Mother’s Day 2022
Given the times in which the Bible was written, it comes as no surprise that God’s care for us is often described as God being like a shepherd who watches over the flock. On the third Sunday after Easter, many denominations traditionally celebrate Shepherd Sunday, evoking everything from the 23rd Psalm, The Lord is my Shepherd. In John 10 where Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd.”
It’s apt that this year, Shepherd Sunday coalesces with Mother’s Day because the roles of shepherd and mother have a lot in common and by reflecting on the parallels we may arrive at a deeper appreciation of the role of motherhood and the ways in which God is looking out for us.
Jesus called himself the good shepherd. Shepherding is a job that has a lot of similar traits to good mothering. What does a shepherd do? Protect, nurture, guide, tend to wounds, and form a special bond. In the passage Jesus says I know my own, and they know me, they respond to the sound of my voice.
Shepherds and Mothers
Shepherds are vigilant for predators, constantly scanning the horizon for danger and responding accordingly. Moms steer us away from danger, look both ways when you cross. Go places in groups. Learn stranger danger. So many of the predators and chances of damage come from social media. Beware! Moms say. Similarly, Jesus gave us warnings about the spiritual predators of life. Beware of greed and sloth and envy and fear and worry. Beware of the arrogance of acting like you are the center of the universe.
Moms nurture us, and give us a safe place where we can share our hearts and burdens. Jesus says come to me all who are burdened and heavy laden.
Moms build values that lead to a meaningful life. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Jesus says do unto others as you would have them do to you.
We associate moms with food. Sometimes pushing us beyond our comfort zone to make sure we are well-nourished. Eat your veggies. Try something new. Jesus asks us to feed our spirits through prayer and education, serving others, and building community. He feeds us with the bread of life and the cup of forgiveness.
Moms tell us to be prepared and wear clean underwear you never know when you’ll get into an accident. Jesus teaches us to be prepared. Stay awake! Be alert for opportunities to serve.
In our scripture today, Jesus identifies himself as the good shepherd. I know my own and they know me. They respond to the sound of my voice. He evokes a deep sense of belonging. It’s not a generalized amorphous blob in the sky we worship, it’s personal. I know my own, and they know me. We are claimed, treasured, and known. There’s great comfort in that. When you are going through stuff, wondering if anyone cares. The answer is yes. Your prayers are heard, they don’t bounce off the ceiling and ricochet back to you unanswered.
There is great comfort in belonging to Jesus’ flock. When you belong to something whether it is a family, a club, a church, or nation, or even a fanbase, these associations imply loyalty. Jesus is loyal to us and promises to never forsake us. Promises to seek you out when you are lost and go astray. He says he’d leave the 99 to find the one stray to lead them back to the paths of righteousness that lead to green pastures and still waters.
The Way to God and Way to Go church
The other day I drove by a church in Lawndale called The Way to God Church. I like that. Get right to the point in the church name. Jesus says he is the way—follow the ways of integrity, worship, forgiveness, generosity, service, and love you will discover a deeper connection with God. I fantasized a bit about the church sign and how it would be okay, cool even, it would be if the D dropped off the word God on the sign. It would be the Way to Go Church. Can’t you imagine people always high-fiving each other. You got here today. Way to Go! You got through another week in this crazy chaotic world. Way to Go! Way to go! Look how that kindness you expressed in the checkout line, brightened the cashier’s day and had a ripple effect on everyone she met. Way to go! Whatever happens, you say, Way to Go because we are cared for.
God is always on the way to us
We are born with a spiritual longing, an innate desire to connect with the divine. The story of scripture, of Christmas and the incarnation is that God is always making a way to you.
Jesus the good shepherd says, “I am with you always.” Romans 8 talks about how there is no circumstance that can separate you from God’s love. Not powers, nor height, nor depths…shall be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Psalm 139 asks,
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast
Jesus comes to us always in the ways that we need. When Jesus called himself the good shepherd, he must have had Psalm 23 in mind. The Lord is my shepherd. I’ve always loved that line “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Maybe you’ve heard me say before that the word follow is tamer than the original Hebrew which has the sense of pursuing. Goodness and mercy shall pursue me, track me, seek me out all the days of my life.
That’s why I asked Pastor Susie to read the children The Runaway Bunny story. Like the mother in the story, God is always reaching out to us, watching out for us, and trying to infuse goodness and mercy into our lives. God comes to us in the ways that we need, no matter how much we run away. Shucks. We might as well learn that instead of running away it’s okay to be God’s bunny, or sheep, or child of infinite worth, the beloved. However, you want to put it the idea is the same. Shucks, you might as well embrace it.
If goodness and mercy are pursuing you, then wouldn’t it be wise to slow down a little and let them catch up to you and give you exactly what you need to fill you with something better? The key is in learning to recognize them when they approach. It may be in an opportunity to serve. Or give to help someone in need. They might come in the form of someone checking in on you at just the right time. Or standing up for a cause you believe in. It might be in nature—a cloud formation, the sunset, sand between your toes.
The way to God isn’t about a formula of believing the right things or living a pure life. It’s about stopping long enough to see God around you and already within you. That is part of why taking time for worship is so important. It stops us long enough to recognize the God who is always with us.
If you run into trouble, then God will find you. If you run away to a bottle. If you run away into behaviors that lead you astray. If you take a few years off. If you get lost in depression or grief or loneliness—God will seek you out.
Belonging to Christ
And we in turn express our loyalty by letting God shape us, and make a claim on us. What we are and what we have doesn’t belong just to us, privately. It is to say we are to use our talents, our abilities, and the blessings we’ve received for God’s purposes in the world.
Belonging to Jesus’ flock gives us a sense of purpose. We are not tumbleweeds blowing this way and that through life, driven by the fickle winds of cultural change. We have a purpose. We make our story, we align our priorities with the things that God is trying to do in this world to make it more user-friendly, more compassionate, just.
Let’s Help Moms
One great way to serve is to help moms. If you look at Mother’s Day cards guilt. Can do better than the sentimentality of a card. Church helps kids. Origins of Mother’s Day was a peace movement. All kinds of programs and partnerships we have to do this. And to recognize many don’t have great moms. We are here to help.
The Supreme Court is going to take whatever action it will on reproductive rights and we aren’t going to go into all of that right now. But we ought to recognize that there are going to be a lot more moms and kids that are going to have a really tough go of it and our call is to intervene and help these families. One Christian calling is to be concerned with what happens after birth. How can we advocate for policies and organize for assistance to ensure these kids are safe and not born into a system of generational poverty. A great challenge looms in our country and people of faith need to step up our game no matter what happens because the status quo is untenable.
Mothers are the ones who show us love’s purest form: let us all emulate it.
We know instinctively that Mothers are the ones of having the greatest influence on the future generations –more than all other earthly causes combined.
Mothers: Teach your children well…
You are the greatest hope for the salvation of our world.
No matter in what ways in which you will be called upon to let go of your child that heart that walks outside of your body.
The values you teach remain. Your prayer is joined with Jesus’ prayer.
No good thing ever vanishes. It is carried over from generation to generation.
So, let the drums roll, let the cheers go up, for you are our reason to hope.
Because, whatever else that is bad in this world, it is not enough.
Because this world is also full of mothers.
And with God’s help, their goodness shall overcome someday.