[Note: there is a musical section included in the audio where images of our mothers are shown, then the message continues.]
We know that everything we say about God HAS to be in the form of metaphor because the complete nature of God is waaaaay beyond what we can grasp! But in order for these to make sense, usually, we do need to remember how they are metaphors of relation as opposed to substance!
I love how Richard Rohr explains this in his book on the Trinity…[i]
We owe a great deal of Western thinking to the Greek philosopher and scientist, Aristotle (384–322 BCE) who taught that there were ten different qualities to all things, including “substance” and “relationship.” Substance is that which is “independent” of all else and can stand on its own. Aristotle ranked substance as the highest quality. In early Christian traditions, the West tried to build on Aristotle to prove that this God whom we had come to understand as Trinitarian was a substance. We didn’t want an ephemeral old relationship God, you know. We wanted a substantial God whom we could prove was as good as anybody else’s God! Yet, when Jesus called himself the Son of the Father and yet one with the Father, he is giving clear primacy to relationship.
In today’s Gospel we find Jesus speaking to people who are really struggling to get their heads around both who Jesus is and what Jesus is saying – particularly with regard to his relationship with those who follow him. He addresses this with a powerful metaphor describing the bond that exists between sheep and those who own/care/protect & nurture them.
But in addition to this metaphor of God as the owner and protector of sheep, there are all sorts of other images that scripture uses describing these various aspects of God’s character as well as us as we are in a relationship with God. On this Mothering Sunday we are going intentionally and unapologetically to explore what the Bible says about God as ‘Mother’.
Hosea 13:8: “Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and tear them asunder…”
Isaiah 66:13: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”
Isaiah 49:15: Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”
Psalm 131:2: “…like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.”
Matthew 23:37: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…”
On this Mothering Sunday, embracing this ‘mothering’ metaphor – this maternal aspect of God – we begin by remembering our mothers… What are you most left with as you think about your mom? I have been exposed to enough of life’s complexity to know that there are few if any truly hallmark-picture-perfect moms out there, just real people…
Some of our moms were pretty wonderful, while others were more obviously flawed with their own struggles… Some we were able to understand and appreciate, while some others, not so much… But they were our mothers…
…WE PAUSE TO ENJOY THE SLIDES…
‘Mother’, I like the definition that suggests the root meaning ‘being wide or roomy’ – from ‘ummu’ the Hebrew word for ‘womb’. I was recently made aware of how theologian and philosopher Simone Weil famously described God’s work in creation not so much as this rushing force intent on filling everything with God’s presence but, instead, …a making room within Godself for creation to happen.
Being a Mother, then, seems to be all about the one who makes space for the conception and nurturing growth of others… and that, it seems, is a profoundly sacred and feminine female task – regardless of our gender!
WHO HAS BEEN YOUR MOTHER OR, MOST LIKE A MOTHER, TO YOU – MAKING ROOM FOR YOU TO BE YOU? MOSTLY? DO THEY KNOW?
YOU SHOULD TELL THEM!
HOW HAVE YOU ALLOWED THIS MOTHERING – THIS CRADLING, NURTURING, SPACE-CREATING ASPECT OF GOD’S NATURE TO DRAW YOU OUT – TO GROW YOU?
AND HOW HAS GOD USED YOU TO BE IN THAT MOTHERING PLACE FOR OTHERS?
TO WHAT EXTENT ARE YOU MAKING ROOM FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO GROW AND TO BECOME ALL GOD INTENDS THEM TO BE?
Rev. Robin Jacobson reserves all rights © 2019.
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[i] Adapted from Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016), 44-47. (Referred to in blog May 8, 2019)