The other day I was meeting with the General Presbyter of the our Presbytery, Linda Badger Becker, and we got to talking about wise words that we received from our mothers growing up.
Linda shared a saying that her mother said to her and that she passed on to her children. “Balloons break and milk spills!” In other words, “stuff happens!” Indeed “stuff” does happen.
My own mother’s wise words to me were “This too shall pass!”
She was right. At the time … whatever it was… was earth-shattering. Now I can’t even remember.
Do you have memories of mother wisdom?
I was thinking of Toya Graham, the mother who pulled her son Michael from the mayhem in Baltimore and made him drop his brick and take off his mask. And while it is not Deanne’s and my style of parenting she smacked him to make her point clear: “You know better!”
The lesson is one we all know the truth of: Don’t mess with Momma!
Mother’s Day can be fraught with many emotions – unfinished business, sadness, dysfunctional relationships, unfulfilled desires for ourselves – there’s lots going on.
But I don’t want to miss an opportunity to reflect on the mothering power of God, the nurturing call of the Divine one for you, and the prophetic feminine directive to reach out in mission to all the children.
It is ironic that the passage in John’s gospel in the original Greek is loaded with “father” language. Four times in nine verses! Thankfully, we know that Jesus calling God “daddy” “Abba,” or the more formal “PATer” was not limiting but rather evocative, poetic, and permissive for us to interpret and stretch the metaphor.
So we can replace “Father” with “Mother” or with “Father-Mother” in our prayers and our bible reading and it is all good. What we believe is that Momma – while a projection of both what is best and worst in the human condition – is also the model for human relationship. Because, absolutely, god is a projection of us. It’s true. But the question is not so much how God is a projection of the human condition but rather how much you and I are a projection of the divine condition!
The kind of love that abides, nurtures, frees, creates, and births. The kind of love that can’t always protect but is always present… always. That’s God!
Because all God wants for her children – that is you and me – is for them to grow into the gifts given to them.
We might chase after jobs. But Mother God wants us to find our vocation.
We may chase after careers. But Mother God wants us to seek our professions, to know how your life professes who you are.
And yes, Mother God needs you to come to supper every once in a while. But she also wants you to find your own path and live a life that is rich and full.
Mother God loves her babies, will gather them under her wing, and pull them to her breast – but she wants you to grow up!
Mother God wants her joy to be complete in your life. And don’t confuse joy happiness with joy. Happiness is fleeting. We’re not always happy. God wants us to go deeper than happiness, all the way to joy, this rich contentment that happy or sad we still belong to God. That’s real joy.
Jesus says in verse 13: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.”
Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be best friends with my mother or father; there are some things that only friends know about. But I know what Jesus is talking about when he talks about a mature relationship.
Jesus wants a mature relationship with us. He wants a mature relationship with you because – and you know this to be true, psychologists tell us this – the healthy, functional relationships that we have with our parents is when we can be adult to adult (even if I still need a little mothering now and again!) The older I get, the more appreciative I am of my mother and father – they gave me everything.
And the older I get the more I realize that I become almost the parent of my parents. It is a strange role to grow into. But sometimes hard things need to be said, and difficult choices need to be made – and the children have to step up! The children need to talk back! We are allowed to do that to God – just read the Psalms.
I remember a time when Deanne and I were going to do something, I forget what it was, but I was a bit tentative to share the news with my parents – I was still living in the old-fashioned model of “I need their permission!” and “They may not like this.” That was a vestige of an immature relationship – and here in John’s gospel you and I get this amazing description.
We’re told that God doesn’t t want slaves. God doesn’t want little babies. God wants you to grow up! God wants a mature relationship with you. God wants you to be an adult. God wants grown up friendship. God wants you to grow up, be an adult, a friend, no longer a servant who doesn’t know what the “master” is doing, or who cowers worried that you might get in trouble. God wants you to be independent, and do something interesting, and develop yourself; get a little backbone! – and get a little provocative, and draw outside the lines, and risk doing something against the norm. The more interesting you get, the more interesting God gets.
Jesus says: “You did not choose me but I chose you.” Now that’s family talking there! “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.” You and I are children of God – and as a Christian, I believe that we can’t lose that designation anymore than I can ever stop being a Lentz – this is my heritage, my name. Through the power of God and the salvation of Jesus and the blessing the Holy Spirit – in this family, you and I have a name, and a heritage and a designation and a mission. For we are marked and called to serve God and to love God by loving others.
I may not live up to the Lentz name or the Christian name – but I am what I am and we are what we are, across income, and race, and politics. We can fight all we want – that is what families do sometimes – but when push comes to shove, we truly are in this together.
You and I were born to bear fruit, born to make witness, born in and through Jesus Christ to love others as God loves us. That’s the only command! Love God, love your neighbor. To reach out beyond our circle of identity and love every child – to be an advocate for the least among us – to share our gifts.
And I believe this is where we receive the prophetic call of the mothering God, because Tamir Rice is our child.
Children who can’t get health care are our children.
Children who go to bed hungry are our children.
There’s no “them” or “those” – in the kingdom family it is all “us” and “ours.” All! That’s what this is all about.
Mother God calls you and me to expand our notion of mothering.
Mother God is willing to give us everything – and in fact she already has – her son.
And you and I have both the means and capacity as a church, and as a nation, to fulfill what we often pray for – that every child have a chance to receive love and give love, to bear fruit. It is a matter of priorities.
And sometimes Mother God, just like our mothers say: “You figure it out! You’ve got gifts. Don’t come running to me.”
This is the command of God – it is not a threat, because we are no longer children – but an invitation to grow up and be in relationship with the one who named you and claimed you and gave her life for you. The only command we have is to love God and to love others and be the kind of children that transform this world!
God: Thank you, Mom! For all you have given us!