many ways, sometimes without even thinking about it, mothers literally brought to life the true gift of being alive.
And here is the connection with our gospel reading. In so many ways mothers are the perfect incarnation of what Jesus said, “Because I live you shall be alive.” Thanks be to God for them.
For what Jesus meant was more than biological life. Life, for Jesus as well as for mothers is way more than a ticking heart. Life is the process of realizing all that a human being was created to be.
And like mothers unconditionally bring life into the world, Jesus also offers us unconditional life.
Sometimes people think that what God offers is a bargain deal – “You do what I want, and then I’ll take care of you.” Mothers understand that such a way of thinking is nonsense.
At the heart of Life there is love. From Jeremiah to St John to St Paul we know that true Love says, “Before you can even say a word, I loved you. Before you could even begin to understand what love is, I loved you. Even when you were far away from me, I have loved you with eternal love.”
Think it over. Believe it. Enjoy it.