Today, I preached in Korean for the first time at the New Korean Presbyterian Church of Georgia. It’s not that I haven’t had invitations to do so before. Since being ordained, I’ve been invited to lead the Saturday dawn prayer service or to preach the Sunday morning service at my under-care church. Every time, it’s been during one of my visits home and I’ve held firm to my boundaries about not preaching while on vacation. To be honest, there’s also been some fear on my part that my Korean would somehow fail me, that my language skills wouldn’t be good enough to preach the Word of God.
Today, I was invited to be a woman’s voice from the pulpit on Mother’s Day. Today, the congregation received me graciously and my language did not fail me. The following is a longer version of the illustration I used to tie 1 John 5:1-6 with Mother’s Day:
“Are you looking for me? I’m here. I’m right here.” Those were the words a mother spoke to her dying daughter as they waited for the mechanical ventilation to be removed. The daughter had been sick for some time, and they had journeyed together on that long road.
“Pieta” by Michaelangelo
Now, at the end of that long journey, mother laid a gentle hand on her daughter’s face and whispered her presence and her love. It didn’t matter that her daughter spent most of her time with her eyes closed… not really interacting… not really seeing… not really responding. It didn’t matter that her daughter seemed to be far away at times… slipping away into another world.
What mattered was that mother, heart-breaking and soul-hurting, wanted her daughter to be comforted, to know that she was not alone, to know that mother would be along with her on the journey until the very end, where she could no longer follow.
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. - Isaiah 40:1
Her suffering would soon be over. And even when the daughter’s eyes could not see mother’s face, maybe when the daughter feels all alone and forsaken because she cannot see anymore, mother is there. ”I’m here. I’m right here.” Even when others forget, mother cannot forget. The daughter is mother’s heart, inscribed into her very soul. The daughter will never be forgotten. She will always be mother’s baby.
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.” Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. - Isaiah 49:13-16
As this mother whispered her love and her presence to her daughter, so God whispers God’s motherly love to God’s people who are suffering in an imperfect world, tearful in grief, weighed down by oppression, and heartbroken and heart-congested, “Are you looking for me? I’m here. I’m right here.” God whispers so we may remember that we are not alone. God whispers light into our darkness.
As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bodies shall flourish like the grass; and it shall be known that the hand of the Lord is with his servants, and his indignation is against his enemies. - Isaiah 66:13-14
“Amor Materno” by Anchise Picchi
For mothers whose love and presence has comforted their children throughout the ages and around the world… for a compassionate God who is like a mother who comforts, nurses, and wills good and flourishing for God’s world, we give thanks.
As those who have received such love, we have also received a calling to share God’s motherly love with God’s beloved world through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. This is not just for the sake of our salvation. It is for the redemption of God’s world that we, who believe in God’s great love for us and know the light of God’s presence, participate in God’s mission and ministry in the world in thankfulness to God and love for our neighbors, our brothers and sisters, and for creation. May we be the benediction of God’s presence that reminds the world, “Are you looking for me? I’m here. I’m right here.”