A Mothering God
Mothers Day, May 13, 2012
2 Timothy 1:1-7
“A woman had decided to quit work outside the home for a time to stay home and take care of her new baby daughter. She was amazed at how exhausting it was! Countless hours of peekaboo and other games slowly took their toll. One evening she smacked her bare toes on the corner of a dresser and, grabbing her foot, sank to the floor. Her husband just home from his job, rushed to her side and asked where it hurt. She looked at her husband through her tear-filled eyes and managed to moan, "It's the piggy that ate the roast beef."
Another harried mother had three very active boys. One summer evening she was playing cops and robbers in the back yard after dinner. One of the boys "shot" his mother and yelled, "Bang! You're dead." She slumped to the ground. When she didn't get up right away, a neighbor ran over to see if she had been hurt in the fall.
I invite you to bring to mind times in your life when the mothering love you received or gave they such a huge difference. And I will share some of my own stories.
We usually say around our house that my mother raised us five children, but that is totally understating the case.
-For several years when I was young my mother was also caring for my father's mother living in our home. Mimi was manic/depressive, in and out of the state mental hospital, then in and out our home repeatedly.
-For quite a while my father's sister lived in our home. Helene fought depression and lived with us when she wasn't in the state mental hospital.
-For years my father's sister’s daughter, Katherine,lived in our home, until she old enough to go off to school.
The caring that my mom offered all of us was not always the kind and gentle sort, but there was plenty of that as well. She gave and gave and gave. I remember that sometimes at the end of the day she would collapse back into the couch utterly exhausted. As children, of course, we had little comprehension of all that she provided for us.
Six months ago my baby sister, Becky Evenson, who lives in New Orleans realized that May 9th of this year my mother would have her birthday and that this was a very special birthday, 85 years old. Becky suggested that we five children plan a surprise birthday brunch and invite all our relatives, all her friends at church and in the community where she has lived for 54 years. So yesterday morning at this time mom was basking in the glow of a brunch in her honor with most of her world present.
In order to pull off a surprise we had to concoct an elaborate totally fabricated back story “explaining” how my sisters living in West Arkansas and New Orleans mysteriously appeared at mom's home Friday night.
Then yesterday morning as she arrived at what had been billed to her as a brunch fundraiser for a youngster at the health clinic my sister Libby staffs, mom was stunned just inside the door to see Becca who, she had been told, couldn't make it to Florida because of her work.
Mom was clearly shaken. Her world was coming unhinged. 2 sisters, their husbands, and now Becca, suddenly, strangely, wonderfully appearing.
It was less than 10 seconds later, to he ease her into a truly stunning, exquisite, gathering of the most of her personal social network in one place, I leaned over and whispered into mom's ear, “ and now for one more great big surprise .” We rounded the corner and the crowd of over 150 people, all her beloved, broke into a roar of congratulations.
You can imagine all the love being shown to her. So if Becca and I look a little bedraggled this morning it's because we didn't arrive home in Austn until earlier this morning, yet we are filled with memories of yesterday and filled with thanksgiving for years of loving relationship.
Let me suggest, that what we experienced yesterday, and what we all experience on each on Mother's Day, is akin to what we experience every time we worship God. I'm not saying that our mothers are somehow equal with God, no, but the impossibility of expressing to our mothers what they mean to us and how thankful we are for them, parallels the difficulty that we have in conveying to God the thanksgiving for all the gifts we have received.
As in our relationship with God, were it not for the gift of life from our mother, we would not be here.
As in our relationship with God, were it not for that loving care of our mothers we might have grown hard and cold and unforgiving and selfish.
While the New Testament language was bold enough to refer to God as “father”, and Jesus used the endearing term “daddy” to describe his relationship with God, for most of us the picture of God that is most accurate, would not be our earthly father, but rather, our earthly mother.
For most of us it was our mothers who were closest to us in providing all the education that we needed to become responsible citizens of the world. It was our mothers who taught us how to tie our shoes and wash our hands, to say and to mean “thank you” when someone has done us a kindness.
Was it your mother or your father or someone else, who first taught you the need to forgive other people?
Was it your mother or your father or someone else, that demonstrated to you the joy you can find in giving to someone in need or contributing your energy to some project to benefit others? I'm betting most of you would say, “mom.”
Let me suggest this Mother's Day that the best honoring of our mothers’ ministry to us that we can offer is to recapitulate, to re-iterate, to reincarnate, to repeat, repeat, repeat the sharing of love that they demonstrated to us.
For those of us whose mothers are still living, a part of that loving we can offer back is to our mothers themselves. But whether our mothers are living or not, the bulk of our loving will be for others than our mothers.
Many of us are blessed with jobs in which we can show loving concern for others. Many of us have learned ways of reaching out to others through ministries of this congregation and ministries in the community. Mom would be pleased. Consider one example:
In England in the 1940s there was a young woman who entered Oxford University with little focus for her life. She just did not know what she wanted to be or do. But she soon came under the influence of a colorful professor of English, a writer with a gift, named C. S. Lewis. Her story is that she became a Christian largely because of his influence.
She left Oxford, against the advice of friends and family, and began to study nursing. After five more years of rigorous training, she was certified as a nurse.
“But her story doesn't end there, for her questing, Christian spirit would not let her rest with the way things were. You see, she ended up working on a cancer ward in a London hospital. Gradually, she came to realize that most of the doctors ignored the patients who were deemed terminally ill. With the result being that she watched many of them die virtually alone.”
This troubled her greatly. She felt that Christian compassion needed expression to these patients in a more comforting way. She approached the hospital administration with an idea she had for surrounding those dying of cancer with friends and loved ones during their last days, rather than isolating them in sterile rooms with strangers. Her radical ideas were quickly rejected.
Not deterred, she enrolled in medical school to try to make a difference even though she was already 33 years old and would not graduate until she was at least 39.
As she had hoped, she did make a difference, for she founded a movement that makes it possible for dying patients to live their remaining days in a setting of love and support, honoring them, and protecting their dignity.
Cicely Saunders, out of Christian compassion and a sense of calling to help in a specific way, began a movement in England in the 1950s that later moved to America and that many of you know only too well. It is called the Hospice Movement, and it drew its inspiration from Jesus' own passion and compassion -- "as a hen gathers her brood under her wings."[ii] And I know of the value of that ministry first hand.
By marrying Becca I was gifted with the finest mother-in-law you can imagine. In late 2004 Becca’s mother, Marie, was diagnosed with cancer, that in time proved to be terminal. In Feb. of 2005 we drove her from Sarasota to Kalamazoo, specifically to Rose Arbor Hospice in Kalamazoo, where she was provided for in so many wholesome ways. Marie had cared for so many in her life as a pastor’s wife, neighbor, and friend. She had started a ministry to street people that is still serving Sarasota’s poorest today.
On June 9, 2005 Marie Kutz passed away.
On July 14, exactly 5 weeks later, Cicely Saunders then 87, passed away in the loving arms of St. Christopher’s Hospice that she herself had founded.
I hope today will bask in the mothering love you received, as you reflect on it, give thanks for, be heartened by the memories.
When like my mom Kay Marks, like Becca's mom, Marie Kutz, and like Cicely Saunders we learn that we are going to find our deepest fulfillment only when in true Christian stewardship of all that we have and all that we are, we become ready to give of ourselves to others;
to give of ourselves for principles springing from a deep human compassion;
to give of ourselves to the saving work of Jesus Christ -- only then will we all have that “one more great big surprise”-
the joy that flows from a generous heart.