Passionate Parenting and God

In Matthew 23 (as well as Luke 13) Jesus knows he is about to love us perfectly, even if he gets killed for it. His grief overwhelms him and he says, “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!”

Raising sheep we have often been filled with awe over the passion with which mothers protect their young. Our bitch, Floss, was nursing her five pups when a visiting insurance agent convinced us to open the door into the whelping area and let him have a look. Usually loving Floss bared her teeth and growled so convincingly that we quickly pulled the man back and shut the door.

That same Floss was ever so kind and gentle with the sheep she herded; but when she got a bit too close to a newborn lamb, the mother went after her with a fierceness that shocked me. The ewe trapped Floss against the fence and started to pound her into the dust with her head. Fortunately I was close enough to charge in and save Floss from certain death.

A fledgling barn swallow --vulnerable, but cared for by passionate parents. Photo by John

A fledgling barn swallow –vulnerable, but cared for by passionate parents. Photo by John

Then there are the birds. Pictured here is a fledgling barn swallow. Swallows used to fill our barn with their nests and young; but the super aggressive house sparrows pushed them out. Now they nest safely in our garage. We love the swallows who swarm over our fields and eat the bug population that would explode without a constant culling. And so, starting in the spring, we leave the doors to our garage open so the swallow parents can swoop in and out and raise their young.

The tiny bird pictured here seems to have left the nest a bit prematurely. It can flutter its way on the ground, but it’s not ready to fly.

So the parents keep track of her. In the garage and out the little one wanders. Next to the rake leaning on the outside of the garage. Over the grass. Near the hydrant and wading pool that we put out for the dogs.

And all the while, the passionate parents dive and screech to keep us humans, and the curious dogs away. They sit on the hydrant and tree branches and bark out their little warnings and their frantic concern for their little one. Like Moses’ mother and sister they watch their precious little one drift away–they watch over–they soar to pick up insects to come back and keep their child fed and hydrated.

What a force is that passionate parenting! Not a wave, not a particle. More than can be fully contained or explained by hormones. It is something beyond. It is the hand and heart of the God who is Love itself.

God forbid we would discount or denigrate this power. Who would not be willing to be caught up into the protective, passionate, parenting arms of the divine hen, Jesus Christ? Who would not be willing?

Whenever we discount or denigrate this power by denying family leave to workers, or shutting out immigrant families desperately trying to find a safe and happy place to live, we are holding God’s passionate parenting in contempt. We are not willing to be caught up in the passion of Christ.

God forgive us, and come gather your brood!




About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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