thinking theology

In Mark 8:27-37, we read about the struggles in the early church to place Jesus in some kind of traditional context. There are serious questions to be answered. If Jesus was the son of God, why would that God allow him to die a scandalous death? Who really was his father? Was he actually John the Baptist? If he wasn’t the Messiah, then perhaps he was Elijah, who would precede the Messiah. He certainly didn’t fit any of the expectations of a messiah. He wasn’t a king or a fierce warrior. He seemed to have no interest in insurrection or political leadership. In fact, his teaching and his behaviour were inconsistent with the expectations of a messiah

In this narrative, we “overhear”a conversation between Jesus and Peter. We become the disciples who were listening in. Jesus seems exasperated that Peter cannot understand, and therefore cannot correctly transmit Jesus’ teaching. Jesus is not the anticipated messiah, nor is he anyone else but his own unique self. Raised in the spiritual expression of the Judaism of his era, and in the experience of Roman occupation, Jesus is anointed by the suffering and oppression, initially of his own people. That broadens into an awareness of the potential for human liberation, both spiritually and politically.

That is a historical moment that we will always be reliving as his disciples. We each agree to follow a particular expression of Jesus’ mission and vision. To understand that mission and vision, we must learn the stories about him that shape our faith. And we need each other to test our ideas, to develop our shared understanding, to learn how to live out our faith.

Today, we’re going to baptize Noel into this community, this faith. And how will he learn this faith? Will you show him love, understanding, conviction, action in Jesus’ mission? We are promising today that we will never abandon him, we will be his safe harbour until he can choose Jesus’ path for himself. We will continue to be learners with him. And we will grow in discipleship with him.


A service of Baptism

Trinity 6, July 8: An Order of Service for Holy Baptism

Gathering of the Communitybaptism

L: There is one body and one Spirit;
R: there is one hope in God’s call to us.

Opening Hymn

The Collect for Purity (Anglican Book of Alternative Services, Canada)
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name. Amen

Holy God, open our eyes to see the truth that is before us, to sharpen our understanding so that we might learn, and to encourage us to seek the path of Jesus at all times. Amen. (Gertrude Lebans)

Invitation to Readings
L: Let us prepare ourselves for the Word of God as it comes to us in the reading of Holy Scripture.
R: Our hearts and minds are open.

A reading from Isaiah 55
L: Holy Word, Holy Wisdom.
R: Thanks be to God

Psalm 84, Anglican Church of Canada Hymnal: Common Praise, 498

Holy Gospel
L: The Good News according to John.
R: Praise to you O Christ.
(John 3: 1-6)
L: This is the Gospel of Christ.
R: Blessed be the Word.

Sermon (The sermon offered in this service may be found at Baptism: Transforming Community)

The Celebration of Baptism
(This section is adapted from both the New Zealand Prayer Book and the Book of Alternative Services)

Presider: God is love. God gives us life. We love because God first loved us. In baptism God declares that love; in Christ God calls us to respond.

From the beginning the Church has received believers by baptism. On the day when the apostles first urged his hearers, saying “turn and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus the Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are far away, everyone whom God may call.”

Sponsor and Candidate: I hear God’s call and come for baptism.

Presider: Will you learn to recognise what you need to grow and change for the good?
Sponsor and Candidate: I will, with God’s help.

Presider: Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ?
Sponsor and Candidate: I will, with God’s help.

Presider: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself?
Sponsor and Candidate: I will, with God’s help.

Presider: Will you work for justice and peace among all people? Will you care for God’s creation?

Sponsor and Candidate: I will, with God’s help.

Presider: Do you trust in Christ’s love which brings freedom and life? Will you turn to him in time of trouble?
Sponsor and Candidate: I will, with God’s help.

Presider: Praise God who made heaven and earth,
All: whose promise endures forever.

Presider: We thank you God for your love in all creation, especially for your gift of water to sustain, refresh and cleanse all life. We thank you for your covenant with your people Israel; through the Red Sea waters you led them to freedom in the Promised Land. In the waters of the Jordan your Son was baptized by John and anointed with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Now sanctify this water by your Holy Spirit that those who are here cleansed and born again may continue forever in Christ’s resurrection.
All: Amen. Come Holy Spirit, lead us to light and life.

Presider: We thank you that through the new covenant we are made members of your Church and share in your eternal kingdom. through your Holy Spirit, fulfill once more your promises in this water of rebirth, set apart in the name of Jesus Christ.
All: Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honour, power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.

