Culturally, Mother’s Day has always been a bigger event than Father’s Day ever will be. Politics aside, when the Sydney Daily Telegraph ran a story attacking the memory of Bill Shorten’s mother, it unleashed a powerful backlash from many quarters. We don’t like people attacking our mothers or our memories of them. None of our mothers are perfect but we all have a powerful story of sacrifice, service and love that is associated with our mothers. There are many of the qualities that we ascribe to God are better understood in relationship to a loving mother rather than a loving father. We do well to honour mothers.
We are familiar with the masculine imagery used to talk about God. “Our Father, who art in heaven.” We’re not so used to hearing feminine images when thinking about God. In fact, some people get quite angry if you dare to use a female pronoun to refer to God. But let’s be clear: God is not a man. Nor is God a woman. God is God. We search for metaphors to describe and conceptualise God. We look to human institutions of family, government and society to give shape to a nebulous reality. And so we are familiar with words like king, warrior, counsellor, shepherd, and father. But they are just metaphors and not the reality of God, who is much greater and more unknowable than can be contained by such word pictures.
Christians believe that it is in Jesus that we see most clearly what God is like. How striking it is to see Jesus to liken himself to a mother hen: “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings” Matthew 23:37
We have hens running around the yard at our farm but we don’t have a rooster so I don’t get to see a hen with its chicks except when I visit my neighbour Mahammad who often has a hen with chicks. As we share a coffee on his verandah it is delightful to watch the chicks venture out, pecking and scratching around the yard, only to run to their mother at the first signs of danger. She literally does “gather her brood under her wings”. Mother hen offers protection and defence when needed, and keeps a watchful eye on them as they grow and explore.
When you are vulnerable and in need of protection a Mother hen God is a lovely image to draw nourishment from. Caring, welcoming, warm and protective. God as Mother. God mothering all of us. Mother God protecting us from harm and keeping us under her wing in times of sorrow and trouble, and as we grow and become compassionate and loving people. These are qualities I would like in the God I worship.
Jesus, like a Mother hen, gathered in the outcast, the sick, the downtrodden, the foreigner, and the sinners and stood between them and the oppressive foxes of religious and secular power.
This is the gospel and it’s good news.
Brian Spencer, Minister