May 19, 2020; Mother’s Day Scripture John 14: 1-14 Jan Savory
Today we celebrate Mother’s Day, so let’s celebrate mothering wherever it’s found. We celebrate the mother in everyone
Mothers Day or Mothering Sunday?
Until about 10 years ago, I celebrated two Mother’s Days each year. With my Children and Grandchildren, I celebrate being a mother on the second Sunday in May. But I celebrated having a mother on the 4th Sunday in Lent, which is Mother’s Day in the UK. The other name for the day in Britain is Mothering Sunday. It started as a church thing and had nothing to do with mothers at all. It was a day for Christians to visit their “mother” church. In the past, domestic servants had the day off to return to their hometown and worship with their families. Over the years it morphed into a day to celebrate Mothers. But I still like the original name Mothering Sunday.
We all have mothered someone
If we were in church today, I’d ask for 2 shows of hands: those who are mothers and those who have mothered someone. And I would expect to see more hands go up for the second showing because many of us who are nor biologically mothers have mothered someone – be it step children, adopted children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, those we baby sat, even our own parents as they reached the ends of their lives. I’d even expect to see some (if not all) of the men raise their hands. I know my late husband would have; in the years between his divorce and our marriage, as sole custody parent he was both mother and father to our children.
What is mothering?
The dictionary defines mothering as a noun meaning the activity of bringing up a child as a mother or as an adjective meaning relating to or characteristic of a mother, especially in being caring, protective, kind and nurturing.
It is, of course, in this second sense of being caring, protective, kind and nurturing that most, if not all, of us can raise our hands to say we have mothered someone.
God as mother
So, think about the social norms in Biblical times. It’s not surprising that the Bible’s and Jesus’ emphasis is on God as Father. But there are places in the Bible where God the Mother shows through the patriarchal writing and editing. We see in Genesis chapter one that the “Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Now, the word for spirit, in Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek is female and hovering has been interpreted as brooding, like a broody hen protecting her eggs. It’s a fanciful image of God giving birth to (hatching) the created universe. There are instances in other parts of the Hebrew scriptures of the way God mothers His people.
Here are a couple: In Hosea 11:3-4 God says “Yet it was I who taught Ephraim [one of the 12 tribes] to walk, I who took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.” And in Isaiah 66:13, God proclaims: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.”
Jesus, too, used the image of motherhood: “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!” And this takes us back to Genesis and the broody hen!
Made in God’s image – male and female
Still in Genesis 1, we learn that God created humanity in God’s own image. “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Now, we know that God is beyond gender, but we can only think of the unknowable in images and metaphors. I believe that, as this verse implies, God includes (yes, and transcends) the qualities of male and female, father and mother. This means we can and should too. It is very gratifying to me to observe that many of us are now comfortable exhibiting traits of both genders. Women are becoming more assertive, men more nurturing. We need the traits of both genders in our society. Le’s celebrate the Mother instinct in everyone.
Your money or your life
A recent article in the Globe and Mail called “Your Money or your Life”, discussed saving the economy vs saving lives. It contrasted the attitude in previous pandemics, where life went on as usual, with this one.
“In every economic crisis in the past, we listened to economists, usually men and often scolding, as they told us how to protect the flow of holy capital. In the COVID-19 pandemic, the shots are being called by public health doctors, many of them women, trained to value human life and collective physical well-being. This is new: Their advice tends to be practical. This new chain of command feels different, more earthbound and compelling, even kind of radical.”
Mothers know life is sacred
I’d even say we are now learning as a society what so many of us already knew. Life is sacred. Mothers, as the carriers and nurturers of new life, have been the flag bearers of this attitude. But all of us who have mothered and fostered life in whatever way – caring for the sick, aged and infirm, nurturing the young, having compassion on those around us – we too have been instrumental in proclaiming and practicing the sacredness of life. Isn’t this what Jesus taught us and lived himself? Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth … love your neighbours, love one another as I have loved you. And, as John recorded in today’s reading, Jesus said: “If you know me, you will know my Father also.”
So this Mother’s day, let’s recognize that we can worship our unknowable God as our Mother as well as our Father. And, on a strange Mother’s Day when many of us will be physically distanced from our Mothers, Grandmothers children and grandchildren, let’s celebrate the Mother in all of us by caring for each other.