How many times this week have I heard the groan of guilt and the in-drawn breath of panic as someone else has realised that Mother’s Day was coming? And the groans got louder and the panic sharper as the week wore on. I hope all you mothers out there are satisfied with all the guilt and distress you cause! Not least to a preacher.
“I, John, saw a new heavens and a new earth … a new Jerusalem, holy city, coming down out of heaven from God … and the One who sat upon the throne said to me, “See, I make all things new!” This is supposed to be encouraging: a new world where every tear will be wiped away; a world without death and mourning, without pain and panic. But I for one am ambiguous about the new. The world seems intent on making itself new every day and of that newness, some is glorious, some is terrible, and some is poised precariously between the two so that only time will tell. Chocolate, for example, may be on the way out. It seems that old plantations are struggling with disease and new places to grow the food of the gods are running out. Mothers, this could be the last year you get a box of chocolates: in future you’ll have to make do with diamonds or furs, or even lettuce.
“For forty seconds it outshone the universe.” So said the report on a new discovery in the heavens—a burst of gamma rays so powerful that it briefly took over the sky. That’s the kind of newness to wonder at and keep at arms length. Nice to watch from a distance but hell to have in your back yard.
Closer to home new hope flares and falters for peace in Israel, for peace in Ireland. No one thinks it’s possible. Everyone hopes it may be. Few are willing to bet on the outcome.
“See I make all things new.” Yes, but does God make all things good? We have an appetite for novelty, an expectation of trading in the old for the new, a firm belief that the next thing along will be the best thing, at least until it becomes just one more old thing. But we’re also unsure of the new, a little threatened by it, a bit in awe. So, why doesn’t God make it all simple for us? Why isn’t the new always good? Why doesn’t God do a good job and stamp out the bad stuff before it can do any harm? Or God could at least give us a clue how to tell which is which. And right here we are at the heart of the Easter mystery: why does God’s own path to the new life of Easter lead through the tomb of death?
“See I make all things new!” I think the only people with a chance of grasping an answer to any of this are those who have given birth. You have something awesome in common with God who declares himself to be a mother to the world. God who brings newness to birth. God who speaks in joy to all she’s made saying, “You are good!” Go who takes the enormous risk of creation. Risk, because children don’t always turn out the way you expect or the way you hope. They might give you joy but not without grief. You love the kids but you may not like them: at least when they give you no sleep, when they ruin your furniture or strain your marriage, or when they crash your car, or they never call. Yet liking or not there is love. Love that aches to mend what is maybe unmendable; that longs to put right what seems to be going wrong. Love that has learned the hard way but has to hold back and let them make the same mistakes all over again.
This is the kind of love that we are commanded to in the gospel, God’s kind of love. We are commanded to be mothers to each other. We are told that it is the only sign we can give that we follow Jesus on his way. What kind of new community would that bring to birth if it were to happen among us? We can’t know until we try it.
That puts an enormous burden on those of you who have given birth. You have to teach the rest of us what it is like. You have to teach us how to live with the new things we make. You have to teach us how to be like God. … And like kids everywhere we probably won’t want to learn.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Add comment May 10th, 1998