Date: May 8, 2022 Mother’s Day
Scripture Lesson: Acts 9:36-43
Sermon: The Mothering Love of Jesus
Pastor: Rev. Kim P. Wells
Ok. Let’s face it. Peter was a screw up. Yes, the disciple. He drops everything to follow Jesus and then just doesn’t seem to get what Jesus is about – what he is showing people, teaching people, embodying. Jesus is offering an alternative reality, the realm of God, values and relationships that reflect the intentions of Divine Love for all people and all of Creation. And Peter misses the point again, and again, and again, and again.
There are numerous teachers in the congregation. You know what this is like. You have a student, even eager perhaps, and you just don’t seem to be able to get through. You try different approaches and learning modalities, to no avail. Parents, mothers and fathers, you know what this is like. You try to bring your child up with solid values and ethics and teach them what they need to know to be caring and compassionate and constructive human beings, and they just seem to be orbiting another star. Caught in some kind of web of self-destruction, perhaps related to alcohol or drugs. You did all you could. And many of us have worked with people who just didn’t seem to be able to catch on to what was supposed to be going on to function effectively and collegially in the work place. We know what this is like. Sometimes, people just don’t get it.
Peter is in that camp. He just doesn’t get it even with all of his ardor. Here are a few highlights-
Jesus teaches that the greatest is the one who serves. And Peter is among those discussing which one of them is the greatest. Jesus tells about his death and Peter rejects the idea that Jesus must die. And there is the Get behind me, Satan, line. Peter, asleep at the transfiguration, then wanting to build booths for Moses and Elijah. Wrong, again.
Peter, asleep at Gethsemane when Jesus asks him to pray, three times. And, of course, even with warning, Peter denies Jesus three times and deserts him at the crucifixion.
I mean, Peter was a screw up. He just doesn’t seem to get it.
Now we turn to today’s story. The beautiful story of Tabitha. Here is Peter, of all people, called upon to heal Tabitha, a wonderful saint in her community. The women come to display all the clothing she has made for them. But Tabitha has died. It’s too late for healing. And Peter goes into the room alone and brings her back to life, repeating the crowning sign associated with Jesus’ earthly ministry, the raising of Lazarus. As Jesus raised Lazarus, so we are told of Peter raising Tabitha from the dead. Yes, Peter.
A scan through the stories of the book of Acts, shows that once Jesus has been crucified, risen from the dead, and ascended into heaven, the holy spirit comes and infuses the believers, among them, Peter. From then on, we see a changed Peter. We see Peter begin by teaching in the Temple precincts. Then he heals a beggar at the Temple gate. Peter goes on to heal someone that is paralyzed in Lydda. Here is Peter, going from place to place, as Jesus did, even into Samaria, enemy territory, as Jesus did, facing off with the religious authorities, as Jesus did. Healing and teaching as Jesus did. And now we are told of Peter raising Tabitha from the dead as Jesus raised Lazarus.
It really is an amazing transformation. It’s a turn around story. And tradition has it that Peter was eventually arrested and faced crucifixion, as Jesus did. But the story goes that Peter insisted on being crucified upside down because he did not feel worthy to be crucified as Jesus was. So, Peter is even remembered for dying by crucifixion as Jesus did.
Peter ends up being remembered as an exemplary follower of Jesus, right down to raising someone from the dead and being crucified. How did that happen?
Well, simply said, I think it is because we are shown that Jesus never gives up on Peter. After Peter’s three fold denial, we are told of the risen Jesus offering a three fold opportunity to re-commit. Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep. Jesus restores and re-commissions Peter. Then Jesus entrusts to all of the disciples their sacred mission to go into all the world sharing the love of God and the dream of God that they have learned from Jesus. That ragged bunch. Jesus never stops believing in them. And their potential for good. He never gives up on them. Just like a mother who never gives up on her child. Jesus extends mothering love to his followers and never gives up on them.
And, as Hyun Kyung Chung, who was a classmate of ours at Union Seminary, reminds us, Jesus probably learned this from his mother! Who never gave up on the mothering love of God for ALL people especially those made poor and those who are downtrodden and forgotten. That’s the legacy she gives to Jesus. The vision of persistent Divine Love that never gives up on the capacity for transformation and for justice.
Just like Jesus never gives up on Peter and the disciples, the message of Christianity is about the mothering love of God that never gives up on us. No matter what we have done. No matter what we have not done. No matter where we have been. No matter what we have mistaken or confused. No matter who we have hurt, including ourselves. We are embraced by divine mothering love that NEVER gives up on us. No matter how we have screwed up, we are eternally beloved and precious. And so is every person, every child of God. There is no sibling rivalry in God’s reality. Everyone is beloved. No matter what!
And in our context, we see the need for that love to be shared freely in the world. In our world of competition and rivalry, bitterness and hatred. In our world of violence and war. In our world of perceived scarcity and evident greed, the power of the mothering love of God in Christ is inviting us to new life, to a new reality.
And at this moment, we want to recognize that the vision of the mothering love ofGod for all people is under attack. There are those who want to deny women their full humanity. Who do not trust women to have the ability to exercise their agency and judgment in ways that foster the well being of themselves and society. Despite the legacy of Mary and her impact upon the life of Jesus and upon the world, there are those who do not feel that women are capable of bearing the divine image as full human beings. They are believed to be lesser beings. The Roe v Wade situation is just one manifestation of this. There are many, many others.
Jesus learned from his mother to treat women as full human beings and we must be committed to that as well. So we must be dogged in upholding the rights and dignity of women as full human beings. Like Jesus, we must not give up or give in. We must cling to the persistence and power of mothering love.
We are told of the beautiful story of Peter, of all people, bringing back Tabitha from the dead. Tabitha. A woman. We too must trust the mothering love of God and Jesus to work in us, to work on us, to empower us, to do whatever it takes to protect the full humanity of each person and to protect life in all of its forms, and to preserve life on this planet as we know it. It is the work of mothering love. It is our work. To birth the reality of God. This Mother’s day and every day. Amen.
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