Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mystics, Mothers, and Ascension

Today is one of those days I'm glad that I don't have to preach--there's too much good stuff converging on this day. 

Mother's Day presents its own challenges, and I've definitely seen ways that I wouldn't do it, with a mostly secular focus on moms and how hard a job they have and what great sacrifices they make--no, if I want that kind of treacle, I'll hang out in the card shop.  So how would I do it?

I'd probably talk about all the money that we spend on one day, and all the money that we don't spend on mothers in 3rd world countries.  Or our own country.  I'd probably talk about all the mothers who can't afford to stop working, Mother's Day or no Mother's Day.

Maybe I'd point out how much families spend on this one day, on things that are fleeting, like restaurant meals and flowers.  Why not buy Mom some shares of stock for her special day?

Maybe I'd talk about creative acts, like making a baby, and how that could give us insight about God.  Maybe I'd talk about mothering an adolescent, which could give us insight into the ancient question:  "How could God let this bad thing happen?"  We're not puppets controlled by God.

I would likely be unable to resist pointing out how many churches are going off lectionary to talk about mothers, even though many churches don't talk about motherhood at all for the other Sundays of the year:  just Mother's Day and perhaps Christmas Eve.

It would be irresistible to tie Mother's Day into the matriarch of the Bible or perhaps, Mary the mother of Jesus--although preaching a sermon that focuses on Mary might be risky for a Lutheran outside of Advent--but all the more reason to do it!

Some of us will be celebrating the Ascension--Jesus is here, then he's crucified, then he's risen, then he hangs out both in similar and different ways, and then he's gone again.  I could make interesting connections to Mother's Day and Pentecost, and that could be fun, but also risky.

Today is also the feast day of Julian of Norwich in the Anglican and the Lutheran church.

Ah, Julian of Norwich!  What an amazing woman she was.  She was a 14th century anchoress, a woman who lived in a small cell attached to a cathedral, in almost complete isolation, spending her time in contemplation.  She had a series of visions, which she wrote down, and spent her life elaborating upon.  She is likely the first woman to write a book-length work in English.

And what a book it is, what visions she had.  She wrote about Christ as a mother--what a bold move!  After all, Christ is the only one of the Trinity with a definite gender.  She also stressed God is both mother and father.  Her visions showed her that God is love and compassion, an important message during the time of the Black Death.

She is probably most famous for this quote,  "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well," which she claimed that God said to her.  It certainly sounds like the God that I know too.

Although she was a medieval mystic, her work seems fresh and current, even these many centuries later.  How many writers can make such a claim?

Yes, there are many elements of life to celebrate today.  I hope I'm mindful of that as I move through the day.

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