Just after laying into the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus closes with “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 turns from addressing the scribes, Pharisees, disciples and crowds to addressing Jerusalem. I don’t think it’s too far off to think of Jerusalem from a Jewish/ People of Israel standpoint in the same way we think of Washington DC from an American/ Political standpoint. In the same way that DC is looked at as a sort of parental figure over this nation, Jerusalem was looked at very much like a parent of the People of Israel. It was its center, its capital, in a manner of speaking. So when we see, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem…”, it’s very much like when we here criticisms of “washington”. It is not the actual city of Washington DC and its inhabitants that we are criticizing. It is the political structure and the political work that comes out Washington DC that we are criticizing. I believe it is in this same way that Jesus is crying out to Jerusalem. It is almost as though he is saying, “Oh, center of the people of Israel, root of the people…” That being made clear, for what is he crying out to Jerusalem, the core, the center, the heart of the people of Israel?
Unity. Oneness. Yes, as I’ve said a million times, the tearing down of our walls. Jesus is lamenting the division amongst the people. They are scattered and he, the Christ, wants to, among other things, gather the brood back together. For some time now, and even in this text as well, Jesus has spoken in harsh tones and language about the breaking down of barriers, about breaking the Kingdom of God wide open. But then right here he slips in what I believe to be what is really the heart of the matter Jesus: A broken heart. Jesus is angry, and he indeed needs to say harsh words, but it is all done out of a broken heart for what has happened to God’s people. His heart is breaking here. After all the “brood of vipers” kind of talk, he reminds of us what his anger is a response to: a broken heart over the division of God’s people. For a moment he moves from a “brood of vipers” to a “brood under the mother hen’s wing”. The picture reminds me of John’s gospel account where Jesus is the Good Shepherd, gently and kindly leading the flock, holding it together. Here Jesus is the mother hen. She cares for her brood. She wants them to be together under her wing. Earlier in Chapter 13, Jesus said “…and call no one on earth father for you have one father”. Here I think Jesus is saying, among other things, “you have one mother. And her heart is breaking at the division between you. Come home, underneath the wing of your mother. Come one, come all, under her wing”. But the baby hens who have asserted control are not willing. The heart, the core, the center of the people, Jerusalem, is not willing. But while there is some great gentleness in this picture, let us not forget the ferocity with which a Mother hen will protect her brood. She is gentle with her brood, but woe to the one who tries to divide it.
The Body of Christ is essentially the new Israel. Over the centuries it has grown increasingly fractured as evidenced by the birth of denomination after denomination after denomination. I believe that just as Jesus’ heart broke for the division within Israel, so too does God’s heart break for the division within the Body of Christ. There are still great battles among us. The Mother hen is, I believe, working hard to call us back beneath her wing, but we are, in many ways, unwilling. We are letting our views of who the Mother hen is divide us rather than recognize that, while we may all see her differently, we are still seeing the same thing.
At the same time, the Body of Christ has also made great strides in laying down our differences to come back as one brood beneath our Mother’s wing. I saw it in the city of Rosemount earlier this month, as an entire city came together for the common good. We laid aside our doctrines and dogmas and the lack there of to do something that was simply right and good- feed families locally and globally. I see it in many of our rural congregations, where Presbyterian or Lutheran pastors are appointed to United Methodist congregations where there is no pastor to serve, and vice-versa. I saw it in our own congregation on Thanksgiving Eve when multiple congregations, such as Evangelical Free, Untied Methodist and Roman Catholic, came together to worship as one body. There are glimpses of hope for us as a body coming back beneath our Mother’s wing. So, people of God, “let us not grow weary in doing what is right” (Galatians 6:9, NRSV).