(Ascension Sunday Sermon on Mother’s Day)
Rev. Kit Billings
May 8, 2005
Since, therefore, the Lord God the Creator is Love Itself and Wisdom Itself, and the universe was created by Him, being thus as a work proceeding from Him, it must needs be that in each and every created thing there is something of good and truth from Him; for what is made by any one and proceeds from him, bears God’s likeness. (Marital Love n. 85)
For forty days after the Lord’s resurrection Jesus appeared to many of His disciples in comforting visions, spreading His great depth of peace and comfort now that every aspect of Hell had been subdued and Divine love was set free in a new way. Those forty days after His resurrection were, like every period of the Lord’s life and mission, crucial. During those days the Lord revealed that His own many predictions of His dramatic ending, death, and resurrection had transformed Him in a magnificent way, bringing Divine Love into life like never before. God had reconciled Himself unto our world, showing His closest followers that every form of evil and wrath that the devils in Hell could inspire people to throw at Him, including and especially Christ’s own natural death and humiliation, were in no way strong enough to defeat the Lord and stop Him from bringing the fullness of Divine Love into our world through the glorification Christ made happen.
Given that today happens to be both Ascension Sunday and Mother’s Day, I would like to lift up the wonders of God’s motherly side, as well as the great truth that these qualities of the Divine were also lifted up and glorified when Jesus rose to Heaven on the actual day of His ascension. For indeed, given that everything good in creation reflects upon its Maker who made it, all of you wonderful mothers out there teach us something special about the motherly side of God—for true, your good mothering is, too, a reflection of our Creator.
I’d like to get us more focused on why it is that we love and esteem the good moms of the world so much by sharing with you this poem written anonymously titled…
This is for all the
mothers who have sat up all night with sick children in their arms, wiping up
“spit-up” laced with Oscar Meyer wieners and cherry Kool-Aid saying, "It's
OK honey, Mommy's here."
This is for all the mothers of Kosovo who fled in the night and can't find their children. This is for the mothers who gave birth to babies they'll never see and for the mothers who took those babies and gave them homes.
For all the mothers who run carpools and make cookies and sew Halloween costumes.
What makes a good mother anyway? Is it patience? Compassion? Broad hips? The ability to nurse a baby, cook dinner, and sew a button on a shirt, all at the same time? Or is it heart? Is it the ache you feel when you watch your son or daughter disappear down the street, walking to school alone for the very first time?
The jolt that takes you from sleeping to dread, from bed to crib at 2 a.m. to put your hand on the back of a sleeping baby?
Is it the need to flee from wherever you are and hug your child when you hear news of a school shooting, a fire, a car accident, a baby dying?
I think so.
This is for all mothers whose heads turn automatically when a little voice calls "Mom?" in a crowd, even though they know their own offspring are at home or are grown.
This is for mothers who put pinwheels and teddy bears on their children's graves.
This is for all the mothers whose children have gone astray and who can't find words to reach them.
This is for young
mothers stumbling through diaper changes and sleep deprivation. And mature
mothers learning to let go.
For working moms and stay-at-home moms. Single mothers and married mothers.
Mothers with money and mothers without.
This is for you, so hang in there. The world would be a terrible place without the love of mothers everywhere. You make it a more civil, caring and safe place for the precious children in our world.
There is so much to celebrate about good mommies; I find it a pleasure to be able to share with you this morning about them. I am a man doubly blessed. I was blessed by God to have the most wonderful mother I could imagine—and it is a deep joy to be able to celebrate Mother’s Day with my own mom, Sharon, here this weekend. And if it weren’t enough for one man to have been given a very nurturing and forgiving mother, now I am blessed to be married to my wife, Penny, who is such a deeply loving, caring and thoughtful mother with our daughter, Julia. Penny, you simply have my vote this year for one of the many, many great mothers of the year. You get up in the middle of the night to feed her, you shower her with your God-given love, and do a grand job of helping provide a warm and comfortable home. I love you.
If I were to try and boil down what the essence of beautiful mothering is to me, I would have to agree with our unknown poet this morning, it’s about living with a huge degree of HEART. Loving mothers seem to me to exist with a marvelously wide stream of God’s love flowing through your more conscious or external aspects of self. Women, and especially moms of every sort, seem to me to live quite naturally with big, wonderful hearts! Not that any mother here on earth is always perfect mind you, but those who strive in adoring what is good and true in life (most of all God!), have a softness and nurturing quality about them that keep our world much kinder, gentler, and more ready to feed humanity with not just good natural food, but also warm, nourishing spiritual goodness and wisdom.
