Rev. Kit Billings
May 11, 2003
Today is Mother's Day and so I want to begin my message with you this morning by saying Happy Mother's Day to every mom here today. By being who you are, a stable place for love, discipline and understanding, you help God make the world go round. A little boy, who was told by his mother that it was God who made people good, responded, "Yes, I know it is God, but mothers help a lot."
Good mothers are precious in God's eyes and it's a joy to honor you today. For me it's vital to honor our moms because mothers are blessed by God with a very special affection for love inside of them, which is a pure and precious gift from the Lord----it's an affection that has a beautiful two-fold effect:
It has a love and joy for nurturing and caring for your children, and to give them encouragement when they need it.
An abiding affection for the truth of what love is and how it relates so directly into the Lord, and therefore to our salvation.
A good and wise mommy is a PRECIOUS JEWEL for the Lord because she is able to consistently lives from the wells of love that stimulate her being. God NEEDS good mothers here on earth in the biggest of ways, because you help God's babies and children to hopefully feel and experience life with a strong presence of goodness, and overall an aura of love and tenderness. You help the Lord in preparing your children to know from a feeling-based perspective what real love is and that it is truly the central purpose and reason to live. I like this paraphrase of I Corinthians 13 to illustrate my point:
If I live in a house of spotless beauty with everything in its place, but have not love, I am a housekeeper--not a homemaker. If I have time for waxing, polishing, and decorative achievements, but have not love, my children learn cleanliness - not godliness. Love leaves the dust in search of a child's laugh. Love smiles at the tiny fingerprints on a newly cleaned window. Love wipes away the tears before it wipes up the spilled milk. Love picks up the child before it picks up the toys. Love is present through the trials and can reprimand and stand firm after little Johnny pulls the gumball machine over at the market, and gives him a firm leg to hug after his chastisement. Love reprimands, reproves, and is responsive. Love crawls with the baby, walks with the toddler, runs with the child, then stands aside to let the youth walk into adulthood. Love is the key that opens salvation's message to a child's heart. Before I became a mother I took glory in my house of perfection. Now I glory in God's perfection of my child. As a mother, there is much I must teach my child, but the greatest of all is love.
-- Author Unknown
Emanuel Swedenborg had some nice and intelligent things to say about why it's important to honor our fathers and mothers. He wrote:
To honor thy father and mother in the natural sense, which is the sense of the letter (in God's Word), means to honor parents, to obey them, to be attentive to them, and to show gratitude to them for the benefits they confer; which are, that they feed and clothe their children, and introduce them into the world that they may enjoy life as civil and moral beings, and also may enter into heaven by the precepts of religion…and all these things they do from the love in which they are from the Lord, in whose stead they act.
So far I've been focusing mostly with you on our natural mothers, but now I want to head into another very important direction with you. I want to talk about another kind of mother we all could not live without—and that's the Mother that God is wedded to, our Church! I'm referring now to both the grand, Universal Church of love and goodness that encompasses the whole world made up of many faiths and religions, and also the Lord's Christian Church in specific. As our church teachings so wisely and beautifully denote, there is a Universal Church, which embodies all good men and women everywhere who believe in One God as their religion teaches. And within that one great universal body of believers are those who function like the heart and lungs of the great universal body of God---these people are the genuine, loving and faithful Christians who really live their faith----they ground their belief in and love for the Lord in lives centered in love for others----------these are the folks who both believe in the divinity of Christ and who love Him ardently! Also, these are the ones who truly perceive that Jesus is God, the One Lord who contains the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit within Him and who are passionate about learning His truth because it leads us into Love, which means into salvation. In other words, they are the Christians who understand deeply that compassion and faith must go hand-in-hand because God's Word teaches this, which leads people into a life of love as Christ showed by what He did on earth.
