I have noticed that people often use the word “love” and seem to have no concept of its meaning. How could we truly say we understand when we equate one word with so many things?
So what does love really look like? In several places throughout Scripture the love of a mother is used to express God’s love for us, His children.
“As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 66:13.)
In Matthew 23:37-39 and Luke 13:34-35 one saying of Jesus is almost identically repeated. It pictures God as mother:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to it! How often I desired to gather your children as a bird gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you [desolate]. And [For] I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”
When we think of meaningful examples of love, the Biblical image of Mary, the mother of Jesus, comes to mind.
“Mother Mary” was with her son from the time it was announced that she would be the “God Bearer.” Keeping Jesus safe as a child when Herod would have killed him, through the many hardships he faced in His life and ministry — even death on the cross, and “keeping all these things in her heart,” Mary was present for her son. We are given an example of true love as expressed through a mother’s life.
While many would define the “mothering” trait as female, I think it transcends gender and expresses qualities we all need to encourage and develop, male and female.
A dear friend, and favorite preacher, the Rev. Dr. Thomas Butts, a Methodist out of Monroeville, Ala., tells this parable:
A man died and went to hell. His family and friends formed a committee to enlist influential people to go to the iron gates of hell and plead for his release.
His pastor stood at the iron gates and shouted to Satan, “Open the gates and let him out. He was a pretty good church member. He never missed an Easter or Christmas service. He always put a dollar in the offering plate when he was in church. He even attended Sunday School once. He was a good man. Open the gates and let him out!”
The iron gates of hell did not move. Next they sent his golfing partner, who cried to Satan, “Open the gates and let him out.”
The gates did not budge.
Frustrated, the man’s mother charged down to hell, yelling “Open the gates and let my son out, or I’m coming in!” The iron gates opened.
Mother’s Day is a good time to say “thank you” to the woman who would charge the gates of hell for you, and to affirm and live into the example of love she has bestowed upon you.
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The Rev. Walter Van Zandt Windsor is rector at Trinity Episcopal Church.
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