Contributed by Patti Stratton. This is the sixth in a series of blog posts for Lent. Scripture readings for the sixth Sunday of Lent, Palm Sunday, are Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 21:1-27:66. This blog post pays particular attention to Matthew 23:37.
Lent…a time for reflection, repentance, and meditation; a time when the church turns her collective heart toward Jesus and his journey to Jerusalem and the cross. Then, 40 days and six Sundays later we encounter Holy Week. The week begins so well! Triumphantly Jesus is heralded as a king, entering the gates of Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna” and “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!” The crowds welcome him with joy and singing. They waive palm branches, the traditional symbol of recognition of a conquering king, while literally laying their coats on the
road so that the hooves of the donkey on which Jesus rides will not have to walk on the pavement! It soon becomes apparent that not everyone is happy to see Jesus. As Jesus begins teaching and preaching in and around the Temple, the religious leaders become angry and upset. Conversation, debates, and encounters between various groups of the religious ones and Jesus lead to confrontation. Ever wondered why the religious ones don’t care for Jesus? I encourage you to read Matthew’s account in chapters 21 through 27. Jesus, speaking as God Incarnate, tells them clearly what he thinks of their for
m of religion, their form of godliness. He speaks plainly: too plainly for his own good.
Each year during Lent I pay particular attention to the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ last week, wrestling intently with each event, each movement, and each moment of the passion narratives. The Scriptures move me emotionally and spiritually. By the time we arrive at Easter I am broken and so very ready for the resurrection. But without the passion, there would be no resurrection. Without the suffering there would be no redemption.
This season, as I meditated on Matthew’s account, I was struck by a particular gem found in chapter 23, a verse in which Jesus, speaking very much as God Incarnate, clearly expresses the feminine, motherly characteristic of God:
“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!”
Coming at the end of a rather lengthy discourse in which Jesus has just warned the crowds about the dangers of being “religious,” this passage reveals the passionate depth of God’s love, even for those who have misunderstood and seemingly missed the mark. The longing of the heart of God is clear. In spite of all the religious misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and rejection, Jesus cries out in mourning, expressing his pain and grief through the image of a hen who gathers her chicks under her wings to protect them. That is how much God loves us, and continues to love even when we turn away, rejecting the care and grace and love that Jesus so beautifully demonstrated to us.
My husband and I raise chickens, so I know this image well. When a hawk flies over the yard, the hen calls and her chicks truly do rush to shelter under her wings. May you respond to the Mother love of God, huddling beneath the cross as we wait together for resurrection.