Jesus once said, "Jerusalem! Jerusalem …How often I've ached to embrace your children, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you wouldn't let me." - Matthew 23:37-24:14
My father was not a good cook, but he believed himself to have certain "specialties." Each year when he and his friends would get together for Thanksgiving, he would volunteer to bring his "famous pecan pie." But really, these pecan pies were infamous because of the first time he made them for the group.
I remember watching him at his small house in Capitol Hill as we waited, and waited, and waited for the pies to be done. Finally, I pointed out that I had never heard of a pie that took two and a half hours to cook.
"But the toothpick hasn't come out clean yet," he explained, referring to the instructions on the bottle of Karo syrup he had been carefully following.
By the time he finally agreed to take the pies out, they were rock hard and flat like Frisbees, but he took them to the party anyway. I remember people laughing, then picking up the pieces and trying to gnaw on them.
That was my father's first year of sobriety. The Thanksgiving party had been gathered by his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, whose little kitchen was filled up with boisterous, Pepsi-drinking, story-telling characters. One man had been in jail. At the bottom of her slide, one woman confessed that she had run a brothel. Many of them were now successful journalists, but a few had stories about living on the streets.
And now here we all were, celebrating Thanksgiving. We had been gathered as a hen gathers her chicks, a rag tag brood that would otherwise have had nowhere safe to go. But now we were gathered, under a sheltering wing.
Gather us in, God. Gather in all of your wandering chicks. Amen.
Lillian Daniel's new book Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don't Belong To: Spirituality without Stereotypes, Religion without Ranting is now available for purchase, but you can hear it all for free at 1st Congregational Church of Dubuque, Iowa.