Lectio Divina – Mother Hen
Attending the wedding of Annie Pokorny and Ford Van Fossan in Sun Valley, Idaho, there was a welcome dinner offered by Mary and Bobby Van Fossan, the mom and dad of the groom. They graciously hosted many of the out of town guests for a private dinner. Meanwhile they were simultaneously attending a rehearsal dinner with the wedding party. They took videos of the emotional and heart-felt wedding party toasts and even made it back to be with our dinner for dessert.
After the lovely cocktail party and dinner, I sat down with Bobby one-on-one over dessert. After a warm greeting and welcome, he said, “Hen, so good to see you here. Mary and I are especially glad that you’re invested in Ford and Annie’s life together.” I was humbled by what Bobby called me and his kind words. Yes, we have invested with Ford and Annie. We had known Ford his entire life and we had met Annie several times in person and on the phone and felt they were a great match. As I reflected on Bobby’s comments to me, I realized that there are only two people in my life who called me by the nickname – Hen. One is my brother, Charlie, and the other is Bobby Van Fossan.
I felt very honored that Tracy and I could be there while Mary & Bobby’s son was sealing a marriage covenant with Annie, a successful, smart, beautiful, and ambitious young woman. Tracy and I were very proud to be part of that rite of passage and the glorious celebration. The wedding, the reception and the hospitality were all planned and choreographed to perfection. It was a weekend of joy, and even the weather cooperated magnificently.
The day AFTER the wedding Tracy and I attended a Lenten church service at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Ketchum, Idaho. We sat in the front row near Chip & Sally Akridge, friends from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The sermon that Sunday was delivered by the Associate Pastor, Rev. Kathleen Bean. To my surprise the theme of her meditation and homily was hens. Really? Hens? Yes!
Maybe it was a coincidence, but I was looking for some divine insights, so I went with it.
The central readings was from the Gospel according to Luke 13:31-35.
 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place [Jerusalem] and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”  He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’  In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day-for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!  “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. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Rev. Kathleen Bean shared some of her reflections on the readings with the congregation. A summary of her comments are here:
“When it comes to barnyard animals, hens are not usually thought of as being smart or brave. Calling someone ‘a chicken‘ is a classic insult. But here in Luke, we have Jesus telling the Pharisees to shout back at Herod. Jesus was fully absorbed with his mission of healing, of fighting the devil, and of resurrection. Jesus extends the metaphor of the Fox and he cloaks his mission with the protection of all chicks.”
“On most farms, the chickens are often the responsibility for the girls and the family: they feed and water the chickens, they collect the eggs, and they made sure that the door is shut to prevent the fox from getting into the coop.”
“As a bird species, the hen takes care of the chicks at all time, but particularly in times of danger. She pulls the young under her wings. Her warmth and vigilance protect the brood. The mother hens, not the roosters, are the fierce protectors of the chicks. The hen offers shelter in her soft, warm wings. And she will fight to the death to protect the chicks from any unwelcomed intruders. Jesus embraces this wonderful metaphor for God. He is protecting his followers from any problems that may occur in their lives. Even dying for them and offering a way to salvation.”
“We are slowly venturing out in these times of post-COVID with extreme caution. Starting only two years ago, we were protecting ourselves from each other with masks, social distancing and many of the CDC mandates for isolation of ourselves and our families. In this country with ‘work from home’ arrangements, we have constantly been juggling the balance of children and schools and work and protecting ourselves from the virus. It is important to remember that we must continue to be kind to ourselves. We must be kind to each other, to teachers, to healthcare workers, to immigrants and to those on the front lines.”
“Now our attention has been forced to refocused on other parts of the world. We hold in our hearts the people of the Ukraine. The Russian invasion in Ukraine is a constant horror on the people of this sovereign, democratic country. So many fathers, mothers, brothers and children are giving their lives for the country. Meanwhile millions of refugees are fleeing for other parts of the world, where they can have shelter, food and protection from the ravages of this unholy war.”
“God, as Mother hen, opens her wings for all of the chicks. No matter their city of origin, God is waiting with steadfast love of us. Let us pray: Lord, may all refugees find protection under your wings. We are living in a time that constantly keeps trying to knock us down. The people in the surrounding areas of Poland and Romania and Georgia and Slovenia are opening up their arms like a mother hen for all of those who are escaping the conflict in the Ukraine.”
“Just as Jesus said in the temple in Jerusalem, ‘You tell that fox that I am busy.’ Christ was busy bringing about a new Kingdom not of this earth. And he was setting the timetable for his work, not one that was influenced by those Pharisees in Jerusalem.”
“Whether these enemies were hawks circling above or foxes pacing around the barnyard, Christ is there to embrace us, and to protect us. He was busy about the work of saving his flock. It is as if he were saying, ‘I am not hiding. I am not afraid of what may come.’ At that moment, Christ takes a tone of defiance. Yet, he still has room in his heart for all of his flock. He has the capacity to weep for all of those in the city who need shelter and protection.”
“What is the modern day equivalent of foxes and hens? Perhaps it is indeed Russia and Ukraine.”
“The tragedy we see playing out in human history is that wars start, and they end, and then they start again. History keeps repeating itself. It is chilling and heartbreaking in this Lenten time of challenge. We must make sure that we have are mental, physical and emotional preparation for the battles ahead. In times of great trouble, we need to be prepared to do the best that we can do. The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? … And whom should I send? Send me, Lord.”
“I try to imagine, what if I should not have believed? What if I had not been witness to the goodness of the Lord? How empty! How much harder life would be!”
“Rest assured: we can take shelter under the wings of God. When life proves very hard, we must take stock of our skills and out blessings, AND we must rest. And then, after rest, we must get up the next day and get about the business that is before us.”
I was not sure how to blend together the church sermon with the wedding weekend, but the affectionate nickname from Bobby and the theme from the Gospel were the antidote to any feelings of fear and worry. They helped me have a bright ray of hope for the time ahead.