A Mother’s Love
Fourth Sunday of Easter-Year C
May 12, 2019
Today is Mother’s Day and I’d like to spend a few minutes today talking to you about a Mother’s love.
This topic, however, was not a foregone conclusion when I began to consider what we would explore together today.
You see, Mother’s Day is a tricky needle to thread in the church. For one, it’s not a religious holiday. You’ll see no mention of Mother’s Day or any formal liturgy anywhere in our Prayer Book. Today is the Fourth Sunday of Easter, alternatively called ‘Good Shepherd Sunday,’ thus ignoring this wholly secular holiday all together is a completely valid option! However, when I thought about that option, it just didn’t feel right.
The other choice seems to be to go full bore and ‘mother it up.’ I’ve been in churches in the past where this is the norm. Mothers are given special flower corsages to wear and welcomed to stand and receive the accolades of the church in the form of applause. Special prayers are spoken focusing on the mothers and grandmothers in the room and the sermon is “all about mom,” placing her somewhere in the cadre of saints somewhere between Jesus’ mother, Mary and June Cleaver.
This choice was also a bit of a ‘no go’ for me. For one thing, I personally am generally uncomfortable with the level and tone of such accolades. In my experience they end up feeling saccharine and inauthentic to the real and challenging task of motherhood.
In addition, such ‘mom-centered’ services fail to take into account the real and deep pain many people experience on Mother’s Day and around the idea of ‘mother’ in general. For some, it is grief at having lost their mother or grandmother. Or the fear of the impending loss in the face of sickness or old age. For others, Mother’s Day serves only as a reminder that, in their experience, “mother” is not a person of love and acceptance, but of anger and rejection; and a day devoted to celebrating someone who has wounded them so deeply leaves a sour taste in their mouth. And for others, including myself, a day like Mother’s Day carries with it the pain of the struggle to become a mother and the long years of waiting and longing through ache of infertility. For each of these and many others, today can be a dark day, indeed.
So I found myself in a quandary—neither of the “traditional” options seemed to fit and I also sensed there was something larger at stake here.
Over the centuries, the church has traditionally focused on the imagery of God as Father. The language inculcated in our prayers and liturgies has historically been male-oriented, leading to the language of God as Father as our primary expression of God’s personal, loving relationship with us, the children of God.
However, Scripture offers us a much more expansive view of God’s loving relationship to God’s children.
From the hen who shelters her chicks under her wings, to the mama bear protecting her cubs, to the woman laboring in childbirth, and the mother cradling her child to her breast, Scripture offers us another way to know and experience the love of God—through a Mother’s love. This love can even be heard in today’s reading from the Book of Revelation as Mother God ensures her beloved children are free of hunger and thirst, protected from the glaring heat of the sun and comforted in the midst of sorrow, as she wipes every tear from their eyes.
Engaging with God as Mother and allowing ourselves to experience Mother God has the power to shake us out of our comfort zone and encourage us to consider how God loves in a myriad of ways. Even the phrase “Mother God’s love” can feel unsettling in its unfamiliarity.
Our Mother God’s love shelters us from the storm, cradling us in a warm embrace as the chaos of life swirls around us. Mother God’s love is fierce, protecting us and refusing to back down in the face of danger. Mother God’s love is intense and willing to suffer for her children. And Mother God’s love nurtures, sustain, and comforts as it draws her children to her.
And Mother God invites us to join her in loving others. This invitation extends beyond gender, beyond age, beyond our own earthly experience of motherhood, and invites us to see each person as a beloved child of God.
Perhaps the most powerful image I have of what it means to love as Mother God loves is one I’ve experienced many times in the middle of a store, and I would imagine you’ve experienced it too. A lost child is stands in the corner of an aisle, sometimes in tears or sometimes just standing, so frightened or confused they’ve simply frozen in place. You notice them, and after a quick glance around looking for the lost parent, you spring into action. You approach the child, offering a smile and a gentle, “Hi, are you lost?” Bending down you look into the child’s tear-filled eyes and smile again, “OK, let’s see what we can do.” In that moment all your errands are forgotten—your rush to “just get in and get out” has evaporated and your whole heart and mind are now engaged in reuniting this little one with their parent. Determination floods you as you offer your hand and feel the soft little fingers slip into yours as you begin the search for the lost adult. You comfort and encourage as you look around, helping this little lost one believe that “all will be well.” At last, you spot the child’s lost adult, and smile as the parent grabs their little one in a crushing embrace, relief pouring from parent and child.
This is Mother God’s love. Love for the lost or the forgotten—a love that is determined, compassionate, and fierce. A love that will never give up, even in the face over overwhelming odds. This is Mother God’s love. May you experience it today and may you take the chance to extend it to someone else.