Presider: I baptize you in the name of God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. We sign you with the cross, the sign of Christ. Walk in the faith of the risen Christ.

Presider: Receive the light of Christ.

All: Amen. God receives you by baptism into the Church. Child of God, blessed in the Spirit, welcome to the family of Christ, and shine with the light of Christ.

Prayer Leader: Let us pray for the church and for the newly baptized. God our Maker, fill our hearts with love for each other and for you so that everywhere we look, we see holiness, everything we hear, tells us of your Word and everyone we meet is an opportunity to experience Jesus the risen Lord. May all who have been baptized into your Way, find Life in their calling, and seek eagerly after the truth of love and service. Amen.

Celebration of Faith
Let us celebrate our faith.
We believe in God, creator of the earth, creator of life and freedom, hope of the poor.
Do you believe in Jesus the Anointed One of God?
We believe in Jesus the Christ, friend in suffering, companion in the resurrection, way of peace.
Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
We believe in the Holy Spirit, that holy force impelling the poor to build a church of the beatitudes. We recognize one baptism in the blood of witnesses to truth; we confess our faith in the law of love. We wait for the resurrection of the people and joyfully praise our Lord, who has looked with favour upon the disinherited, those who have no bread, no home and no land. Amen.
(Fray Guillermo Chavez, Ecuador “Iglesia Solidaria”, 1987)

Prayers of the People
(Adapted from the Book of Alternative Services)
L: Let us pray together to the Lord, saying, “Holy One, hear us with compassion.”

L: Loving God, we thank you for your many gifts to us, for the love which brings us together, for the earth which provides for our needs, for the new life you have given us in Jesus Christ, (for…). Let us pray.
R: Holy One, hear us with compassion.

L: We pray to you for our Christian family (especially for…) and for grace to grow in your love. Let us pray.
R: Holy One, hear us with compassio

L: We pray to you for our world, for all its care and needs, and for all who lead us and care for us (especially…). Let us pray.
R: Holy One, hear us with compassion.

L: We pray to you for those in need, for the sick and the lonely, for the hurt and the frightened, and for those who live without hope (especially…). Let us pray.
R: Holy One, hear us with compassion.

L: We pray for those we love who have died, that you will surround them with your care and love (especially…). Let us pray.
R: Holy One, hear us with compassion.

L: We pray for one another, asking you to bless us, our friends, and relatives. Bless the places where we work and bless our home and our life together.
R: Holy One, hear us with compassion.

The Peace
Presider: May the grace and peace of Christ be with you.
All: And also with you.

Celebration of the Eucharist

Offertory Hymn

Prayer over the Gifts
Holy One, we bring ourselves and these gifts from our abundance. May we grow in your service. Amen.
(Gertrude Lebans)

The Great Thanksgiving
(Gertrude Lebans)
Presider: May the Spirit of the Holy One abide with you.
All: And also with you.

Presider: Lift your hearts to the skies where the winds sing praise to God.
All: We raise our hearts in trust and hope.

Presider: Let us give thanks to God
All: Who blesses us with life for evermore.

Presider: Holy Mystery, you touch all people with a sense of your abiding presence. You dwell within the human heart at peace; you teach compassion by sending messengers of justice and understanding. Joining in the song of the universe we proclaim your glory:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Presider: Gracious God, for all people you offer human examples of love and peace. We received Jesus as our teacher and friend, the one who would show us how to open our souls to you. through his life, we remembered the mystery of incarnation, the holiness that is at the heart of all life, that rocks the cradle, the world in which we live.

In his great compassion, Jesus healed the sick and saw in each person dignity and potential. For us, he became Love Incarnate in human form. For us, he became your promise of life everlasting and love beyond all exhaustion or limit.

When Jesus knew that his time of trial approached, he gathered his friends and family together. Anointed as sacrifice and blessing by a woman disciple, Jesus reached out to those who loved him. He took bread, gave thanks to you, broke it and gave it to his friends, saying, “Take and eat: this is my body which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.” After supper, Jesus took the cup of wine, gave you thanks, and said “Drink this all of you,” as a sign of his life, given as the covenant of love and forgiveness for everyone. He said, “Whenever you drink it, remember me.”

Holy Spirit, love in creation and love in relationship, may these gifts from the earth become insight into the holiness that is your breath in the world and in our lives; through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ, in relationship with all that lives and has given life, we lift our songs of praise.
All: Alleluia, amen.

The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Breaking of Bread
In Christ we are made whole.
In him we find hope and joy.

