Imagine if you will that one night you go to sleep peacefully content with your life... now, at some point during the night Jesus appears in your dream and says, “Come over to Macedonia and help us...”
Now, I would probably grab my Iphone at breakfast and look up where in the world Macedonia actually was; and then maybe forget about it. But what if, what if, all day long you could not shake the feeling that God had somehow spoken to you in that dream?
What if as the days went on the conviction seemed clearer and clearer? Suppose you pick up the paper and on the front cover is a story about Macedonia? Well, isn’t that a coincidence... two times in one week and I had never really heard of the place before. Then there is a radio advertisement ... “Tired of living without adventure? Westjet now flies twice a week to Macedonia.”
I for one would start wondering what was really going on... I would probably start thinking someone is trying to tell me something...
Oh, if only life was ever that clear.
Of course, we are reading the story selectively; and I want to tell you that it was almost never that clear for the disciples either... in fact, this story is the third missionary story in a row; and the first two, well, they didn’t work.
First, Paul tried to go to Asia and preach the good news, only to fail. Then the band of disciples gets run out of Asia Minor... Then Paul has a dream, “Try Macedonia...” he is told with all the conviction the Spirit can muster.
This is the secret very rarely talked about part of our faith – the reality that for everyone who follows God, getting it right 1 out of 3 times is probably the best you can hope for.
Some of them, like Moses, take five times to convince pharaoh, and 40 years of failure to find the Promised Land...
But the faithful response, we are told over and over, and the response that comes closest to connecting to the sacredness of the world, is to keep trying.
And I am here to tell you; I think that is easier for women than for men... I am not sure why, but I just truly think women, and mothers in particular, are more persistent and capable than men are.
Now I realize that some of us come from families where our mothers were terrible to us, or they left us, or perhaps motherhood is a sore point because we are one of the 16% of the population who can’t have kids...
But just like the disciples, who are not famous for the bad examples, but rather, remembered as an ideal to live up to; even though most of the time they were complete failures; I want to suggest to you that today we are talking about an ideal way of looking at the world – one which takes failure and turns it into success, one that is about relationship, not only with each other, but with God as well. For just a second I want you to think, Paul is acting more like the good mother than anything else – he is filled with compassion, he is overlooking the current failures, he is willing to go to great lengths to care for someone else...
Paul himself recognizes that women are far more likely to be capable of understanding the spiritual depth of God’s love; as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, a lot of the people Paul puts into positions of authority in the new church are in fact women; like Dorcas, or like Lydia.
And they are not a biblical anomaly – Women have always played an equally important part in the history of our faith – here is a short example:
There was Miriam who led the people in praising God after the crossing of the Red Sea (Ex 15:21), Ruth who put God first and became the ancestress of King David (Ruth 1:16;4:17), Deborah, a judge in Israel (Judges 5), Hannah who ‘lent to the Lord’ the child of her prayers (1Sam 1:28), Esther who took her life in her hands to plead for her doomed people, the widow whose obedience sustained the prophet Elijah (1Kings 17:9-16), a little captive maid who told Naaman’s wife of the man of God who could cure Naaman of his leprosy (2Kings 5:2-4), the woman who anointed Jesus with the expensive ointment (Mk14:3), the poor widow’s gift of two mites which won Jesus’ praise (Mk 12:43), Mary who gave birth to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Luke 1:28), Martha who served and Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42), Mary Magdalene who brought spices to anoint Jesus, who first greeted the risen Lord and who received the first commission -’Go tell’ (Jn 20:17-18; Mk 16:9), Lydia one of the first converts in Macedonia (Acts 16:14), Dorcas – full of good works (Acts 9:36), Phebe & Priscilla – servants of the church (Ro 16:1-4), Lois and Eunice who had sincere faith (2Tim 1:5), Persis ‘the beloved’ and Tryphena and Tryphosa who laboured for the Lord (Romans 16:12).
You see, there have always been two ways of seeing God, of seeing reality in the Bible – they sort of go through the whole thing side by side; and over the years we have focused too much on one at the expense of the other.
The one you and I grew up with is the Monarchial model of God. It is a way of seeing God that was filtered through those who held most of the power; unfortunately that was almost always men, and that said that God was king of the universe.
This is what we all heard in Sunday School, it is the God who holds all the power, who is out there somewhere watching us, and who is going to punish us if we are bad.
What we have to understand is that our faith really does not point us in this direction, it is a distortion.
The second way of seeing God, and the one that even the Bible uses far more often, is the Divine Lover model of God. It’s there all the way through – for example, the prophet Isaiah tells the people in exile, “You are precious in my sight, and honoured, and I love you... do not fear.” (Is. 43:4)
Or how about Song of Solomon, where God is pictured as not just a lover, but a very enamoured lover? What about one of the most famous lines of the whole Bible, “For God so loved the world...” (Jn. 3:16)
This is in fact what the entire Bible and the entire teaching of Jesus tries to get across to us, that God loves us. We, however, always picture God as the old man in the sky who judges us. This is a little harsh, but I gotta say, that seems a little bit like we have a psychological problem...
So what does it mean to picture God as divine lover? Well, here is another word that the Bible throws around pretty liberally. God is “compassionate;” which literally means, “to suffer with...”
I would like to suggest that we might be far better off understanding God as our mother.
“Just as a Mother feels compassion for her children and wills their well being and can become fierce in the defence of her children, so God feels compassion for her children, and wills their well being, and can become fierce in the defence of her children, all of her children,” writes Marcus Borg in the book, God at 2000.
That is an understanding of God I can understand...
Again, not all mothers are like that, and not all of us can be like that, but I am talking about God here. God is the ideal state of the love that we should all have... and we can find that love echoed in the best love that we can find in mothers....
Let me read you one more thing, something written by a minister in Australia named Jan Croucher;
A MOTHERS’ DAY CREED
I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of the living
God, who was born of the promise to a virgin named Mary.
I believe in the love Mary gave her Son, that caused
her to follow him in his ministry and stand by his cross as he
I believe in the love of all mothers, and its importance
in the lives of the children they bear.
It is stronger than steel, softer than down, and
more resilient than a green sapling on the hillside.
It closes wounds, melts disappointments, and enables
the weakest child to stand tall and straight in the fields of
I believe that this love, even at its best, is only
the shadow love of God, a dark reflection of all that we expect
of him in this life and the next.
And I believe that one of the most beautiful sights
in the world is a mother who lets this greater love flow through
her to her child, blessing the world with the tenderness of her
touch and the tears of her joy.
Thank God for mothers, and thank mothers for helping
us understand God!