"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord.'" - Matthew 23:37-39
Last spring, sin came to our church's front door.
A wreath hung there. House finches built a nest inside. The mother laid five small, sky-blue eggs. A deacon put up signs: "Bird nesting! Use other door."
The signs worked for a while. But one Sunday, a worshiper approached in a hurry. The mother finch flew off. The worshiper didn't notice the sign.
Energy applied to the door handle opened the door. The energy transferred to the nest and to the nestlings. The door began to close. Transferred energy in the baby birds propelled three of the five in the direction they had been traveling, over the edge of the nest, onto the flagstone below. They didn't survive the fall.
The sin was not primarily in the death of the birds, nor in the opening of the door, nor even in the worshiper's missing the sign that urged consideration of the nest. Sin entered earlier, and deeper: sin first has to do with the causes of hurrying past a sign pointing to vulnerable life.
What made the rush in the first place? What trouble or annoyance or pain led to a sleepless night, leading to a frenzied morning, leading to a state of frustration, leading to a hasty trip to church—where the worshiper simply hoped to receive a much-needed word of forgiveness and grace?
Somewhere along the way Jesus' desire to shelter you, as would a mother bird, got overwhelmed by the press and strain of your life.
Mothering God, grant us grace to break our stride, to draw deeper breath, to set aside the whirlwinds of passion — even for a moment. In that still moment we shall praise you for your sheltering wing, stretching out to us today.
John A. Nelson is Pastor and Teacher of Church on the Hill, UCC, in Lenox, Massachusetts.