Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Sunday afternoon I discovered a beautiful medieval hymn.
The hymn was written by one of the great English theologians, Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109). As I read, I remembered the words of Jesus in Matthew 23:27.
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! (Matthew 23:37)
Jesus is lamenting the stubbornness of the religious leaders to grasp and live the ethics of the Kingdom of God. His frustration is in their inability, or their unwillingness, to see that what God desires is the transformation of the human heart. God’s dream is for human hearts of stone to become hearts of flesh. Hearts beating beating with love for God and neighbor.
Jesus’ frustration culminates in the evocative words,
“How often I have desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.”
Anselm echoes this motherly language and imagines Jesus in the role.
Jesus, like a mother you gather your people to you;
you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.
Often you weep over our sins and our pride,
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement.
You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds,
in sickness you nurse us, and with pure milk you feed us.
Jesus, by your dying we are born to new life;
by your anguish and labor we come forth in joy.
Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness;
through your gentleness we find comfort in fear.
Your warmth gives life to the dead,
your touch makes sinners righteous.
Lord Jesus, in your mercy heal us;
in your love and tenderness remake us.
In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness,
for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us.
— Anselm of Canterbury
I invite you to spend some time today praying through this ancient hymn.
Allow the imagery to fuel your imagination and let the tender mother love of Jesus enfold you and make you whole.
Grace & Peace,
Rev. Donnie Wilkinson