I delivered the message at Catching Life Christian Church today. As I prepared I was very aware of the fact that many, if not most, in the congregation would be experiencing some pain this day, pain over the loss of their mothers through death or distance, pain over disappointing relationships with their mothers, pain over strained relationships with children, fractured families, and so on.
I told them about the book I read to my girls when they were little by P. D. Eastman, entitled, Are You My Mother? Just before the little bird cracks out of his shell, his mother leaves in search of food. Not knowing who his mother is, the bird begins to search for her. He comes upon a kitten, a hen, a dog and a cow and asks each of them, “Are you my mother?” He even thinks a huge excavator is his mother, runs excitedly up to it and shouts, “Here I am mother” only to be disappointed again. Finally he finds his real mother, tells her all about his adventures and declares, “You are a bird. You are my mother”.
This mother search is a familiar one for many of us, and especially for those whose families have been broken or marred by abuse and neglect. Many go through life in search of arms that will hold, comfort and nurture. Adults who have not “found their mothers” can get into troubled relationships while trying to extract love from excavators that leave them cold and uncared for.
The Samaritan woman who met Jesus at Jacob’s well had been in a series of damaging relationships. She finally gave up on marriage all together and lived with a man. Certainly filled with shame and disappointment, she came to draw water in the middle of the day to avoid the village gossipers. There she met Jesus. He spoke to her of living water that would spring up inside her innermost being and give her the joy and fulfillment she was searching for.
Psalms 68:8 tells us that God sets the lonely in families.
In Psalm 27:10, David declares, “When my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up”. The phrase, “take me up” means “to receive, to gather, to be brought into association with others”.
Jesus is the one who meets our deepest longings, but he does so by bringing us into association with others, the church, Christ's body.
The image of Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37 comes to mind. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem... how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing."
A similar image is found in the first eleven verses of Psalm 91. It speaks of finding protection, safety, shelter and rest in the shelter of the Most High. "He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge." In that place we are protected from the terror of night, the pestilence that stalks in the darkness and the plague that destroys at midday.
Who is under those wings? Anyone who wants to be, the willing. Jesus sadly longs for those who are not willing to be gathered in.
I ended with the story of the statue that stood outside a church in England that was destroyed during World War II. When they tried to reassemble the statue after the war they were able to piece everything together except for the arms. Rather than creating new arms for the Jesus statue, they placed a sign under it that read, "Jesus has no arms but ours".
And so the church is Christ's arms today, welcoming in the bruised and broken, the forsaken and the lonely, drawing us all closer to the heart of Christ where we find our mother.