Well, we are back in ordinary time again. After the rush of feasts – from our Advent preparation to the joyous Christmas season; through the celebration of God’s revelation of godself to us through Jesus in the Epiphany and the season following; through our walk to Jerusalem with Jesus in Lent; through the hard days of Holy Week; to the glory and wonder of Easter, Ascension, and the Pentecost; and to yesterday’s feast of the Trinity. The church has turned green now, and the lectionary now has readings in sequence, rather than being linked thematically each week. We’ll get to hear a whole story unfold from the Old Testament now that the Episcopal Church has switched over to the RCL. So for now, we can relax, sit back and soak in the Word, take it in and digest it.
And the truth is, the church year is a microcosm of our lives. We all have periods in our lives that are a great rush of preparation and work and celebration and more work and just lots of busyness… and then we have periods in our lives that are slower-paced, more relaxed, when we can reap the fruits of all that work.
This week, I’m not going to try to work through all of the readings and find an idea that is common to all of them. Rather, there was something that really sang for me as I read the passage from Isaiah, and that echoed to me in the psalm. And that little song was about mothers, and particularly about God as our mother. The very end of the Isaiah reading says
But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me,
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
It is a lovely comparison, and despite the image of the nursing child, I can just see a petulant teenager saying, “You hate me, Mom!” And the mother smiling, though the words pain her heart, and saying, “No, my child, I could never hate you.”
Verse 3 from the psalm picks up similarly
But I still my soul and make it quiet,
like a child upon its mother’s breast;
my soul is quieted within me.
Though these words talk about stilling ourselves, it is that same image of a mother. And one thing that you learn as a parent is that one of your most important jobs is to help your child learn to quiet and soothe himself or herself. God helps us do this, too, helps us learn to still our minds and hearts and souls into quiet and peace. Just two few weeks ago we listened to the gospel story of Jesus in the upper room, where Jesus comes in through the locked door, greets the disciples with peace, and breathes the Spirit into them.
The two readings for this week reveal God to us as mother, who shapes us in God’s womb and gives us life and breath, who holds us to God’s breast to nourish us and give us stillness and peace. And the gospel reading does not explicitly bring out the theme of motherhood, but reminds us that God provides for us – as a parent provides for his or her children. Jesus reminds us not to worry and fret, because God does not give us life without nourishing us and providing for us. We are loved, at least as much as the grass and the lilies and the birds. And if last Sunday’s creation story tells us anything, it is that God loves us very dearly, blesses us, cherishes us.
I will admit to being very intrigued by the final two lines of the Isaiah reading.
I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.
I’m not entirely sure what this might mean. I remember being in junior high and high school, and writing things on my hands so I wouldn’t forget them. I’m betting most high schoolers now are putting notes into their cell phones rather than writing them on their hands. And I’m betting that God has something different inscribed on God’s hands than merely our names or phone numbers or email addresses. Perhaps we really are – our selves – inscribed on the hands of God. Perhaps God says here that we live in God’s hands, cradled in that place of safety and nurture and love. What a powerful image that is! First, to know that I – just little me – am inscribed on the hands of the God who created the galaxies and stars and comets. And second, to know that this same God loves –me – who might as well be one of those blades of grass.
We are cared for, my friends. God will never forget us or abandon us or leave us without hope. We are fed. We are comforted. We are quieted. We are clothed.
And we are loved. Perfectly, completely, without qualification.
Thanks be to God!