Weekly Scripture Focus

Focus Reading:  Luke 13:31-35

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 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! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'”

Reflection:  Mother Church as a brooding hen

Barbara Brown Taylor reflects on the way Jesus gathers us together rather than letting us be scattered like vulnerable chicks. We are the body of Christ together, she writes, not all alone, each of us in our own private spiritual life. She notes the tenderness of Jesus’ efforts and the tragedy of his rejection by this city, and she poignantly describes the meager resources of a little mother hen, the image Jesus chose to identify with, attempting to protect her brood against a vicious and well-armed predator (what a tenderly vulnerable image that hen makes). As a mother and grandmother, I found her suggestion heartbreaking: “At the very least, she can hope that she satisfies his appetite so that he leaves her babies alone.”

Do these words give us a sense, even in a small way, of the tragedy of Jesus’ impending death? But Taylor then goes on to resurrection, and describes the triumph of love in the long run. Her description of the battle between the hen and the fox is elegantly matched by her remembrance of the victory, and her image of the “church of Christ as a big fluffed up brooding hen, offering warmth and shelter to all kinds of chicks…., planting herself between the foxes of this world and the fragile-boned chicks.” A big, fluffed up brooding hen—an apt image for “Mother Church”!

This reflection is from the Rev. Kathryn M. Matthews, retired after serving as dean of Amistad Chapel at the national offices of the United Church of Christ in Cleveland, Ohio.


Focus Questions:

  1. What burdens are you carrying this Lent on your spiritual path?
  2. How would Jesus’ words be received in the halls of power today?
  3. How can we embody “neighborliness” in our public life?
  4. What are other images of self-giving, unconditional love?
  5. What would it mean to live as “signs of life” rather than “signs of death”?