This is the table where Christ is host. All are welcome to come, guests and family together.

Communion Hymn

Prayer after Communion
As Jesus constantly revealed your love and compassion to others, so may we learn to reflect your grace in our lives. Amen.
(Gertrude Lebans)

As you return to the world, remember that you are Christ’s hands and feet. Walk gently on this sacred earth. Bless those you meet, sowing seeds of hope and reconciliation. In the name of the Holy One who creates, the One who calls us into community, and the One who inspires our imagination, Amen.
(Gertrude Lebans)

Closing Hymn

Be joyful and make the world more peaceful and loving as you carry Christ in your heart.
All: Alleluia!
(Gertrude Lebans)


As we prepare to receive this little one into the church, let us take a moment to remember what we have thought and what we could think about this ancient rite. All over the world people have thought to bathe in streams and rivers and lakes as a sign of a new beginning, of cleansing, and of blessing.

Our baptism had its symbolic origins in the Jewish rite of cleansing. By the first century, people of means would have a mikveh (ritual bath) in their homes. Unless they lived near a stream, they would have had to have water brought in from a cistern or nearby well, which would suggest they also had servants or slaves. This cleansing was both personal — in terms of a purified body — and social — in terms of a communal act of repentance.

John the Baptist accomplishes two actions in his call to repentance. The people who come to hear him and be baptized must be either humble in station or humble in spirit. Were they well-to-do, why would they come to the shore with others who could not afford a private mikveh in their homes? And if they were financially secure, were they Roman collaborators?

John’s call is for a return to the values and identity of the desert, of the covenants. It is a call to the faithful to turn away from Roman values and customs. It is a divisive call because to respond to John’s call meant an intentional rejection of the values of the occupation and its rulers. John’s call for repentance is less personal and more communal. It focusses on the expectation that the people of Israel will be holy and righteous as a grateful response to the love and fidelity of God. Repentance is not about guilt, but about radical change in attitude and behaviour.

The only story of baptism is Jesus’ own. And Jesus does not baptize anyone else himself. Indeed he says to one person to return to his priest for cleansing. Paul, that great interpreter of the early faith, refers to baptism as union with Christ in which people die to the limits of this world and live into the resurrection of Christ. The act of baptism is a culmination of the conversion experience and a turning from all paths except the Way of Jesus, a way which leads to eternal life.


The early church, however, also adopts John’s call for baptism as a cleansing of sin. By the time of Augustine of Hippo, the doctrine of original sin transmitted through conception (i.e. the “taint” of a woman), becomes generally accepted. This unhappy state of affairs could be removed only by Christian baptism. Sin moved from communal infidelity to the covenant to a personal, individual, and dangerous action.

Today, many of us are convinced that God speaks through varied names, in different languages and rites. The test of congruity for Christians is the test of love, social justice, and care for the earth. With this practice, we see that we are all part of the divine program to heal ourselves and our world.

Few of us accept the idea of an original sin which must be expunged, although we would all agree that the norms for humanity must still be taught. Our social evolution has not yet brought us far enough for empathy to be necessarily natural. We realize now that we are not sinful but we are naturally predators, and that energy must be channelled into helpful behaviours.

So what does baptism today mean? I think we would want to retain the idea that baptism brings a person into a familial relationship with the church. We would hope that every person baptized would know that a church was a place of sanctuary and healing for them; that church would be safe space to which a person can always return, no matter how far away they travel.

Baptism is a sign of the pilgrim, of a person on a mission. Jesus gave us a mission to transform the world by our compassion, by our integrity, by our hospitality, and by out generosity. He taught us not to fear difference or otherness, but to make friends everywhere and with everyone. It is no small task to transform the world, so I think that baptism makes us fearless in working with others who share this vision for our planet, our people, and all the creatures.

Finally, baptism offers us a promise that in life and in death we are held in the palm of God’s hand. Death is an event ushering us into new life, as mysterious and unimaginable as our birth. It is the responsibility of the church to ensure that every person baptized by our hand, is also baptized into awe and wonder. All of us must ensure that we remember to hear the wind in the trees and that we are fascinated by the life of other creatures. Mountains and oceans, the sun rising and setting, the mother of pearl that is the moon: all of this calls to us to worship and give thanks. We have nothing to prove and everything to experience and learn. We are all infants at being human, but we trust that the Holy One loves us and is nudging us into full humanity, that one day we may all feel the light of Christ within us and that it may glow steadily without fading.

