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Day 12, Lent

Today is the second Sunday of Lent and the lectionary leads us to a story in Luke 13 where Jesus speaks of himself like a mother hen.  It's an awesome story.  Barbara Brown Taylor wrote a short article about the text in the Christian Century magazine in 2006.  Here are a few bits of that article.

I first discovered them [Silkie hens] when I needed a foster mother for an orphaned guinea chick. I had heard that Silkies are good mothers, so I shopped around in the Market Bulletin until I found some for sale over in Royston. After a little bargaining, I had one rooster, four teenagers and two hens in my crate when I saw one gray hen strutting around the pen.

“What’s she?” I asked.

“Blue Silkie,” the chicken lady said, “cross between black and white.”

“How much for her?” I asked.

“Six bucks,” the chicken lady said, impressing me with the gulf between price and worth. That blue-gray hen was a stunner, with soft herringbone feathers the color of Irish tweed. The black eyes with which she studied me were perfectly round. When I reached out to touch her, she pecked me, but only for show. It was love at first sight.

When the Silkies and I got home, I saved her for the orphaned chick. First I lay on the grass while she and the baby watched each other through the mesh of the cage. Then I placed her inside. Both she and the baby froze. The baby cheeped. The hen did not move a feather. The baby cheeped again. The hen stayed right where she was. The baby took a few steps toward her. I held my breath. The gray hen lifted her wings. The baby scooted right into that open door. When I checked on them an hour later, all I could see was a little guinea chick head poking out from under that gray hen’s wing. Six bucks. What a deal.

...But her sisters have picked up where she left off. When my Mille Fleur chickens lay eggs they will not sit on, I put them under a Silkie that sets until they hatch. When I hatch Old English Bantams in the incubator, I wait until the sun goes down. Then I take the babies down to the Silkie pen and slide them under a sleepy hen. The next morning they are all trailing around behind her while she shows them the ropes of staying alive.

“Look, food!” she squawks when I throw corn, and they all come running.

“Run for cover!” she yells, when the shadow of a hawk passes overhead, and they all go diving under her wings.

This is counterintuitive, I might add. If this hen is into the preservation of her species, then she ought to be looking out for her own babies and letting the others go hang, but she does not. She accepts all comers, no questions asked. She has never seen a chick she didn’t like.

I ought to trust her by now, yet every time I introduce her to a new baby with nowhere else to go, I can feel the back of my throat get tight. Please, please, please, don’t peck this baby, I plead. It’s so little. It has never laid eyes on any momma but you. Then I set the chick in the cage with her, sitting down where I can watch what happens.

The baby cheeps. The hen does not move a feather. The baby cheeps again. The hen stays right where she is. The baby takes a few steps toward her. The hen lifts her wings. Come to momma, honey.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” 

Jesus had chicken neighbors too, I guess, and from them he learned about God’s wings. Watching them, he knew what he wanted to be and do. One cluck from him, and I know too.

Jesus as a mother hen.  What do you think?!

Posted by Laurie Weicher at 6:00 AM
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