Fourth Sunday of Easter
Today is the day we celebrate the gift of motherhood. I’ve been thinking about this because I know that for some, this is a difficult day. Some people avoid church altogether on the second Sunday of May because of all the anticipated fanfare. Perhaps, it is because their relationship with their birth mother was sorted or painful, never mended. Or because the reality of the death of their mom, whether recently, 5 years ago, 10 or more, still carries painful memories too difficult to bear.
For others, it may be failed attempts to conceive and birth a child and the seemingly hopeless possibility of it. I want to acknowledge all of that. The last thing I ever want to do is to make someone’s experience of church and worship a painful one.
All too often, we are guilty of creating boxes that say that everyone’s life has to fit into some category: mother or father, single, married or partnered, those in a relationship or those without. We like tight neat boxes and perimeters about the “good life” and what makes for the happy life. But we know that all too often we find ourselves in the wrong box trying to fit into some cultural norm where we should never have been in the first place.
The good life, the happy life, is the life that gives of itself. Everything has its price, nothing is free. To love anyone, anything costs something. Perhaps, the good life is discovering who we really are and having the freedom and courage to live that out for good.
Motherhood done well is just one of those ways. Any of us can be life-givers. We can nurture, love, guide, and care for others.
I do want to commend the parents in our church and the decision to raise your children in the faith. It is good and important work. Very few people ever have greater influence over a human life then our parents. I suspect that most of us are here today because of that – whether good or bad. Either we were loved and held closely, comforted and supported, or we have been in search of paternal love all our lives. Those early days and years can often set the tone for the rest of our lives.
I know it takes a lot to raise children. There are many sacrifices, trials and errors, and efforts to fit into the culture of this day and to stay the course doing your best not knowing how any of it will turn out. Talk about feeling unsure and insecure, have a child!
These are real human beings, who from day one have their own wills, minds, and spirits and all the baby books in the world cannot account for every unique detail of the person you have created. There are just some things in our DNA that we will never understand. It’s fraught with mystery and wonder and we’re never going to figure them out completely. We just love them the best we can and try to be good stewards of the gift given to our care.
One of my favorite aspects of worship is seeing all of the children lining our steps. Rest assured, some will stick with faith and others may choose to go their own way, but at least the foundation is in place. They will have something to come back to, something beyond themselves, memories and rituals, baptism and confirmation, songs and lessons, stories – enough so that years from now they will be able to make informed decisions on their own.
All that I am, I owe to my mother and father. They were poor by most standards, but they were my first teachers, the first to give my siblings and me a sense of our somebody-ness, our worth and value. They gave us something that nobody and no circumstance can ever take away. Something that would sustain us our whole life long. And we need that early on.
Like dreamers of every generation, they had visions of a better life for their children and their visions and hopefulness were parlayed into hard work, conviction, education, and faith which allowed them and us to transcend everything and preserve against all odds. That’s what love does. Love makes all the difference. Love creates new life that pushes us out into the world for the greater good.
And let me just say, if you live or work around a person younger than yourself, why not decide to be a mentor, a guide? Step back a bit, grow some patience, judge less and listen more. Be a lifter, an encourager. Help them to grow and shine.
In our New Testament lesson this morning, there was a disciple named Tabitha. A disciple named Tabitha. Did you hear that? For all of those clinging to their patriarchy, it is important to note that there is a woman who was a named disciple.
We don’t know a whole lot about her. We are not told whether she had birthed children of her own or not. What we do know is that she had been married and is now a widow, which in those days would have left her especially vulnerable and challenged.
We don’t know that she pined her life away feeling sorry for herself, though she would have certainly been victimized by societal standards. What we do know is that she was a good and charitable person, living her life on the outside caring for others.
The early church is now being formed and people are learning how to exist in communal fellowship. All the lines are blurred and practically erased because people brought what they had and laid it down for the good of all.
This account occurs shortly after the conversion of Saul on the Damascus Road as the apostle Peter is taking the gospel to the Gentile world.
The book of Acts is about the power of the Holy Spirit unleashed on believers creating something new. We don’t talk much about the power of the Holy Spirit. He/she is illusive, intangible, unable to be nailed down and confined.
Left to our own logic, we might think that it is our genius, hard work, and bright ideas that keep the church afloat, but I have news for you. If God is not present and alive, bright ideas genius, and hard work will not be enough. Unlike other places, in the Church we need people trusting in the presence and power of God penetrating our hearts and minds, our eyes, ears, and feet, illuminating the way forward and stretching us beyond our capacity in order to keep the Church alive.
On our own, we will give up too soon, get mad and walk away or stay and create chaos. But those early believers understood and relied on a power beyond themselves: the power of God to do strange and sometimes impossible things. Love of God and neighbor were at its core.
We wonder if the Holy Spirit is still at work in our day, making Jesus’ promise to be with us always a reality in our day. I think so. I think the world would be a lot different if we believers recognized the healing power of resurrection in our hands – the power to create new life in dead spaces wherever we are; the power to influence an outcome for good.
We are told that Tabitha became ill and died. She was not exempt because she was a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, nor because of her good works. She died like we all will die. But she had lived – fully lived and loved and the people around her were beset with sorrow.
Somebody sent for Peter and the same spirit that raised Jesus raised her up. Will that same physical resurrection happen for us? Likely not, at least not now. But I know that it is possible to be raised up and to raise others up. I know that it is possible to be lifted from spiritual death and decay. I know that good love and good works never die. They live on forever and ever and ever.