Sunday, May 09, 2010

There is a God and I am not It.

Those were the closing words from our celebrant this morning.

I knew that. (that I am not It, not that he was not It...) But in his earlier remarks, he was talking about the old Paul Harvey radio shows and how the second half always began with "… and now for the rest of the story…"

He spoke about our various liturgical seasons: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost. We observe the seasons year after year as if we didn't know the rest of the story, even though we do. His question was: while we know it, do we pay attention to it?

We are still in the season of Easter, and this coming Thursday is the feast of the Ascension. Jesus will leave his disciples. Again. In the Gospel reading this morning (John 14:23-29), Jesus said to his disciples: "I am going away and I am coming to you." A strange way to put it.

But the fact was, Jesus would be leaving. Again. And more than likely nobody was happy to hear about it.

He also said "If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father…" That kind of talk rankles. (I've been cruelly manipulated with language like that.) But the sermon wasn't on that passage. The sermon was about the "ministry of presence" versus the "ministry of absence."

He explained that we emphasize the ministry of presence in our faith… be present, Lord, in the breaking of the bread. But we don't talk much about the ministry of absence. Our celebrant made the point that Jesus had to walk away. The Holy Spirit would not come to the disciples as long as he stayed. They needed the Spirit's power… the Spirit's wisdom… to continue the work God had commissioned them to do. Much as he loved them, he had to let go and walk away.

Sometimes we have to walk away. As he put it: let go and let God. We can care, but we cannot fix. We can love, but we cannot protect. There is a God and I am not It.

Today is Mother's Day. My own mother had a tendency to use the same language (we attribute to Jesus) to instill what I'm sure she believed was appropriate guilt… "if you loved me, you would be glad… (fill in the blank) to spend time with me, to send me flowers, to give me a card, to call…" Her stature as a mother was measured somehow in the lavishness of my affections on Christmas, her birthday, and especially Mother's Day.

At the time, I resented the guilt and I resented the implications. But I've since found that she wasn't alone in her need to measure and compare. I've had friends regale me with stories of their kids' calls and visits and gifts… and then ask rude and pointed questions about my children's observance of these special holidays. More guilt, more implications… the implication seeming to be to judge how I rated on the mother-scale. The fact is, if I were to judge myself by my kids' response on those days then I was and am a piss-poor mother.

Yet when I met my older son at the airport last week, his embrace did not appear to be from duty or guilt. It was warm and sincere and it lasted way beyond the requirements for mother and child reunions. We were happy to see each other again and it showed.

My children do call me on the special days. If I'm not around to answer the phone, they leave a message. Occasionally I get a card. Once in a blue moon I even get a gift. When that happens I am amazed and flooded with gratitude… weepy even. Because it's unexpected. That's the secret I think. My own mother expected me to shower her with tangible evidence of my love. Love is intangible. You either know it or you don't. Somehow I know it. I may not deserve it, but I know it.