I must agree with Swedenborg’s description of the basic spiritual construction of the female gender—I experience you as “love wrapped around wisdom”, or “wisdom enveloped by love.” This therefore means that love and goodness in healthy, regenerating women is your primary orientation toward life, or as my father has often said, that women often tend to think from love, while spiritually growing and maturing men tend to love from truth-centered thinking. As my wife so wonderfully described me the other day, “Kit, you have so many theories about things.” Speaking in generalities right now, I felt that her good words to me reflected the reality in which I find myself as a man: it seems that my primary orientation is around truth which is rooted in a deep core of love down inside. When I am centered and in tune with my internal-ness, it is easy for me to relate from a loving place. But when I am not centered, when I find myself wandering in a more external place of being, then it is easy for me to think and relate from primarily truth-alone, or reasoning without much deep feeling and love in it. My own experience of most women is that they are oriented around love that stems from truth (or wisdom). Indeed, thinking, reasoning, understanding, reflection—these are human qualities that both genders love and enjoy—but it seems to me at least that women in general just have a great deal of “heart” to them. And this is partly why I celebrate all you good mothers out there today. You help God immensely in loving and comforting those in need. It seems to me that God in her infinite wisdom knew that love and nurturing and thoughtfulness needed to have a solid, strong foothold in life—and so, she created women! And even more amazingly, God created mommies!
The caring, nurturing, and comforting aspects of God—what some would refer to as the Divine’s feminine qualities—are revealed to us in many ways in the Holy Bible. For instance, in our Isaiah reading this morning, we learn that the Divine and her church on earth (which Jerusalem corresponds to), can easily comfort and feed us spiritually like a little baby being held close and warmly while suckling at its mother’s breasts, who delights in her mother’s plentiful milk. God’s peace and spiritual wealth will suckle all those who turn to God for such nurture. God will carry us in Divinely loving arms and dandle us on God’s knees. “As a mother comforts her son, so will I myself comfort you, and you shall find comfort in My loving church,” says the Lord. The feminine qualities of Jesus’ love (who was Divine Love incarnate, unlike any other man on earth), shone forth quite beautifully. Notice how nurturing, healing, comforting and deeply relational Jesus was. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Mtt. 23:37) And also, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Mtt. 11:28)
As my good friend Jim Erickson once put it (and I’m paraphrasing him today), Christ’s ministry was markedly feminine and motherly in its quality, since love was his major emphasis, which of course is the heart of what saved or redeemed the human race. The most saving thing Jesus did was to bring God’s infinite, Divine Love into our natural plane of life in a new and powerful way! And His presence with us now makes that Divine Love readily available to all who choose to become open to it, through learning, praying and living a life in accord with Christ’s commandments. Divine truth was without question very much there and present, which formed the structure of the Lord’s teaching and principles. Yet indeed, it was his Divine Love that ultimately powered His victory and triumphed over evil. Merciful, forgiving, and comforting Love formed the overall quality of what Jesus was and is. And I see this expressed and given out toward those who were with the Lord when His more visible and natural ministry on earth came to a close, with His ascension.
I find it meaningful that as Jesus was saying goodbye to His disciples, and goodbye to the focus of His ministry to be something grounded by His visible footsteps here on earth, He chose to gradually rise above them while holding his hands out toward them, blessing them as He went. As the late Rev. George Henry Dole has written, “The disciples’ last vision of the Lord is representative of His personal attitude toward mankind and every one of us. It is a representative image of how His hallowed blessings, glory, love, light, peace, and joy ever proceed from Him.” This strikes me personally as a powerfully mothering way to exit, so to speak. The Lord’s ascension reveals to us that His nature and presence are fully Divine-Human, that Jesus is to rise in our own minds above a more natural concept of Him. But what a truly loving and comforting way to go about showing us this! What a great and important image of Jesus for us to meditate on regularly: of Him raising up both hands and blessing His friends as He parted from that last chapter of His earthly ministry in our world.
As our New Church doctrine helps us to understand, everything, indeed everything good that exists in creation reveals and reflects the only Creator who made it. All good mothers therefore help to reveal the motherly, loving dimensions of God. And these great aspects of the One Divine Lord of life (in Jesus Christ), as with everything else about Him, rose into the very heights of Heaven (so to speak)…and beyond! In this way, Ascension Sunday helps us to magnify God’s comforting, healing and regenerating Love that powers the essence of life itself. Indeed, the Lord’s Divine love and wisdom are fully present and masterfully running the universe. And I am thankful that a great aspect of God’s goodness may be described and felt as a wonderfully motherly kind of loving. Amen.