Beloved People of St. Martin’s,
The American Christian world has been attempting to come to grips this week with the shocking news of the passing of Rachel Held Evans after a sudden illness at the age of 37. In her book, Searching for Sunday, which was brought about by her formal departure from fundamentalism to eventually find her way home in the Episcopal Church, she beautifully encapsulated what we are called to be as Christians and as witnesses who are entrusted by Jesus to point the way to him, even today—especially today. She wrote,
Whenever we show others the goodness of God, whenever we follow our Teacher by imitating his humble and ready service, our actions are sacred and ministerial. To be called into the priesthood, as all of us are, is to be called to a life of presence, of kindness (p. 133).
I ponder her words as I think about the fact that Sunday is Mother’s Day, and as I pray for her husband and two very young children. I am led by her words also to think of the mothers I have had throughout my life. Yes, plural. Just as all baptized Christians are ministers of the Church, there are plenty of women who have mothered me, and I am convinced that I am not alone in this.
First there is my own mother, who is a spry, garrulous iconoclast of nearly 92, still going strong although I think we have finally gotten her to agree to put down the power tools. But then there were beloved teachers, coaches, Camp Fire leaders, and mentors who also mothered me. These were my mothers-of-the-heart. By Ms. Evans’ definition, they were also priests to me, revealing Jesus’s kindness and presence in my world.
Yet, for some of us, Mother’s Day can be painful. Some of us have difficult relationships with our mothers. Some mothers have outlived their children or been estranged from them by violence or addiction. Some of us have unfulfilled longings to be a mother. One of the best mothers I know never had any biological children of her own, yet was always available with a loving remark or a piece of wisdom for the kids she mentored and fed and cheered on. I wonder how many of us have had mothers like that in our lives as well? Maybe some of us have sought to exemplify that kind of nurturing presence in our own lives.
This Sunday, as we honor Mother’s Day, there will be flowers available. If you are a mother, or have been a mother-of-the-heart for someone, please take a flower, and know that we give thanks for your nurturing, your healing, your compassionate guidance in the lives of your “children”—whomever they are.