St. Augustine prayed, “Lord, my heart is restless until it finds rest in you.”
Happy Mother’s Day! Thanks be to God for mothers! Whether or not you are technically a “mother,” today is a day we celebrate the spirit of motherhood – the endless energy of the nurturing and nesting qualities of mother. Today, we acknowledge our thanks for the quiet wisdom and guidance that we typically and positively associate with the maternal presence.
We all carry these seeds of maternal wisdom in our lives – certainly, biologically, but also spiritually. Wisdom, throughout the Bible, is addressed in the feminine. Most of us by this time in our lives have learned the profound axiom: “If at first you do not succeed, do it like your mother told you.” That is a seed of wisdom that sprouts and grows in our being more prolifically with each passing year.
I am sporting my Mother’s Day present – new earrings, a gift from my daughter; they are from Holly Lane Christian Jewelry. The tiny ornament depicts a dandelion in its puffball stage. The verse attached reads, “Remember lying in the yard blowing dandelions before you knew they were weeds? May this piece [of jewelry] be a constant reminder that in the busyness of life, we can find true rest in Jesus.”
Steven, the apostle, knew of this true rest in Jesus Christ, even in the face of brutal death. Our lesson from the Acts of the Apostles tells of the death of Steven who is known as the first Christian martyr whose death is described in scripture.
In the days following the Resurrection and Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples at the first Christian Pentecost, the Twelve Apostles chose seven new apostles to assist in the Christian mission and ministry. These seven were officially appointed to assist in the spreading of the seeds of Christianity, which would begin in Jerusalem and spread to all the world as our attendance here confirms. Steven was one of the seven chosen to assist in the spreading of these seeds.
Steven is described as being “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit.” [Acts 6:5] As he gazed into heaven, embraced in the glory of God, and seeing the clear vision of Jesus Christ on his throne in heaven, Steven was dragged out of the city and stoned to death.
We would not want to describe the seeds spread by Steven in his life and at the time of his death as weed seeds, but the seeds certainly were just as prolific as dandelion seeds. The seeds carried in the breath of the Holy Spirit were spread in Steven’s life mission and, significantly, in his final prayerful requests. As he died, Steven prayed calmly for the Lord Jesus to receive his spirit and to hold not the sin of his murderers against them. The seeds were spread in the obvious presence of the true rest in Jesus Christ that Steven had found in life and that remained with him even in his violent torturous death.
Those in the murderous mob covered their ears; one amongst them, we are told, was a young man named Saul – specifically, Saul of Tarsus. As the mob made efforts to stamp out the seeds of Christianity being spread by Steven, time would tell that the breath of the Holy Spirit blew those seeds upon Saul of Tarsus at whose feet the culprits tossed their coats.
Saul, likely, had not covered his ears or diverted his eyes from the brutal scene of Steven’s death. Saul had initiated and participated in many similar acts of violence – attempts to staunch the flow of the Christian message. Saul, steeped in the Jewish faith from early childhood, had made it his mission to contain and destroy the followers of Jesus Christ such as Steven, whom he sincerely considered to be in opposition to God’s will for his people.
With great earnestness and vigilance, Saul had pursued this mission, UNTIL these seeds of the Holy Spirit, which had lain dormant in him for a period of time, were brought to life on the road to Damascus. Here, Saul, confronted face-to-face by the Risen Lord, found for himself these seeds of true rest that he had witnessed in Steven.
Saul, who had spent his early life seeking that that he perceived to be the will of the Father, now recognized the Son, and understood that the true will of the Father is in knowing and following Jesus through whom God the Father is revealed. At last, Saul acknowledged that God is revealed in the life and works of Jesus Christ – the mission whose seeds he had so ardently sought to destroy.
Saul of Tarsus now understood the true rest in Jesus Christ that he witnessed at the stoning of Steven; Saul would receive the new name of Paul; his earnest and vigilant mission would be transformed to that of spreading the seeds of true rest in Jesus Christ. Paul, in fact, would become, arguably, the most famous of all Christians. He would give his life to and for the cause of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus, in his final earthly hours with his disciples, had said, “If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” The writer of John’s Gospel makes it clear to us that Jesus is not just the Son of God, as we like to say, but that Jesus and the Father are One in God. In this lesson from John’s Gospel, the disciples are being asked by Jesus to believe that this inevitably doomed man is God or, at least, a portion of God, and that it will be through Jesus’ oneness in God that the promises of the Father had been and will be fulfilled.
In knowing Jesus Christ we have seen God the Father – our Father, our Creator, who wants only what is best for us. In knowing Jesus Christ, the seeds of true rest are nurtured and guided to full growth; in life and earthly death we experience the fulfillment of the promise of the Father through the Son.
On this day, we reflect on the seeds planted in us by our mothers and surrogate mothers; Some choose to conceptualize the Holy Spirit as the maternal mothering aspect of God – the Holy Spirit continuing to blow upon us the seeds of true rest and peace of God revealed to us in Jesus Christ. And so, with ever increasing understanding we acknowledge that if at first we don’t succeed, we should do it like our mother – the Holy Spirit told us. So … we could say Happy Holy Spirit Day! May the seeds of true rest in Jesus Christ blow upon you.