This was in the days before all the good things to eat had formed a conspiracy to kill off the human race. You could get away with eating butter and sugar sandwiches.
She put them in a cooler and we drove up to the lake. We fished with Dad for the interminable period of fifteen minutes, watching our little floats bob in the water. Didn’t catch a thing. So Mom got out the butter and sugar sandwiches and we had a kind of a snack up there, amidst the tall pines that cover that part of the country. Sometimes we learn most deeply what love is from the things our mothers do, (and our fathers), without really thinking about it. “It’d be nice to have butter and sugar sandwiches today. I’ll just make a few.”
This deep, everyday sort of love.
Dad didn’t catch anything there either, so we decided to try again from an earthen dam at one end of the lake. Again, Dad cast his line in and we fished too, this time for about five minutes. Then we discovered two wonderful things about this dam. First, it held back the water of the lake, so that the surface of the water on one side was actually higher than the dry ground on the other. We could look down, and way down below stood these tall, straight southern pines. Wonderful.
The other wonderful thing about this dam was its abundance of excellent dirt clods. They were the size of the palm of your hand, and dry, best for throwing. We found, if you threw the dirt clod off the dry side of the dam, it would fly a long way, and then made this satisfying “Whump” as it hit the underbrush below. And if you hit a tree, it was even better because the dirt clod would scatter in a great puff of dust. “Pooey!”
We were having a marvelous time throwing these dirt clods off the dam when we looked over and saw our mom. This was strange, because Mom was running. Mom never ran. This was before the days when adults ran. You did not have to run back then. Nowadays you have to run in order to counteract the effect of the conspiracy of good tasting things to kill you. Then, before the conspiracy you did not have to. My mom did not run. But here, my mother was sprinting, toward us.
It was one of those moments when you say “What could possibly be so wrong?”
Here is what was wrong. My mother does not like snakes. No, not in the least. And my mother had seen a snake. A cotton mouth moccasin, a poisonous snake, probably about ten feet from us but to her eyes, more like three inches, reared up, with its mouth wide open and fangs gaping.
You know, there’s a reason why they call it a cotton mouth moccasin. It’s because its mouth is completely white, like cotton.
My mother, however, was not interested in such observation. This was a snake. Therefore the whole world was under dire threat.
Notice, however, in what direction my mother was running. She was not running away from the snake. She was running toward us. Her children were in danger. She had her momma bear up.
Do not ever get between a set of cubs and the momma bear.
By means of her super powers, my mother gathered all three of us children up, transported us to the car and closed the doors in about a millisecond. Then she informed my dad that it was time for us to go home, now.
Momma bear. Sometimes we know we are loved by how our mothers act to protect us.
God is like this. God loves us with the same deep, everyday love as a mother. “Let’s make the sun come up again today. That was fun. Let’s send the wind to brush her cheek. She likes that.”
God loves us with the same intense, fiery protection as a mother does. For example, a couple of teenagers take a potshot at their arch enemy at a parade? Really? It’s a parade! There are kids here. Get God’s momma bear up.
In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus prays for us, that God’s love would be in us, and he in us. I think that love acts through us too.
For example, two women in the book of Acts, regarding neither of which do we have any evidence of motherhood or children.
Last week, we heard about Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, who invites Paul and his company to stay at her house. Notice, she shows the three characteristics of wealthy people who follow Jesus. She is humble, she said “If you have found me to be worthy,” She is generous, she opens her home to Paul’s company, and she is willing to take risks for the Gospel. After all of the mob scene and the beating is over from our second lesson for today, Paul returns to Lydia’s house, before he leaves and she welcomes him. She is associating herself with this person who wrecked these men’s exploitive money-making scheme. They know where she lives.
Yet by her simple graciousness, she shows God’s love.
The other woman is not wealthy. No one knows her name. Instead, she is a slave possessed by a spirit of divination, and her masters use her to make money, telling the future.
Like many followers of Jesus who are exploited and taken advantage of, this woman is also annoying, discomforting. She follows Paul around saying “These are servants of the most high God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation. These are servants of the most high God who proclaim to you a way of salvation. These are. . .” for days. Finally, you know how sometimes we do the right thing because we are annoyed rather than because we care. Paul gets annoyed. “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.”
No name. No book of the Bible named after her church. But she is free of the spirit.
God is like this. Whether we are wealthy or not wealthy, well known or unknown, God loves us. When we are threatened or taken advantage of, God gets really mad. God gets God’s momma bear up.
When we are not so threatened, God loves us in that deep, everyday way. In the ways of common humility, of opening your home to guests, a whisper of breeze against your neck on a hot day, a butter and sugar sandwich made for you.