Love Your Mother (Earth)
May 14, 2023
- Rev. Meghan Malone
- Home Sweet Home
- Hosea 11: 1-4, 8-9
- John 14: 15-21
- Love Your Mother (Earth)
- Medina United Church of Christ Congregational
Love Your Mother (Earth)
Rev. Meghan Malone
So, I don’t turn to the book of Hosea in the Bible very often. Hosea was a prophet who lived in ancient Israel, and like most of the prophets was calling the people to repentance, to return to God. And though he uses a lot of metaphors about women to do this, the kinds of metaphors he uses really grind my gears, with just a couple of exceptions. For example, Hosea 13:8 does give us the pretty awesome image of God as being like a mother bear who has been robbed of her cubs who will rip you to shreds in order to save them. So there’s that. And there’s also the verses we heard read today where God, speaking through the prophet Hosea, says things like, “I remember teaching you to walk. I took you up in my arms when you got hurt and healed you. I held you close as an infant and fed you when you could not feed yourself. How could I possibly give you up now?”
God sounds like a parent. The word mother isn’t present, but, as I was doing some research to prepare for this sermon, I did stumble across a pretty cool connection to motherhood from within the Hebrew in these verses. Hosea writes that God’s heart recoils when God thinks of being angry with us and that God’s compassion towards us grows warm and tender. The verb there is Kâmar, (kah-mare) and it means to become warm, like the way food becomes warm and starts cooking over a fire, and like people become warmed by the sun, and maybe get a little too warm in times of drought as they do when this word is used in Lamentations. In other contexts, this word is also translated as to yearn, like when it is the heart being warmed by deep longing and care. However, it’s not a warm and fuzzy kind of feeling. In the places where it is used, it usually implies a kind of singeing discomfort. A heart burn if you will.
One of those other contexts IS a mother’s love for her child in 1 Kings 3:26, where it is applied to the woman whose story is used to demonstrate King Solomon’s wisdom. Two women come to the Wise King, both claiming to be the mother of the same child, and so Solomon says, well let’s just cut him in half, that way you can both have him. And 1 Kings says, “the mother’s compassion for her son burned within her,” Kâmar, in other words, her heart aches, it is enflamed at the thought of her child being harmed. So, she offers to give the child up so that he may live, and Solomon, recognizing her love for the child, is able to see that she is his mother. That is what really grabs me about these verses from Hosea. That God loves us like that. God’s heart aches and burns for our well-being, and it always has.
Can you imagine? Millions of years of aching love for this Earth and everything in it? Can you imagine God as a parent who was there with us in our first steps, individually and collectively? Can you imagine God healing and holding humanity as we grow and change, and go through awkward phases, and make mistakes, and learn from them, and then sometimes don’t learn from them, and often make those same mistakes over and over again? Gaaaah. Maybe, Kâmar, this longing burning compassion, is how God feels when God looks at us, living on the Earth they lovingly made for us, and yet as Kallie Armbrust so poetically wrote about, we’re polluting the water, replacing the trees with factories, and filling the air with smoke, harming not only ourselves, but the creatures who share this planet with us and who are powerless to stop us. I wonder if God’s heart burns for every living thing that God has created. Does God see the birds, the fish, and the sloths, all of them living and moving just like we are, and ache for their well-being too? I think so.
Hosea gives voice to what must be the frustrating side of God’s endless compassion for us, and parents can probably empathize. It’s hard to bring new life into the world, period. Not everyone who wants to can. It’s hard to love your children so much that you would turn into a bear for them, and yet you can’t possibly protect them from everything. It’s hard to figure out how to parent, and what to do when you feel frustrated by your children, especially if you’re trying to parent in a way that was never modeled for you. It’s hard when the life you planned out for your child is not the life that they actually want, and you have to trust that the foundation you gave them is going to keep them safe.
I see all of this and more in God’s words. As it was revealed to Hosea, it doesn’t seem like God is impervious to these struggles. It seems like, God actually feels the heartache and longing compassion that comes along with parenthood, and God somehow feels it for all of us. Thank goodness God is no mortal parent. Instead, God is the Holy One in our midst, God’s love is eternal and steadfast. Like the trees Mary Oliver described, God is more patient than we can fathom, despite the storms and winters, I think that God somehow loves every minute of the complicated heart wrenching dance that is caring for humanity. I think that love is the reason for the Holy Spirit. God simply cannot get enough of us. Like a parent, God has our drawings on their fridge, God keeps our photos in their wallet, God hears our poem-prayers with pride, God has boxes full of macaroni art, and hastily glued Christmas ornaments, and beaded bracelets made by their favorite people: US. All of us.
To say that God abides within us, in everything, is to me just another way of saying that God is crazy about us. God loves us, as one of my favorite artists, Maddie Zahms, says “Not despite of, but regardless.” Not despite of, because there is nothing you could do to make yourself unlovable, but regardless, because you have been loved, are loved, and will be loved regardless of how your life unfolds. There is nothing that would make your parent God stop loving you. That is the unconditional love which Jesus embodied, and which the Holy Spirit spreads, within our very unconventional family structure where God somehow manages to parent us all, and co-parents each of us through the love of human beings, parents of every gender, aunts, uncles, teachers, mentors, friends and all of our chosen family members.
God even loves us through our Mother Earth who supports us in a million ways without us knowing. While we go about our day, the world around us keeps taking care of us. The ozone guards us from UV rays, the plants fill the air with oxygen, the bacteria in the soil provide nutrients to the food we grow, the fungi stay busy clearing the forest floor, and so much else is constantly going on! It may look to us like the trees are just standing there, but most of our daily needs are met because of a thousand natural interactions working together without our knowledge. Without the silent watch of Mother Earth we could not meet even our most basic needs of clean water or clean air, much less food to eat, or shelter. These are the things that Every Living Thing Needs, which coincidentally works as a shameless plug for out VBS Compassion Camp this year which will be about that very thing: What Every Living Thing Needs, if you haven’t signed your little ones up yet, you should do that, the info is in your bulletin.
Unfortunately, unlike God’s limitless love, there is only so much our Mother Earth can do for us, her resources are not unlimited. When we pollute and overuse her resources we put her, ourselves, and all the creatures who live with us in jeopardy. We are a part of a living web that is bigger than any of us, and we of all God’s creatures have the unique ability to disrupt that web, affecting not only us, but every generation who will live after us for whom God’s heart burns with just as much compassion. God will not abandon us, but that doesn’t mean we are off the hook.
As Jesus told the disciples, if you love me, keep my commandments.
God’s love is moves through us when we love – when we allow the spirit to warm our hearts for each other, and for our Mother Earth, and for all the living things that are and will be: like Kallie’s heart has been warmed for the sloths without trees, and the fish living, living, moving just like you and me. We must keep Christ’s commandment to love each other as God has loved us, with a burning passion, and extend that love to all God’s creation. We must plant trees, care for the creatures, and work together for the wellbeing of all if we want to continue living on this beautiful Earth we’ve been given. For when we do so, that is the Holy One living through us and in our midst. Amen.
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