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 13:34
Dear members and friends of the Swedenborgian Church,
In Luke 13, Jesus gives a beautiful and heart-warming image of how God loves humans: “as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.” This is actually very famous imagery quoted by many. The emphasis of most quotes that I found was on the self-sacrificial love of God as portrayed by the self-sacrificial love of a hen in protecting her chicks, even if it cost her life. In a way, it makes sense that many Christians believe that the mission of Jesus was to sacrifice his life for the sake of humanity (or just for Christians). Yet, if you actually read the whole verse spoken by Jesus in Luke 13, it is not very hard to see that what Jesus is emphasizing is not the willing sacrifice of his life for humanity, but God’s sadness and lamentation over human stubbornness and rejection of God’s message.
God desires to gather humans together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but apparently humans were not willing! Thus, the real message in this particular verse, in my understanding, is not so much about God who is willing to die for us, but rather about God who is deeply saddened about humans unwillingness to come under God’s protection. What this means is that divine protection is not activated by saying some magic words such as “I believe,” but requires real work that is deeply connected to one’s daily life. One thing that is naturally true in the case of a hen and her chicks is that a hen cannot chase after each chick and gather them one-by-one in times of emergency. Rather, each chick must run to the mother hen on its own for protection. If any chick for whatever reason does not return to the hen, it cannot be protected by her. For its own protection, a chick must always know where its mother hen is and be able to return to her. In my understanding, the same principle applies to the relationship between humans and God the Creator.
The divine is present in all thing created, most definitely including humans. As humans were specially made, we have the ability to accept and create our own reality as we please. Due to this God-given ability and power, humans have to actively and willingly work to find, acknowledge, and accept the divine presence that is already and forever present in all things. Divine protection for humans is only possible when we have found the divine presence through our own effort and willingly submit ourselves to divine protection like chicks would naturally run under the wings of their mother hen.
Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee