“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Matthew 23:37-39 NIV
At the end of this rebuke — which Jesus speaks to those who would keep people from knowing Him and experiencing the complete love of God revealed in Himself — He offers this strange but lovely image: the image of a mother hen spreading her wings to shelter her children.
Chickens often make me laugh and rarely make me think of inspiration or beauty. But when a hen spreads her wings in this way it does two things: It gathers in, bringing her children literally close to her, and it protects, shielding them from danger and harm.
What is normally a more or less flightless wing, folded uselessly on the side of a strutting bird, becomes a majestic shield, that looks kind of awesome.
This may seem odd, but it brings to my mind the method and purpose of Christian missions. It reaches out, spreading away from the body in every direction, reaching as far as it can.
And it reaches out to draw in the ones who are dearly loved — to draw them into the presence, the salvation and the protection of the One who loves: the One, our Lord Jesus, Who came to seek and to save that which was lost.
May we, the body of Christ, reach out, stretching to our limits to bring the lost into the shelter of knowing Him. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!