Sunday, May 9, 2010

God is like a mother hen, mother bear, mother eagle: My Mother's Day Sermon - 6th Sunday of Easter 2010

Sixth Sunday of Easter readings

You know, there’s nothing like the power of a mother – the power of a mother hen to hide the chicks from the cruelties of the world; the power of the mother bear to chase away intruders with a deep growl; the power of the mother eagle to keep babies safe from harm with her wide wings.

When I was a child, we were driving on a dark dirt road near McFadden, Wyoming. It was really dark, but my dad spotted a baby jackrabbit. He stopped to show us, and it was really cute. Big eyes, big ears, big feet. Suddenly, out of the dark, rushed the mama jackrabbit. She jumped against his leg in a rage, until he finally scrambled up on the hood of the car to get away. Yep, mama jackrabbits are powerful too.

I couldn’t think of any thing in the Bible about mother jackrabbits, but Jesus says he wishes he could gather up the people like a mother hen gathers her chicks. In the 2nd chapter of 2nd Kings, Elisha was walking down the road while some kids made fun of his baldness. Elisha called down a curse and two bears came out of the woods and ate 42 of the kids. You don’t want to mess around with angry bears. A favorite hymn paraphrases Isaiah, “And I will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of my hand.”

I grew up with the tradition, carried on in the Book of Common Prayer, that God is our Father. There are so many other metaphors for God – metaphors that help my small human brain comprehend just a little of the amazing God who is our God. Some of the metaphors are challenging – metaphors like we heard in the hymn today: God is like a mother hen, God is like a mother bear, God is like a mother eagle.

The readings today seem to resonate with the theme of HOME. In the first lesson, Lydia, a wealthy woman who was a dealer in purple cloth, opened her heart to the words spoken by the disciples. She was baptized with all the members of her household – and then she opened her home to the disciples. In Revelation, we hear of the description of a great city where Jesus is the center – not the Temple, and where no electric lights or candles are needed because the light of God is so bright in that city. And in the reading from the Gospel of John, Jesus says those who love Jesus will be part of the family of God – that God will make his home with the followers of Jesus.

You know, families and homes come in many flavors. The center of the home may be Mother, or Father, or Granny, or Aunty or Big Brother or your dog or cat. . Some homes have two moms or two dads. The members of a home change over the years. Your home may have consisted of a mother and a father and some children, and now it may consist of just you or you and your spouse. My home currently consists of me, my oldest son, his wife, and Nigel and Johanna, ages 5 and 3. When my boys were teenagers I divorced, and then our home consisted of me, my three sons, and many of their friends who stayed for varying lengths of time. The members of a home may become part of the family through birth or adoption or rescue --- one of our family stories tells about the time when my great-grandfather rode the train to save a baby after the mother died, keeping the baby alive on a sugar pap, sugar water dripped from a cloth into the baby’s mouth, on a cross country train ride to my great-grandmother who was nursing a baby.

We know a lot about home from Culture, the world around us. We know that home is where you hang your heart. Robert Frost said “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. “ We live home, home on the range. Last weekend during the Kentucky Derby, we sang about our Old Kentucky home, far away.

I paraphrase Lane Denson, a retired Episcopal priest who grew up in the hills of Texas, “Home is that one place that manages to make you feel that you’re special and that you aren’t living up to your potential – all in one sentence.”

We know a lot about Mother from Culture too. We know the sweet Hallmark card side of Mother-Roses are red, violets are blue….

We know about Forrest Gump’s Mama: Forrest said “Mama always had a way of explaining things so I could understand them. Mama always said you have to put the past behind you before you can move on. Mama always said dying is part of life. And Mama always said Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.

We know about the Mother in our own lives – the center of the homes of our hearts – whether that was Mother or dad or Granny or Brother or pet.

We call the Church our home and we call the Church Mother – and it lives up to both of those. The church is a place where we belong, where we matter, where we make a difference. It is also a place where we are continually called to be something more than we already are – to live up to our potential to make a difference in the world.

Sometimes, Mom and Mother Church have a lot in common.

Mom says, Stand up straight! Today, Mother Church and women all over the world invite us to stand up at 1:00 PM today for the world’s children and grandchildren, and for seven more generations as we dream of a world with clean water for all, with education for all, with food for all, healthcare and homes and safety for all.

Mom says (at least mine did!) Go outside and blow the stink off! Mother Church asks us to dream about the ways we can help the children of the world go outside. You may be involved in cleaning up the environment, or working with children in a school program, or by helping with the Boys and Girls Art Show that we are helping them plan to raise money for their summer activities, or by going to Wyoming Wilderness Camp with the Homeless students of Natrona County or by gardening to make the world a more beautiful place.

Mom says Eat your vegetables! Mother Church invites your donations of non-perishable food for our hungry neighbors – this month they are going to St. Mark’s food pantry.

Mom says wash your hands! Brush your teeth! Mother Church asks you to spend a few minutes of your coffee hour today assembling toiletry bags for the homeless students of Natrona County.

Mom says Be nice to your brothers and sisters and friends. Mother Church asks us to join with God, who is both father and mother, bear and hen and eagle and jackrabbit, to make this world become the kingdom of God, in this time and place and for ever more.

Amen.