This Sunday is that holiest of holy days of the Hallmark calendar. All children with living mothers are running around wondering what to do or will wake up tomorrow realizing that they have not even bought a card. Guilt will pile on guilt. Oh my. Those of us whose mothers have died will wonder about the "secret life of parents" - did we really know them? Their tapes are still running in our minds, they sit on our should occasionally and remind us of things like Thank You notes. And those of us who have or had problematic relationships or no relationship will wonder if we are the only ones who have these mixed feelings or even terrible feelings.
Sunday in the church we read about the Ethiopian Eunuch. Click here to read story. as well as the wonderful words from the First Letter of John that God is Love.
Philip hears the Ethiopian reading from Isaiah. A couple of things stand out for the hearer of Philip's day. The Ethiopian can read, not something most were able to do. Reading out loud was the way people read - reading silently to oneself was rare in those days. He was a high official of a foreign queen (The Candace - not her name but a title). He was a eunuch - we don't know if he was made that way to serve the queen, or if it was an accident of birth - but he was "damaged goods" in the eyes of the religious people of the day. He would not have been able to become a full member of the Temple (only perfect men were allowed).
The section of Isaiah that is quoted in the story is from Isaiah 53. He is puzzling over the meaning of it. Philip runs along side and asks him if he knows what he is reading. The Eunuch says he needs some help. I like to think that Philip led him further into Isaiah to Chapter 56:1-8 where the eunuch would read about freedom and welcome in the realm of God. Going on from there he would share how Jesus invited all to the table and asked those who would come to serve and love one another as full brothers and sisters. The Ethiopian has such joy in this good news or as Christians call it Good News, that he immediately wants to become a part of this Way of Life and asks what he should do. Philip says "be baptized" and the Eunuch says "let's do it."
As he is immersed in the waters of baptism he is washed clean of all those hateful messages about himself and dies to the old life constructed by others. He emerges freed from his old life that was constrained by religious burdens and society's judgments. He had been powerful and rich in the world - now he had something even more important - the wealth of soul and mind and connection to the Holy. He was always connected but the connection was blocked by what he had been taught.
To me this is a story of true motherhood - Philip brings the Ethiopian to birth in new life. Our mothers are those who gave us life in this world, each had her own life experience that we know nothing about (the secret life of parents I call it) that influenced her to be however she was as a mother to us. We give thanks for the gifts that our mothers were able to give us, we let go of the parts that were difficult. Hopefully each of us has also had other mothers, men and women, who brought us to life in other ways, our teachers, our spiritual leaders, our role models, our heroes, a neighbor, anyone who gave of themselves that we might become who we are today and who showed us the unconditional love of God. Who would be surprised to receive a Mother's Day card from you? Or a phone call or note of thanks?