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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Hen

Your Bible has a holy image of a chicken. She's a far cry from Chicken Little, who thought the sky was falling, or the hard-working Little Red Hen. In Luke 13:34 and Matthew 23:37, she is Jesus' choice to represent his great tenderness and love for the people of Jerusalem.

"How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing," Jesus cries out in grief over a people who, much like us, don't always accept God's motherly care.

Before Jesus' time, hens symbolized procreation and care for children. Chicks represented spring and new life. In ancient Greece, the rooster was a symbol of Apollo, and his crow was thought to be a salute to the sun. In Scripture, the rooster shows up before Christ's death and resurrection, crowing three times when Peter denies Jesus. During medieval times, roosters were symbols of resurrection. Later they appeared in weather vanes on church steeples.

A mother hen is an unusual image for Jesus, who is more often portrayed as a shepherd. In comparing himself to a mother hen, Jesus must have known how desperately a hen desires to protect and gather the children she has nurtured into life. Jesus, like a mother hen, brings us into new life with God.


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September issue

SEPTEMBER issue:

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