Scripture: John 14:23-29
Sermon “Like Mom, Like God” by Pastor Todd Buurstra
I saw them kind of waiting for me by the Nursery leaning up against the wall. I walked faster because they were a young couple with a baby—just the kind absent from many churches. So I leaned up against the wall with them and we got acquainted. The young mother spoke most and first. Found out we each went to Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. Found out that they were part of the premier church planting engine in the NE called the Redeemer Planter movement (who has planted 20 churches in NYC in 20 years, and been a huge influence on Mike Hayes). And then she lobbed her grenade. I don’t want to sound critical after visiting here just one time, [she pulled the pin] but how can you change scripture in your communion thanks-giving? You know where you say, As a father [and mother] have compassion upon their children so the Lord has compassion… I tried to explain how while the Bible never calls God mother scripture uses many motherly metaphors for God, and how the word “spirit” is feminine in both Hebrew and Greek, so the Holy Spirit is the female expression of God. But that’s not what that Scripture says. True, but after assuring her of my belief in the authority of scripture, she kept coming back to but that’s not what that Scripture says, I wanted to say:
This is a loving church. I think you’d fit in better with the more judgmental church up the street. But I didn’t. So let me talk today about how the Holy Spirit is the motherly expression of God.
Beyond the feminine noun thing, and many other motherly metaphors, the Holy Spirit is a homemaker. and we [the Father and Jesus] will come to them and make our home with them. Theologically we call this the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Yes Jesus (and the Father) is/are in your heart, but as you study Scripture you find they live in you through the Holy Spirit. Isn’t this motherly? I think of our previous organist Helene Cantilina. Did you know that every Sunday she went from a busy morning here to prepare a meal for some 15 of her family every Sunday night? Her home was permanently set up for this Sunday meal. As you came in the door you walked right into the dining room with 2 or 3 tables sit up for next Sunday. Natsuko and I often went home saying, Boy, this is the way to see your grandkids every week. Cook for them! And, indeed, the Cantilina clan is a tight group for their mother is a homemaker.
In the same way, the Holy Spirit is a homemaker. The Holy Spirit always brings people together in Jesus around food. I think of our 15 or 16, I lose track, small groups of which a new one formed a few weeks ago. Over 100 people of this congregation eat together and then talk about spiritual nourishment monthly. If you’re interested, talk to Mark. And then I think of Communion. Deacon Casucci often reminds me that God would have us celebrate this every week, but we’ve just got it up to 14 times from 4 times 20 years ago. Is it time to move to 28 times a year? On 4/25 Mike Hayes and I visited our newest Philadelphia church with 250 people all under 35. They sing contemporized hymns and celebrate communion every week. It was the first time that I have ever received communion from a pair of 25 year olds: he with tattoos all up his arms, and she with a mouth ring. But we’re family because of the homemaking Holy Spirit.
Then in verse 26 the Holy Spirit is described as the one who is always there for us. Different translations call paraklhtos Comforter, Counselor, Advocate. All motherly terms. But paraklhtos literally means, one called alongside because the Holy Spirit is always there for us. paraklhtos is John’s favorite name for the Holy Spirit as it occurs four times
So let’s say that I am accused of murder. The staff believes I did it; the consistory believes I did it; you believe I did it, but my mother? Y’all may abandon me in court, but if there is any ounce of possibility that I didn’t do it, my mother will be by my side. Wouldn’t yours?
That’s the Holy Spirit. Your mother may even abandon you, but the Spirit won’t. I may even be guilty, but the Holy Spirit will be by a believer’s side even if only to help them accept responsibility. Just the other day I had lunch with a pastor friend. He feels his wife has abandoned him. Indeed, her mother had abandoned her at two. And he was just broken that he can’t stand it anymore and is divorcing. I told him what I believe the paraklhtos would say, I know you did your best. I support you. I believe that God will renew your ministry. It helps that his leaders are standing by him, alongside the Holy Spirit. Now he worries that she be supported.
Lastly, in verse 27, as Jesus leaves, because the Holy Spirit comes, there is a gift: peace. The homemaking, always by your side, motherly Holy Spirit gives one gift—peace.
Isn’t your mother the one who helped you feel peaceful? She rocked you, she fed you, she listened to you. When my kids were young and they woke up in the middle of the night, they never called for me. They always called Mommy! And I didn’t feel slighted either. I had dissuaded them from calling Daddy! Because whenever I woke up I was a grouch: Be quiet! Go back to sleep! But Natsuko would pick them up and check their diaper, feed them, rock them if necessary. She did the motherly stuff that I didn’t. Then, peaceful at last, we’d fall back asleep.
To the extent that you let it sink in that our motherly Holy Spirit makes her home in you, and the church a home for you. To the extent that you realize that she is always by your side, no matter the place, no matter the time, no matter the circumstances. To the extent that you set your mind on our Holy Spirit, you can be rocked to sleep. For you can have the gift of peace.
So, on Mother’s Day 2010: honor your mother, but praise the Spirit. Amen.
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