We have a plenty of resources for talking about God. All of creation bears the imprint of God, the creator. God is within us. God is around us. God is with us all the time. That gives us a lot to say about God.
But God is also so much bigger than creation, bigger than we are, bigger than anything we can say, that our language cannot possibly do justice to God. Anything we say about God will inevitably fall short.
The best we can do, when we talk about God, is use complementary images, different images that reveal different things about God.
One of the images for this morning comes from our Psalm. We just prayed it together, but I will repeat the first few verses.
“The Lord is King…. Clouds and thick darkness are round about him….. A fire goes before him and burns up his enemies on every side. His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees it and is afraid. The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.”
The whole Psalm is impressive, but the line that particularly sticks out for me is that last: mountains melt like wax at the presence of the Lord. Think about what it takes to melt the biggest, oldest, most enduring, most solid things on earth. Think about the asteroid that struck the earth with such force that it melted mountains and killed all the dinosaurs on the entire planet. God is like that. God’s presence is so awesome, so awe-full, that mountains simply melt away in the presence of God.
Think what would happen to us if we suddenly found ourselves in the presence of a power great enough to melt mountains. That is a terrifying image of God! Proverbs tells us that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. If that is true, this Psalm makes me feel very wise!!
Thankfully, like anything else we might say about God, this image of God is incomplete. The Psalm’s image of God as an incredibly powerful storm tells us something important about God—that God is really, really big and scary. But that image also leaves a lot out. That image says nothing about God’s goodness or God’s love.
That is why we need to supplement the image of God as an incredibly mighty storm.
And, of course, today is Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day gives us a beautiful supplement to the image of God as a mighty storm. God is like a mighty storm, but God is also like a loving Mother. We are more used to calling God Father, which is what Jesus himself normally called God. But the image of God, and even of Jesus, as mother is also firmly rooted in our tradition.
Now, like the image of God as Father, the image of God as Mother is hard for some people. Some of us have mothers or had mothers who are distant or cruel. Many of our mothers have declined. Many of our mothers have died. It is important to acknowledge that painful reality especially on Mother’s Day.
But for now, think about a good time with your mother or with someone who was like a mother to you.
I am blessed. I have lots of those good times with my mother. But one comes particularly to my mind.
One time, when I was in my twenties and still in school, my teacher criticized me in front of my classmates. He told me that my work was bad, but he did not stop there. At least as I remember it, he told me that this particular piece of bad work was not the exception, that it was typical of how I thought and how I always worked.
I was crushed. I considered dropping out of school.
In that moment, I needed my mother. I called her, she invited me over, and she made me feel better. That was one of those moments when I needed and was lucky to have a mother’s love to lift me up and to keep me going.
I have seen the same thing with my children many times, especially when they were little. I would be out with the boys doing something that, in retrospect, was a little reckless. One or the other would fall down and hurt himself. I would rush over, thinking about him, thinking also about the fact that mothers do not like it when their little ones get hurt, even if it is an accident and even if the culprit is a loving father. And my son would rush right past me into the house to get a hug from Carrie. I would follow, a little sheepishly, and hope for the best.
And here is the point. God, whose very presence is so powerful that it can melt mountains, is chock full of that mother love. God can be terrifying. But behind all that awesome power stands a love so great that we can never fully understand it. And when we are in need, we can rush to God for a divine hug so full of comfort and grace and love that it can soothe us, no matter what has happened, no matter how badly we are hurting, no matter how deep and real our wounds may be.
Saint Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury nearly a thousand years ago, praised Christ for this kind of mother-love. You have a copy of his “Song of Christ’s Goodness” in your bulletin. I am going to read the first few lines. As I read, remember that we are talking about God incarnate, about the God whose presence can melt mountains.
“Jesus, as a mother you gather your people to you; you are gentle with us as a mother with her children. Often you weep over our sins and our pride, tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgment. You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds, in sickness you nurse us and with pure milk you feed us. Jesus, by your dying, we are born to new life; by your anguish and labor we come forth in joy.” It goes on from there.
Sometimes what we need to hear is our Psalm. God is so awesomely powerful that He literally blows our minds.
But other times, and I suspect more often, we need to hear about Christ’s mother-love. Jesus is gentle with us, like a mother with her small children. Jesus weeps over our pain. Jesus tenderly leads us away from evil and guides us towards what is right. Jesus holds us and nurses us when we are sick. Jesus nourishes us with pure milk.
And, of course, Jesus gives us new birth, new life.
We worship God because God is so awesomely powerful. The Psalm reminds us of that.
But we love God because God first loved us, and loved us with a mother’s love, with the kind of love that comforts us, and heals us, and restores us, and helps us to keep going even when it is hard.
And so, on this Mother’s Day, which is also the last Sunday of the Easter season, I give thanks and praise to the God who is so awesomely powerful. I give thanks and praise for the victory of Jesus Christ. On this day, most of all, I give thanks and praise to God for the mother-love revealed in our Lord. In His name, Amen.