Today is Mother’s Day, a holiday many ministers try to avoid because they know how difficult and painful a relationship between a mother and child can be.
That’s not the case with me. My mom and I have always been close, and I am super grateful for all that she has done for me and my family. Everyday, I count my blessings that she is still a part of my life. My memories of my mom are all good. She was an attentive mother who taught me how to sew, cook, clean, and do laundry – basically how to survive life either married or single. I also have a mother-in-law. That’s all I am allowed to say. And if you knew her you’d know why.
Mother’s Day can be a difficult day for a lot of people. For every woman being celebrated by their children today, there is another who is barren, longing for a life within her own womb. For every mother honored for her kindness and generosity, there is another whose children are coping with the abuse and pain their mother inflicted upon them.
For those who are excited to be vaccinated so they can safely see mom in person today, there are those whose wish they could still pick up the phone to call about a family recipe or to hear her reassuring voice when life gets too difficult and challenging. There are moms who shows up for their child, no matter the need. And others who have given up their kid for one reason or another.
So you can see how Mother’s Day can bring up a gamut of emotions. Some joyful. Some painful. But whether you like your mom or not, or had a good relationship or a painful one, you are here today because of her. So let us honor mothers, for they are us.
When my son was four or five he ask, “Who is God’s mom?” That’s a bold move I thought for a minister’s kid. A question like that is bound to incite an impromptu sermon from any pastoral parent. Sparing him the torture, I simply said, “You are.”
He told me he couldn’t be God’s mom because he was a boy. I told him, “You don’t have to be able to get pregnant or have a particular chromosome to bring God into the world.” I think that only confused him more.
So I tried some 13th century theology on him, quoting the great German mystic Meister Eckhart who said, “We are all called to be mothers of God, for God is always waiting to be born.”
This only made matters worse. So I did something I knew he’d understand. I began to preach. And this is the gist of what I said, “You and me, male and female alike, are called to carry in our bodies the very life of God. It’s our job,” I said, “to give birth to God’s incarnate love in all that we do.”
Since then, Sean hasn’t asked anymore deep questions about God. At least not to me. But this gives us some food for thought for today as we take a different look at what it means to be a mother, especially the kind who gives birth to God.
This week, CBS News ran a story about a teenage girl named Monyay who aged out of the foster care system last year. As if her senior year of high school was already ruined by the pandemic, now Monyay had to brace herself for spending the rest of her life on her own. That all changed just a few months after turning 18, when she was adopted by Leah Pascalides, a 32-year-old single woman who used to be Monyay’s caseworker.
For over six years the two had formed a close friendship; one built on honesty and trust. When asked why she made the decision to make a legal commitment, this new mom said, "I wanted to make sure she knew that she had somebody who loved her."
Love is the way we give birth to God. Their story reminds me of a small gesture made in John’s gospel that often goes unnoticed when we talk about the passion of Christ. A story of widows and orphans coming together to form a new kind of family, one that bear the blessings of God’s love into the world.
READ John 19:25-27
In his final act of love, Jesus redefines family and motherhood. On one side is his biological family. And on the other is a family of a different sort, a kind not based on DNA but connected by blood nonetheless.
The Bible doesn’t tell us much about Mary, whom I suspect was only a young girl when God entrusted her to carry and care for the savior of the world. But as a mother we know this: It is Mary who gives Jesus his first taste of life and love. She teaches him how to serve and care for the world in all the ways she cares for him. Mary sets the example for Jesus to follow. The one we’re called to follow.
In watching her son be crucified on a cross, Mary realizes how painful and risky it is to bring God’s incarnate love to life. And then there is John, who has been with Jesus since the beginning. He is seeing first hand the risk he is called to take. I’m sure watching his teacher and dear friend suffer as he did, would have been an emotional experience for John.
Perhaps Jesus, knowing Mary’s heart, put them the two together so they would care for one another. In this one act of compassion, Jesus forms a new kind of family unit – one that shares God’s incarnate love, even though it doesn’t share DNA. Together, this new family will carry and care for Christ in the ways they live out his love in the world.
Today our world is hurting, not just from the pandemic, but from the racial unrest, injustice and violence that permeates nearly every community. Now more than ever we need God to be present. And one of the ways God shows up, is in and through us. So yes, we are called to be mothers of God, because God is always in need of being born. The way we go about doing this is as diverse as the kinds of mothers out there.
My best example of motherhood isn’t my mom, or mother-in-law. But the mother of my three children. Since giving birth to our firstborn, Kathleen has been in a perpetual state of sleep deprivation. And yet we can always count on her to show up - with a snack, a story, a kiss for a booboo, or a lesson to learn. While there are so many different types of mothers out there, Kathleen takes it to a whole new level because she not only cares for the four of us, she opens her heart to the world. I believe I’m a better parent and a better person by watching her give birth to God’s love daily.
So to those who show up everyday wearing the hats of an EMT, a gourmet chef, a chauffeur, maid or mathematician; to those in the NICU’s and ICU’s of life watching over us and keeping us safe – today is your day, and we honor you with our love.
To those who juggle calendars, finish science projects, and make the time to make up stories that make us feel better – today is your day, and we honor you with our love.
To all the ones who show up to cheer us on and lift us up when we’re down; to those who are willing to be there when perhaps our own family can’t or won’t; to the ones who are always ready to open their homes and love us as if we were their own – today is your day, and we honor you with our love.
To the diversity of mothers, male and female alike, whose hands cradle us, whose hearts love us, whose eyes watch over us, whose ears listen to us – today is your day.
To anyone who stands up for what is right, demanding justice and leading us towards the way of peace, we honor you for showing us what incarnate love looks like.
You are the ones who give birth to God’s sustaining love, power and presence in the world. You are the ones who carry Christ. With each act of love, you allow him to form and take shape within your womb, and to bring him safely into being. “We are all called to be mothers of God for God is always waiting to be born.”
From his cross, Jesus unites us all, and calls us into a new kind family. One where, like Mary, we are mothers and children at the same time. We are also called to be disciples like John, who will risk it all for the sake of bearing the love of God, a love that is on full display even in the brutality of a Roman cross.
Yet by the blood of his cross we become a part of his bloodline - brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, bearing the love of God inside us.
So the question I ask of you today is this: Who will carry God’s love to full term?
Let us pray:
has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
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