by Katie McKown,
Pastor, Scottsville Baptist Church, VA
“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.”
—Matthew 23:37 (NIV)
I pastor a congregation of farmers and gardeners, and as a result, I have corralled cows on a four-wheeler. A calf has borne my name. I have learned about turkeys, chickens, goats, horses, and cows. I am blessed with more tomatoes, onions, peppers, eggs, beets, carrots, and fresh herbs than I can count. I have a freezer of fresh meat. Our parade float last July 4th included a goat and a chicken. What fun! I pastor a congregation of farmers and gardeners, and I love it.
One of our newest families at Scottsville Baptist raises chickens, guineas, and turkeys; birds are their specialty! My new friends tell me that a mother hen will spend weeks sitting on her eggs, patiently awaiting the hatching of her baby chickens. A mother hen—by her very nature—yearns to nurture her little ones. Once hatched, the chickens will run, play, and learn from their mother. When her chicks are in danger, she gathers them under her wings to protect and love them.
In Matthew 23, Jesus warns against the perils of hypocrisy. He reminds his listeners that when walk doesn’t match talk trouble abounds. Jesus calls the religious elite to task and laments their separation from him. In verse 37, we are privy to the lengths of this separation: “how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”
Friends, we love and serve a gathering God. We love and serve a God who—by God’s very nature—yearns to nurture us. Even when we fly the coop and make mischief, God is eager to gather us. We may think we know better by fleeing, but we’re wrong. An unwillingness to be gathered causes us to miss out on running and playing with and learning from God.
We love and serve a gathering God. When we are tempted to run, may we remember the God who gathers loves us most and best. The safest place for any of us to be is under the shelter of God’s wings. Under God’s wings, we grow in grace and learn to fly.