Our theology states that such a genuine Christian Church functions in this world as the heart and lungs of the Universal Human, the Universal Body of God's People, because the spiritual warmth and light that flows through you actually gives subconscious life and light to all non-Christians who won't ever know in this world that you're doing so. The heart and lungs keep the body going, and so do all the wise and loving followers of Jesus.
Our congregation is part of this blessed heart and lungs of God's kingdom on earth, in short because we protect, love and teach the truth in the Word, which reveals the Lord to all. We're so deeply blessed to not just be joyfully welcomed by Christ into this amazingly good and gifted church, but also to be offered by the Lord to be part of her life! The Christian Church is in you and you are in it, yet she is also greater than any one person. In fact, it is true to say that the Church is our SPIRITUAL MOTHER. For regarding our souls and our inner minds it is the church, in a real sense, that can carry us in her loving womb, educate us about divine and spiritual truth, and be a powerful force and affection for the truth her Light bears, that shines out from within God's Holy Word.
The Lord grew to such an eminent love and regard for the Church as His spiritual Bride that He could say such things as we read in Luke 8 this morning…and we read that Jesus said, “My mother and my brother are those who hear the Word of God and do it.” And again on the cross with His natural mother, Mary, standing by weeping Christ spoke to her and said as He referred to His disciple John: “Woman, behold your son!” And then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
We read in further in True Christian Religion, “…to honor father and mother (in the Fourth Commandment) means (above all else) to adore and love God and the church.” Thus, the deeper, spiritual mind may know no other father and no other mother than the Lord and His church, since people are within them born anew of the Lord by the caring and teaching within the church. Reading further in T.C.R., “…the church is meant by mother (in a high sense) in the spiritual sense, since just as a mother on earth feeds her children with natural food, the church feeds them with spiritual food; and for this reason the church is frequently called “mother” in the Word.
I invite you to recall some moment, perhaps one you've encountered here today, where your spirit or mind felt blessed and touched by seeing something new, a new truth or idea that lifted you up inside, that fed you with a crucial and heartfelt new awareness of how God is with you and helps you to find your way. You may recall a time in church or while reading a good sermon or book published by the church that opened you into a new awareness of how the Lord loves you as His very own. Or maybe a memory of when during worship a special story was told or a song was sung that gently strummed the strings of your soul within you and made a new song of joy and faith in God rise as a new dawn opens the morning with Light!
What makes the Church our Spiritual Mother is that she has a passionate love of what is good and true, the kind of truth about God or yourself that causes deep growth in your understanding and in the way in which you strive more ardently to live the life that Jesus taught us to live. One of the clearest ways I know of to describe the character of the genuine Christian Church is that she is wedded to the Lord. And to be honest with you, THAT is precisely my experience of the real and living New Church of God that lives inside of the religion we call the Swedenborgian Church of North America. And this is why I have devoted my life to serving our blessed Spiritual Mother, the Lord's New Church on earth. The Holy Spirit of Love and Wisdom is within this denomination, and it contains within it a brilliant and glorious system of doctrinal theology to help those seeking a very balanced, reasonable and helpful understanding of God's Word. There are many other very good and useful churches on earth, and ours is sure one of them.
For the Bible on its own, without the insightful teachings of our theology in the New Church, can be not only confusing but also at times contradictory. But our Mother Church gives us such great help to search out and find the truth in God's Word for yourself. And as we each in our own, personal and special way take up our journey of growth and learning, again the church and her community of caring people are always here when we need them to help us as we learn. Every week we can count on someone loving us and giving us a smile. Every day whenever you need it, there's someone within this humble community of seekers who can be there for you when or if you need them. And what a blessing it is to feel and know that all around us, in Christian churches across the world, there live many others who adore the Lord and are willing to offer a caring ear. I have met many such people on plane rides and elsewhere and it moves me thoroughly to know that the Lord's Church, our spiritual Mother, has cared for them too.
No wonder the Fourth Commandment bids us to both love and honor the Lord as our Heavenly Father and the Church as our spiritual Mother. Let us join in prayer and pray for our greatest Mother…