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.
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
in there to catch
and hold me.
remake me. Alla Renee Bozarth
From Wompriest: A Personal Odyssey, Paulist Press 1978,