May 11, 2014
Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A
There is a woman I have been visiting in the hospital
where I work as a chaplain;
she is expecting her first child.
There are some complications with her pregnancy
and so for several weeks now I have been checking in with her
to see how she is doing.
Our conversations are full of the dreams she has
for herself and her child, a boy,
and together we have been praying and hoping
that those dreams will come true.
I think it is because of her and her dreams
that I have been reading today’s scriptures
as the dreams of mothers for their families.
The passage from Acts is indeed a mother’s dream
—it is certainly my mother’s dream, anyway—
of a family happily sharing their possessions
and “eating their food with glad and generous hearts.”
It’s a dream that neither my brothers and I,
nor the church then or now, always fulfills.
Still, I imagine a “mother of the church”
writing this passage of Acts
as a love letter to her young family,
hopeful that they would keep the work of Jesus
alive in her household,
though with the full knowledge that they and even she
would not always be able to live up to their high calling.
In First Peter
I hear a different mother speaking to a different child,
an older one, perhaps, who is discovering the unfairness of life.
Maybe her teenager is learning the hard lesson
that doing what is right
is sometimes, many times, the hardest thing to do.
“If you endure when you do right and suffer for it,
you have God's approval,”
writes this mother of the church,
“because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example,
so that you should follow in his steps.”
For her child she dreams of courage to stay the course,
no matter what the cost,
though she stands ready to welcome
the return of any sheep that wanders off.
The gospel brings a mother in a different mood,
one who warns, as mothers often do,
of “thieves and bandits,”
the “wrong crowd” who might lead her sheep astray.
She admonishes the bullies
who would separate the weaker sheep
from the protection of the flock,
or who would take from them what is rightfully theirs.
“I am the Gate,” says Jesus, the true son of God our Mother,
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
We hear those mothering voices still speaking, of course:
I heard it here not two weeks ago,
when Mary Jacobson,
speaking with the voice of a mother of the church,
indeed speaking in the voice of God our Mother,
invited this family to prepare to welcome and shelter
the mothers and children of Family Promise,
our ministry with families experiencing homelessness
as they struggle to find housing and work and security,
a ministry we share with other churches in this community.
In Mary’s voice I heard her dream for her church,
that we would be the Gate for Christ’s sheep,
that we would share what God has given to this household
“with glad and generous hearts.”
Perhaps in another mood, she might also encourage us to ask
why the gate to abundant life remains shut
to families such as these,
or to consider what changes we must make within ourselves
and within our common household of Wilmette,
or Chicagoland, or Illinois, or the United States,
to ensure that all Christ’s sheep
have a just share of the pasture.
That is after all the dream of God our Mother
for all her people.
It is a dream that as a son of this church I am eager to share,
especially as I continue to visit that expectant mother,
who has herself been experiencing homelessness,
and who at this moment still has no home to go to
after her son is born.
Her dreams for her family,
dreams I am certain God shares with her,
are so precarious, always in danger of slipping away.
What other dreams does God our Mother have
for her family here at St. Augustine?
What dreams does God our Mother have for her world?
Who will share those dreams with this family?
Perhaps for the sake of all God’s families,
we might ask for the courage to dream big,
and the good sense
to listen to our mothers.