And so these are the requirements of baptism: wonder, trust in Jesus’ promises, commitment to transforming the world, a willingness to be a lover with God, who created all things in love, and who yearns for us, always.


One of the toughest disciplines for any person is to actively engage the art of listening without planning our own next statement, without already judging the merits of the other, without thinking about what we will be doing next. Another description of this kind of listening is prayer. True prayer does not send the Divine a shopping list of demands or pleas. True prayer opens the soul for the indwelling of the Holy One, an ecstatic and terrifying experience.

True prayer requires an honesty and a willingness to reveal our deep selves to ourselves so that God can be present in our inner dialogue. And then we need to listen to the voice within because the true voice from within says, “It’s going to be all right. You are all right. You are okay. Now I have a task for you. And I know you can do it.”

For us to hear each other, we need to know that we have been seen by God in all our beauty and our brokenness. And then we are ready to hear each other in love, with mercy and with understanding. And then we can safely turn to the world with our wounds that are being healed and hear the needs that swirl around us in every community and around the globe.

This transfers to how we make decisions in the church. Are we listening to each other or just to our own voice in our head, demanding our way, our security. Prayerful decision making hears the other without prejudice, with open hearts and minds. Prayerful participation in a congregation is an act of humility, of service, of discipleship. It requires that the needs of the moment centre on the world outside our buildings. To be faithful disciples, we must be willing to give everything away so that we can engage the works of love. 

Being a disciple means making sacrifice and commitment our life work. By sacrifice, I mean a willingness to offer our pride, our traditions, our assets to further the good news in word and in action. If it doesn’t pinch a bit, we are holding back. God calls Samuel many times before Samuel can openly say, “I am listening” which really means. “What do you ask of me?” 

Paul talks about us as clay jars, creatures made to hold the astonishing gift of Light and Spirit. Clay jars are easily broken and cast aside but the content of these jars is only released, not destroyed with the jar. Lately I have noticed obituaries that speak about how a person used their life to serve. I think we are remembering that that is how a healthy world works. 

Rupert Sheldrake, the biologist, talks about sacrifice as essential to life on earth, The difference for us as humans is that we are invited to choose our paths, choose what we mean when we say in prayer, “Speak for I am listening.” What will we do with what we hear? What will we do when God asks us to stretch the wings of our faith to learn something new, to engage in new work, to become new people? If we really mean to say, “Here I am!” are we prepared to accept the challenge we will be offered? Or will we find a tradition or a piece of scripture, or our age or circumstance to refuse the call we hear in our hearts? When a member of the social justice network dies, people often say after their name, “Presenté” which says that this person has offered their lives, been present to share the works of love. 

Wouldn’t it be amazing for people to say that about the church in general, that we are present, physically financially, prayerfully, with hearts containing both joy and struggle.  Let these clay jars contain the curiosity of Samuel, the courage of the prophets, and the love of Christ, meant to be broken so that Light and spirit can be revealed and the world can be born again.

Love in the Fire

The first mention of Pentecost as a feast of the church comes in the second and third centuries. Before that, it probably remained a Jewish feast migrating from a harvest festival celebrated fifty days after Passover, to a celebration of the giving of the Law. 

In both the Orthodox and Western churches, Pentecost is a celebration of the animation of the church by the Holy Spirit. At one time, it was considered the second most important feast after Easter. In Canada, it has had a struggle as it often coincides with a major secular holiday —the first long weekend of the warmer season — Victoria Day. 

I was ruminating on how the people of Hawaii would react if they heard the Pentecost lavastory this year for the first time. The early experience of the God of Israel was that of a thunder god who spoke from his mountain. I sometimes reflect how frightening it would be to actually experience uncontrollable, unexpected fire and gale force winds. We call out to the Divine to come to us, but I think we would like God in manageable pieces, not overwhelming like the magma from the earth’s core or the hurricanes and tornadoes that devastate the land.

The incarnation begins the conversation by inviting us to open ourselves to the divine, letting ourselves be filled and inspired from the inside out. Jesus attempts to encourage the disciples to make themselves part of the storm, both on the sea and in the courts of society. Standing apart leads to terror; embracing the storm with love and forgiveness brings power.

And so these peasants, these very ordinary people who have moved from cowardice to bravery, from doubt to faith, from simplicity to complex thinking, are now invited to embrace a new storm that will lead them to inclusivity and change, and for most of them, martyrdom. What makes what they do different than charismatic cult figures? Its the context. They are not living for their own glory or status any longer. They exist only to serve Jesus. 

