Today is a day of healing and inclusion.
What a perfect connection to “Mothering.”
Let’s start with the Gospel.
When Jesus is walking in the portico he is addressed by those who want him to verify once and for all if he is the Messiah they have been waiting for? Jesus answered, "I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me.”
What you don’t know from this brief Gospel, is that in the previous story, Jesus has been healing on the Sabbath. And those who are strict in their observance of the law are frustrated by this behavior. It is the story of the blind man. He regains both physical and spiritual sight. Jesus assures the crowd he is not blind because of some sin of his or his parents. Jesus gives everyone spiritual insight that day, at least those who believed.
Jesus is walking at the Festival of the Dedication. They are referring to the dedication of the second temple which celebrates the successful victory of the Jewish people over the Syrian Greek invaders who had taken over Jerusalem. It was about two hundred years before Jesus’ time. You may have heard of it as the Macabbean Wars. It was a three year battle - and they were fighting for their religious beliefs. Today we know the celebration as Hanukkah.
Back to the story…
Jesus is walking in the portico of Solomon. Porticos are like a covered walkway with columns. You’ve probably seen them in pictures. The Temple is a big space with several courtyards. The portico that separates the gentiles from the other courts in the temple apparently had warning signs. Archeologists have discovered one that read:
IS TO GO BEYOND THE BALUSTRADE
AND THE PLAZA OF THE TEMPLE ZONE
WHOEVER IS CAUGHT DOING SO
WILL HAVE HIMSELF TO BLAME
FOR HIS DEATH
WHICH WILL FOLLOW
Pretty serious segregation.
This is the spot where Jesus walked - where he walked and where he healed and where the disciples later also healed those we did not consider worth healing. Those who were foreign or those the community did not include.
Although our readings may seem wildly different this morning they do have a thread I’d like to explore: Healing. We have several images which include sheep, and consolation and care from the Shepherd. But we also have images of inclusion.
The psalm is not just about safety, but about hospitality. This God is inviting the psalmist to the table.
“You spread a table for me in the presence of those that trouble me.”
What an inviting description of “acceptance.” To have someone, let alone God, set a table for you in the very midst of anxiety and stress: Nourishment! You are welcome. You are affirmed, recognized and honored by a seat at the table. Oh, how we are healed by inclusion.
And rather than an old testament lesson, we have a lesson from the Early Christian Church from the book of Acts that follows Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Peter has reached the Gentiles with his commission from Jesus. Not only this, but he has been given the power to heal people through the Holy Spirit gifted to him by Jesus. Disciples call on Peter when Dorcus falls ill. He kneels down and invokes the Spirit.
Beyond being one of the early community, she is Greek: a Gentile woman, someone who previously would have been segregated from the community. The book of Acts is illustrative of the Christian mission and struggle to move out into the world to all nations.
Finally, we come to the book of Revelation which means unveiling. Revelation offers us intense imagery with details that sound otherworldly. It is symbolic and apocalyptic in nature. Apocalyptic in describing the end of the world as we know it, and unveiling a God centered reality.…Although Revelation is cosmic in its descriptions, it also deals with very vulnerable human yearnings and need for protection.
“for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
God is described here so like a tender mother.
While the vision may seem scary at first because the symbols are foreign to us, it is a healing vision. And it is also inclusive.
In the vision there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice. They cried out in ONE voice. Because we are all children of God.
We don’t all have to be literal mothers to feel this stirring. We know this in our guts.
Today is Mother’s Day. In the United States, early on it had also became an anti war response. During the Civil War the day sought the movement of reconciliation between Union and Confederate soldiers, where mother’s came together for this healing work.
In 1870 a Mother’s Day Proclamation sought to bring mother’s together united to promote World Peace. Our Official Mother’s Day arose later in the early 1900s.
Mother’s Day throughout the years has been a day used by abolitionists, feminists, and peacemakers to promote social justice, peace, inclusivity and equality.
Mother’s Day is a healing day. For some of us it can be a very difficult day sometimes a sad day, for a myriad of personal reasons. But today is a healing day. There is a quote attributed to 13th century theologian Meister Eckhart:
"We are all meant to be mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born.”
There are many “mothers" in this parish who did not literally give birth to a child. St. Paul’s is full of nurturing individuals. Taking the lead from Jesus, you shepherd: comfort, console, raise families, sacrifice your time, and pour out your love. Just as Jesus said, “my works testify to me,” …I believe these actions are a testimony to God being born in the world.
So on this Mother’s Day let us pray…
Pray for Peace in the name of Jesus our Prince of Peace
Pray for Healing by the Power of the Holy Spirit
And Pray for unity through a God who wipes away all of our tears with those almighty hands of love.
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The Rev. Heather K. Sisk