At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to [Jesus], “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.’ . . . 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!” —Luke 13:31–32, 34
Nadia Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran pastor, author, and dear friend of Father Richard’s. She published this sermon during the first COVID shutdown in the United States. She describes how Christians might interpret the oft-given scriptural command to “Be not afraid.”
Never once have I stopped being afraid just because someone said that.
I AM afraid. . . .
So maybe our hope for becoming unafraid is found in . . . the part where Jesus calls Herod a fox and then refers to himself as a mother hen.
A mother hen.
Maybe that beautiful image of God could mean something important for us: and by us I mean we fragile, vulnerable human beings who face very real danger. I can’t bear to say that this scripture is a description of what behaviors and attitudes you could imitate if you want to be a good, not-afraid person. But neither can I tell you that the Mother Hen thing means that God will protect you from Herod or that God is going to keep bad things from happening to you.
Because honestly, nothing actually keeps danger from being dangerous.
A mother hen cannot actually keep a determined fox from killing her chicks. So where does that leave us? I mean, if danger is real, and a hen can’t actually keep their chicks out of danger, then what good is this image of God as Mother Hen if faith in her can’t make us safe?
Well, today I started to think that maybe it’s not safety that keeps us from being afraid.
Maybe it’s love.
Which means that a Mother Hen of a God doesn’t keep foxes from being dangerous . . . a Mother Hen of a God keeps foxes from being what determines how we experience the unbelievably beautiful gift of being alive.
God the Mother Hen gathers all of her downy feathered, vulnerable little ones under God’s protective wings so that we know where we belong, because it is there that we find warmth and shelter.
But Faith in God does not bring you safety.
The fox still exists.
Danger still exists.
And by that I mean, danger is not optional, but fear is.
Because maybe the opposite of fear isn’t bravery. Maybe the opposite of fear is love. So in the response to our own Herods, in response to the very real dangers of this world we have an invitation as people of faith: which is to respond by loving.
Nadia Bolz-Weber, “‘Be Not Afraid’ <– (um, yeah…ok),” The Corners, March 19, 2020, Substack newsletter, used with permission.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Barbara Holmes and Mirabai Starr on a maternal universe.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Nicholas Kramer, Untitled (detail), 2021, photograph, Washington, used with permission. Paul Thompson, Untitled Sunrise (detail), 2021, video still, New Mexico. Jenna Keiper, Moonrise I (detail), 2020, photograph, Washington, used with permission. Jenna Keiper, 2022, triptych art, United States.
This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: Playing with the light found within night, in these images we find beauty and rest even in moments that might feel eerie and dangerous.
Story from Our Community:
My dad had a degenerative neurological disease, which eventually took away his ability to speak. One day I went to visit him and he spoke loudly and clearly: “A man came to see me and explained that it is all about love, everlasting love, and it doesn’t matter which side of life you are on. My love for you will never die!” He was so overjoyed, he practically glowed. When he finished telling me about the visit, he stopped speaking again. He died about a month later, and I’ve never forgotten his message. I am no longer afraid of death, as I know I will be enveloped by love. I am a changed person.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.