A lot of people in the world have it tough. Let’s be honest, this world can be cruel and challenging at times. People live with different challenges based on all sorts of ‘lots’ that the world has placed upon them. Mothers have it tough. They play a variety of roles in the world. The one role I would like to talk about today is the role of a mother to a child. In particular, I’m going to unload about my mother here for a moment, and I promise I won’t lie down with my back on the couch to speak for the next 30 minutes.
Let me be honest first about children (and by ‘child’ I mean anyone who has yet to reach individual independence…and since there are plenty of older people like that as well, let’s say under the age of 30): children often give off mixed messages.
‘Let me be free!’ … ‘Can I have $50?’
‘Let me live my life!’ … ‘What am I going to do with my life?’
‘I’m old enough to make responsible decisions.’ … ‘I might have driven the car into a lake last night.’
One moment a child may be screaming for the demise of a mother; the next she may be sitting in her mother’s lap. One moment he may be traveling the world feeling immortal; the next he may be calling mom ‘just to check in’. One moment children wish to be treated as grown adults; the next they wish to be told everything will be okay. This dynamic really never ends in life; the relationship between that of a child and a mother is a mystery, as I’m sure many of can testify.
So what is a mother of a child supposed to do? My dad was always content to ‘let the chips fall where they may’ and for my three siblings and I to deal with the consequences of life as we venture through what he calls ‘the dark side’ as we ventured through the young adult years. My mother, on the other hand, just didn’t have it in her to see us struggle. Time after time, money request after money request, call from jail after call from jail (some of these do not pertain directly to me by the way), my mom would be the one to pick up the phone, show up to offer a ride, or simply be there to calm frazzled nerves. Mom has always been there.
I have not always been the best son to my mother. There have been numerous times where I have said the wrong thing, didn’t act the way I should have, or simply failed to accept the love offered by my mom. Nevertheless, mom was there. In many ways I have been quite fortunate to grow up with a mother who has wanted the best for me, and who lives her life with that goal each and every day, even now as I am no longer a child.
This narrative is certainly not true of all mothers, and many of us have our own stories, both good and bad, to tell. I realize not everyone has shared in similar experiences as mine either with their mothers as children, or even as a parent with a child; some relationships are complicated at best. Whatever your experience, I believe God uses human relationships to share a glimpse into our relationship with our Creator. Within the mystery of human relationships we discover a loving divine parent who will not give up on us, and who will always be there.
Upon reading this Psalm this week, I couldn’t help but think of a child and a loving God, perhaps like that of a mother. So as with any Mother’s Day celebration, let’s look at some poetry this morning. No, this will not be smooth and sophisticated ‘roses are red, violets are blue’ rhymes of my 3rd grade self to my mother, but that of the Psalmist from Psalm 31…
So should we understand God through the lens of our mothers? As I have said before, depending on your relationship with your mother, that may perhaps be a good start, but it certainly cannot be how we understand God in totality. And let’s be honest here, isn’t that a bit of pressure to put on mom?
No, I think what we can perhaps take away from the psalm this morning is more about the unconditional relationship with our Creator. Yes, other humans, especially mom, have been put in our lives, and can point us to God’s love. As the Jewish saying goes, ‘God could not be everywhere, so he made mother.’ But this saying is only partially true. The Good News is this: as children of God, we forever have a loving parent who will always be with us.
One of my favorite thinkers of the day, Fr. Richard Rohr, offers a few thoughts about the human experience and salvation. This quote also helps to explain the relationship of the psalmist with God as loving parent. Despite all of the ups and downs of life, all of the trials and tribulations, God is here, leading us to new life. He writes:
At our low points, we are one step away from either enlightenment or despair. Without faith that there is a Bigger Pattern, and the grace to surrender to that Bigger Pattern, most people will move into despair, negativity, or cynicism. We need a promise, a hopeful direction, or it is very hard not to give up.
When you have not yet learned what transformation feels or looks like, someone—perhaps some loving human or simply God’s own embrace—needs to hold you now because you cannot hold yourself.
When we experience this radical holding, and even deep loving, this is salvation!
Friends, in the spirit of the Easter celebration, we celebrate salvation today. We celebrate a God who is our refuge, despite how lost or forsaken we may feel. We witness to the truth of God’s constant presence in the life, death, and resurrection of the risen Christ.
And in the same way that Christ responded to God’s love, we also utter these words of faith and trust:
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.
Today, on this 5th Sunday of Easter, on this Mother’s Day, we celebrate God who uses the relationships in our lives to highlight the fact that we are all children of God, and that we are beloved—always.
May we continue to celebrate the lives of all those who remind us of this promise, and may we celebrate the living God who calls us to realize this promise each day. Amen.