Latin Inscription At Dominus Flevit Church In Jerusalem
Our trip to Israel last fall was life-altering for me in many ways.
Walking on paths Jesus walked.
Sailing on the Sea of Galilee in a boat that probably looked much like the boats in
which Jesus sailed.
Sitting in the synagogue where Jesus likely sat —discovered in Magdala (now
Migdal) during an archeological dig.
Praying in the Garden where Jesus prayed…
Walking into a tomb similar to the one from which Jesus arose…
All of these cherished experiences are tucked into the recesses of my soul’s memory.
Several months after returning home, certain random stories and thoughts keep bobbing to the surface. One was a visit we made to Dominus Flevit (meaning: “The Lord Wept”) Roman Catholic Church on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The church was fashioned in the shape of a teardrop and commemorates the lament of Jesus as he wept over the city.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,…How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” Matthew 23:37 (NKJV)
I had forgotten the name of this church, but when I recollected the beautiful building and its significance, I thought of it as “The Mother Hen Church!”
There are layers of biblical context surrounding the verse quoted above, but the purpose of this post is not to become theological. Instead, I’d like to look at symbolism in this story, symbolism with which I as a mother can relate.
First, I’d like to relay a story Jane, our guide in Israel, told us. Whether it’s true or traditional myth, it’s one I’ll remember. The story went something like this.
Many years ago, fire destroyed a church. When it seemed safe to enter, a team of men began sifting through the debris to see if anything might be salvageable.
One man moved a stick over what looked like the carcass of a bird. To the fellow’s utter amazement, several little chicks scurried out from under the charred remains.
A mother hen gathered her chicks under her wings because they were in danger. Because those chicks were willing, they were saved.
Since Scripture tells us Jesus is the “perfect image of the invisible God.” (Colossians 1:5), I believe Matthew 23:37 helps us catch a glimpse of the tender, mother-like, nurturing nature of God.
Many people—to some extent, me until a few years ago—live with a view of God as harsh, angry and punitive. I’m now convinced the overarching characteristic of God—the characteristic that encompasses all others—is love. God is always concerned with our well-being. This is why we need to be gathered protectively under God’s metaphorical wings.
Like most aspects of our spiritual journey, it’s a process. In my journey, which I confess has often been three steps forward and two steps back, I’ve discovered:
The more I learn about the nature of God, the more I trust God.
The more I trust God, the less complicated—the more childlike–my faith becomes.
The less complicated my faith, the more safety I feel in God’s absolute love for me.
The more assured I am of God’s love, the easier it is for me to love God and those
created in God’s own image.
The easier it is to love God, the more willing I am to be gathered under God’s
divine, protective wings.
The more willing I am, the more I desire to discover and do God’s will.
The love of a mama for her chicks isn’t terribly complex, but it is incredibly profound.
It’s a love that longs to protect and comfort.
It’s a love that finds it easy to put her chick’s wellbeing ahead of her own.
It’s a love that joyfully serves and sacrifices.
It’s a love willing to lay down her own life to protect the lives of her chicks.
That kind of love reflects the love of God, whose invisible image was modeled in the humanity of Jesus.
Blessings on you journey as you ponder the nurturing nature of God…