Their passion is for the story of Jesus’ incredible compassion, his sense of justice and his promise of abundant life for all people. It is love now that fuels them, not ego. Their purpose will draw them away from their own people, their own safe assumptions. Their past will be burned away and they will be given new ways to assess the world, because their vision is that of Jesus. Their future too has moved from the safe and predictable to the uncharted seas of the unknown. The wind that has whipped around and through them will become the breath with which they speak with the authority of lived experience in relationship to Jesus. 

And what will animate us as the church? What will burn away our prejudice and fear and open our hearts to love and reconciliation? Here is a reading from the Gospel of Mary in which Levi has scolded Peter for attempting to silence Mary: “Instead we should be ashamed and, once we clothe ourselves with our full humanity, we should do what we have been commanded. We should announce the good news as the Saviour ordered, and not be laying down any rules or making laws.” As the church, it is time to open the doors of our hearts and minds again, and admit all the people. We have only one rule: to love without limit or exhaustion.

I wonder how many people arose at dawn to watch the royal wedding? I know all kinds of folks who recognized that something had changed in the world to make this wedding possible; and this couple, regardless or because of their wealth and talent, could make this a seed for more changes to come.

We all need hope. Although the couple moved through certain traditional and privileged routes, they re-arranged the scenery along that route and they themselves represented grace and simplicity in their persons. I was delighted to see it because I have otherwise felt discouraged this week. The church that I love and to which I have given my life, seems to have returned to old debates that those of us with greying heads had hoped were behind us. I think we are witnessing the last desperate gasps of christendom. I just hope it doesn’t grab and drag us all down too.

There are three areas in which I hope we will watch and react. The first is inclusive language. To insist on language that does not exclusively idolize male, powerful, monarchical imagery, is to embrace the vulnerability of Jesus who confronted that very same dominance with his the sacrifice of his life. Language has power to lift up and to destroy. We give permission for violence whenever we allow one kind of  exclusive imagery to dominate over others. When we speak of humanity, we acknowledge our common source which does not recognize any difference, even in terms of worthiness. And we blaspheme every time we say that our naming of the Divine is complete and closed. We cannot speak of the Divine except in the metaphors of experience because the truth is too large for our cerebral context. Thus, Jesus becomes the Law for us; his life the model, his love for others our method.

The second is the challenge of experience over traditional doctrine. I say traditional because doctrine means a teaching, but true learning comes from the fluidity of the teaching, a reciprocal relationship amongst the thing to be studied, the learner and the teacher. We know that light can be measured in different ways. We know that our world is not as simple as we once thought, from the nanosphere to the “vast expanse of interstellar space.” (BAS, p. 201) We commit a presumptuous sin every time we say that we believe something in the sense that we think we have all the information we need so the book is closed. History has taught us that even our lived past has perspectives and different layers of fact. Contemporary biblical and historical scholars challenge us to open ourselves to deeper and more demanding insights. 

One example may be how we deal with the incarnation. When I first started as a priest, I was astonished at how many lay people had given up on the idea of an immaculate conception but thought they shouldn’t upset their priests. I was delighted when Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan (“The First Christmas”) opened their analysis with an explanation of the underlying motivation, which was to challenge Rome’s presumption to divine authority. I offered this in the form of a little play called “A Tale of Two Mothers.” (It can be found on this blog site.) To see in this story not divine power but the holiness that lies within the creation waiting to be uncovered, waiting for us to become aware, waiting for us to open ourselves in joy and wonder. The incarnation is not about a simple girl impregnated by God but about a simple young woman who dedicated her pregnancy, her child to be, to the vision of God’s justice and favour; a devout person who gave her heart, in faith and trust. 

An example of how modern thinking can widen our appreciation for biblical insight is the story of the Ascension. Buckminster Fuller remarked once that there is no up or down in a round world. A theological conclusion now for the story is not that Jesus has “Gone Up” to a heavenly power, but that the good news of Jesus is released everywhere in the round world. Jesus’ love belongs to neither tribe nor culture but encircles the world with the blessing of compassion. It is yet another sign of how the good news is inclusive, available, without price or condition, or even awareness perhaps.

