This sermon was written for Kerr Presbyterian Church for May, 10, 2020, Mothers’ Day, based on 1 Peter 2:2-10 and John 14:1-3.
Let us pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
We often say that God is Father, and this is good and right and true. We call God Father because Jesus called God Father. He even used the term of endearment for Father in his culture. He called God, “Abba,” Daddy.
And since Our Lord Jesus Christ welcomed us into the very family of God, adopting us, loving us despite our failures, we, too are invited to call God “Father.” We are even taught to pray that way saying, “Our Father, who art in heaven.”
But did you know that the Bible doesn’t just use Fatherly images to refer to God? God is not only Father, God is Mother as well. God is the creator of all the living. And throughout the Bible, we find passages where God is seen as mother.
Today in our lectionary Scriptures we have the joy of exploring two of those passages: 1 Peter 2 and John 14.
In 1 Peter we find one of the strongest images of God as mother that can be given. It is only mothers who have a certain joy, the joy of taking a newborn infant and feeding the child from her body. Today, we are called to think of God in that way. We are called to be children, who long for the milk of their mothers.
I can think of no image that could be more beautiful, no image that could be more intimate. We are to be so close to God, we are to long for God so strongly that the bond can only be described as the bond between mother and child.
And then we are given a second image today in our other passage. It is the image of God as homemaker. We are told that Jesus goes ahead of us to serve as host.
I often go to Philadelphia around this time of year to see my dear friends who still live there as I use to do. My friend Christine is truly the hostess with the most-est. She prepares a place for me every time I call and say that I am coming. She cleans the guest room and sets out new sheets and towels. She plans ahead special meals and sets me a place at the dinner table. She invites over other guests, mutual friends of ours to welcome me back home.
This is the image of God we are given. God as the hostess with the most-est who sets before us a place where we can let down our hair. A place where we can truly be ourselves, resting, rejuvenating, laughing, being reminded that we loved not because of what we bring or do but simply because of who we are.
God as Mother.
For some of us, this may be welcomed news. Maybe some of us never thought of God as Mother before. Some of us have complicated relationships with our fathers and when we think of God as father we may come to the misunderstanding that God is like an earthly father, one who was absent from our lives or abusive towards us or dismissive of our hopes.
Of course, we know logically that this is not true, that God is the very best Father a person could ever ask for, a good Father who is always with us, who created us with purpose and love, who does not harm us but longs for our good. But nonetheless, for some there is freedom in being able to think of God as Mother. As a good Mother who comforts us, prepares a place for us, teaches us.
For others thinking of God as Mother may bring sorrow today. For those who had good mothers—and good mothers comes in a variety of shapes and sizes (mothers who stay-at-home or who home-school their children, mothers who work, mothers who are both mother and father, mothers who cook and bake, mothers who microwave, all types of women are good mothers)–For those with good mothers who have now gone on to the next life this day can be a hard day. Many of us miss our mothers and long for their presence in our lives.
And for some it is difficult to think of God as Mother because our relationship with our mothers is complicated. Maybe we never knew our birth mothers and think of a grandmother or aunt or father as our mother. Maybe addiction to substances or mental illness kept our mothers from being able to be the kind of mother we wished we had. Maybe we ourselves longed to be a mother but for whatever reason that was not how life turned out.
Just as it is difficult for some to think of God as Father, it is difficult for others to imagine God as Mother, but I think that’s the beauty of Scripture.
Scripture does not limit God, it gives us the ability to see God as one who is so much bigger than our imagination can behold. God is not bound to one notion of worldly gender, but instead transcends the very best of what worldly notions can say about even our most intimate relationships, the relationship between parent and child.
And in that, there is freedom.
There is freedom today for the parent who feels overwhelmed. If you are weighed down today as a parent, especially in these coronavirus days of cooking every meal at home and feeling like the dishes never stop. Of having the challenge of working and trying to be teacher to your kids at the same time. Or of not working and wondering if you are going to be able to provide for your kids. If you are overwhelmed this day, than the reminder that God is our Mother can bring freedom. Take a deep breath. Know that you don’t have to be everything to everyone. You don’t have to be the perfect mother, whatever the image of perfection in your head is, for there is only one who is perfect, God our Lord. And God is our comfort and our strength, the Perfect Mother when we are in need.
And there is freedom for those who may not have an earthly mother. If your mother has gone on to the next life or if your mother was never a person who you could call mommy or mum, than know that God is one who is not a distant, aloof God. Rather, God is a Good Mother, one who draws us near, who invites us to taste and see that God is good, one who teaches and comforts and hosts. We can find freedom in knowing that we all have a Good Mother, the Creator above all.
And there is freedom for those who long to be mothers but are not able to be because we couldn’t have children or because our children have gone before us into the next life. The Scriptures bring freedom for those who long to be mothers. We are told in the book of Genesis that we humans are all created in the image of God, male and female we are created in God’s image. And part of that image is being Mother. You are a mother whether or not you have children. You have the ability within you to love and encourage and nurture and teach and to do all the things we associate with Mother-ness. So whether you have children of your own or whether you have students or nanny-babies or church kiddos who you mentor or foster children, know that you are deeply loved. Your call to be a mother is never done even if it looks different than you thought it might.
And there is freedom today for those who do have good mothers on this earth, freedom to celebrate our mothers. If you have a mum or a mommy, celebrate her today. Know that when we experience the love of our mothers, we are experiencing the love of God shining through our mothers. And mothers know that you are so deeply appreciated for all that you do even when we don’t say it enough: we love you and are so thankful for you. Thank you for being an example to us and for loving us as God first loved you.
On this Mother’s Day, let us rejoice that God is our Mother and that this sets us free to love more boldly knowing we are loved intimately.