The third area I have alluded to is how we make decisions as a church. What informs our values? Is it obedience to the past, or deep attention to the stirring of the Spirit as the theological furnishings in the present house is rearranged? In Matthew 13:52, we hear the parable of the householder who becomes a disciple and brings out of the storehouse treasures old and new. I love discovering underneath something worn the possibility of something new. And I love seeing in something new the thing that will become tradition. We don’t have to force this. It is a natural process. We should neither have to rush this process nor delay it. More praying, less arguing; more creativity and “tinkering” and less fearful withholding and the erection of barriers. As we move from dualism to a sense of the whole world of God’s creation and love, we are invited to be less divisive and more a force of reconciliation. We need to stop thinking of darkness and light as opposites, but see them as balances for each other. No more us and them, no more orthodox and heretical. We will be in a state of holy chaos becoming order becoming chaos as long as we are part of this material universe that we know. Perhaps there is another doorway that leads to a less/more vibrant, less/more burgeoning path, but this is the world in which we live within the embracing love of God.

Finally, I think we need to learn how to trust that the Holy Spirit is at work within our institutions and within our lives. When I remember that, my serenity is restored. It is not up to me to save anything; the Holy is at work always and all ways. We can slow the process down by digging in our heels, “kicking against the pricks,” in the words of the old translation of Acts 9:4. We know how well that worked for Paul, who became completely bound to the inclusive, welcoming, demanding vision of Jesus. Even if we fight the innovation and passion of the spirit, we will only blind ourselves to possibility of life lived inside the miracle of Jesus, who brings the holy Trinity of Love, Life and Passion to those who would become his hands in the world.

What does the feast day of St, Matthias, Mother’s Day and these readings have in common? Maybe nothing, but here is what has been rolling around in my brain.

When I think of mothering, I don’t think particularly of myself, or even of my own lovely mother. Some of us were fortunate to have loving mothers and some of us have or have had very difficult relationships with our mothers. So I don’t think we should let a Hallmark greeting card hold us hostage to a sentiment that is either not enough or too much. I would rather look instead to what the bible tells us about mothering.
In Hebrew scriptures we hear about Deborah. Sarah, Hagar, Hannah, Bathsheba, Huldah, Esther, Judith, Susannah, who prevailed despite opposition. These women were faithful, courageous agents of change. They often spoke tough words and would rarely have matched the sentimental pictures of mothering that passing our world.
In Christian scriptures, there is Mary who calls for social upheaval, for a new and egalitarian way of life. There is Elizabeth who also will find her son executed for speaking the truth. Mary, after Jesus death, with the Magdalene, became not only witnesses to the resurrection, but leaders of the fledgling communities. There is Lydia, an independent woman who adopts Paul’s cause.
These are only a few of the names we could mention, without even speaking of the nuns and mystics of the later church. What these women do have in common is a profound sense of the justice and compassion of God.

So when we want to speak of mothering, I would ask you to look to those influences that have taught you to be bold, to live not only for yourself, but for others (Romans14:7), that showed you what justice might look like. The influences that picked you up when you were bruised or weary and waited until they could set you on your feet again. The mothering of God is both protective and sacrificial, both in the Divine Self, and as a model of true humanity.

St. Matthias maybe served in Ethiopia, maybe in Jerusalem, maybe in Georgia. He was beheaded and/or stoned to death, or maybe lived to comfortable old age. Nonetheless, we do know he served the church without fanfare or historical accolades. Like many women, his name would be almost unknown despite his courageous work.

And finally, this Gospel in which the model is for us to be in our social networks as agents of change, but also standing outside those networks as we remember we do this because Jesus taught us the grace of mothering communities and people, the grace of mutual service and hope. So please celebrate Mother’s Day today, holding in your heart that we know this is not about sentimentality, but about the fierce, protective determination of God to save us and all creation. I want to end with this incredible poem by Alla Renee Bozarth, one of the first women ordained in-the Episcopal Church.

Bakerwoman God,
I am your living bread.
Strong, brown Bakerwoman God,
I am your low, soft, and being-shaped loaf.

I am your rising bread,
well-kneaded by some divine
and knotty pair of knuckles,
by your warm earth hands.
I am bread well-kneaded.

Put me in fire, Bakerwoman God,
put me in your own bright fire.
I am warm, warm as you from fire.
I am white and gold, soft and hard,
brown and round.
I am so warm from fire.

Break me, Bakerwoman God.
I am broken under your caring Word.
Drop me in your special juice in pieces.
Drop me in your blood.
Drunken me in the great red flood.
Self-giving chalice swallow me.
My skin shines in the divine wine.
My face is cup-covered and I drown.

I fall up
in a red pool
in a gold world
where your warm
sunskin hand
in there to catch
and hold me.
Bakerwoman God,
remake me. Alla Renee Bozarth

From Wompriest: A Personal Odyssey, Paulist Press 1978,