Mobile phones, Mothers and Scripture
chapter 1 verses 6 to 14 and John chapter 17 verses 1 to 23
Dr Des Parker
Lay Pastor, Bunyip & District Uniting Church Parish
Last Friday I took delivery of a new mobile phone. My old one caused me a great deal of frustration because as I travelled to different parts of Victoria the coverage was less than satisfactory. I had got used to this over many years but knew that I could have better coverage, so was determined to do something about it.
Sometimes we need to make the best of what we have and be content with that. Many of us experience uncertain health and that can become a real burden and make us feel depressed and disheartened. We can also celebrate what we are able to do and the marvels of modern medicine that bring us the relief and the degree of healing that we experience. These are often very personal experiences.
I am reminded of the popular Negro Spiritual, 'Nobody knows the trouble I've seen, nobody knows my sorrow… nobody knows but Jesus… glory hallelujah.' These sentiments are both happy and sad. Happy because there is a positive belief that things will be better and that despite the difficulties, the present is OK too because Jesus is the friend with whom these problems can be shared and borne. Sad because friends have been prevented from sharing the singer's difficulties, and the singer from receiving the comfort and support of friends. We are all very good at keeping things to ourselves because that is the culture in which we live…'we must be able to cope by ourselves and not show that we need help' is a fairly common belief. Many of us know that this is not reality, as there are times when we need the support and affirmation of others and when we are prepared to accept these we feel enriched and encouraged as recipients, and so do those who support us.
What has this to do with Mother's day? Might I suggest, everything! Today is a special day for me because it is the first Mother's day since my mother died in February of this year. I remember how she was a person who taught us to be comfortable with what we have and that it is so important for us to manage what we have so that it becomes more than we could imagine. When we become comfortable with what we have, we learn to appreciate and value what we have.
When we become rabid consumers, replacing good things that suit our needs with better things for no other reason than because it is a little better or more modern, it is simple to treat these things as commodities that are easily replaced and therefore of little value…we lose our appreciation of them, and therefore lessen our connection with what is important because we have learned to concentrate on the superficial.
'Why are you waiting, concentrate on what is important?', is a meaning of the question asked by the men of Jesus' disciples at the time of his ascension. We read about this in the book of Acts in the Bible, chapter 1 and verses 6 to 11. Jesus had just left the disciples and they remained looking at where they have last seen him. I guess that this is natural and expected…a loved one is removed from their sight and their gaze is focussed on the place that they saw him last. There would have been many memories and questions racing through their minds, a time of reflection and thinking, a time of sadness and of joy.
The men in the story challenged them to look ahead, to move on. Just a little before this the disciples wanted to know details of when the kingdom of Israel will be restored. Jesus' reply is interesting. Effectively he said to them: 'Why do you want to know this? It is far more important to trust in the faithfulness of God who will never leave you alone. God's spirit will be known to you in a special way so that you will be witnesses to me in all parts of the world.'
In other words, concentrate on what is important and not the superficial! Isn't that exactly what Mothers and those who care for others try to do for us…help us to give our attention and energy, to the things that are important, not to waste our time on the superficial. If only we had listened to that and put it into action!
Back to my mobile. I was assured that the new one would be much better. All I want to do is to phone people and perhaps send the occasional text message and of course receive calls. But…with this phone I can take pictures, videos, connect to the internet, install my favourite music and that's just the capabilities that I think I understand. It's mind boggling how something so small can be used to do so much. When I explained that I did not need all of these features I was told that they are now standard. And my new phone is just an average phone by today's standards…probably a little less than standard.
When we think of Mothers we think of love, dedication, self-sacrifice, support, encouragement, direction, teaching, connection to what is real and good. Of what gives us a feeling of being at peace with ourselves and the world. This is true of not only Mothers, but those who care for others. It is sad that we often do not appreciate these things until later in life and we miss out on the opportunity of expressing our thanks as fully as we might have wished.
John's Gospel (in the New Testament of the Bible) tells us of the story when Jesus told his disciples that he was going to Jerusalem because it was time for him to be glorified so that he might glorify God. Glory means praise and honour, thanksgiving, splendour, radiant beauty. Jesus is talking about his death. It is one of the ironies of life that often it is only in death that greatness is revealed, understood or recognized. The Roman Centurion at the foot of Jesus' cross acknowledge that; 'truly this was the son of God.' Think of others like Abraham Lincoln who had many enemies and after his death, one of his sternest critics said; 'There lies the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen.' Look at Joan of Arc, burned as a witch and a heretic by the English of whom one of the secretaries to the King of England said; 'We are all lost because we have burned a saint.'
God continues to be glorified when we meet as a community of disciples and as we live lives of discipleship. Living lives of discipleship celebrates that the experience of God leading his people remains as a constant in a changing world…his people have found him to be trustworthy and faithful throughout the ages. When Jesus prayed for his disciples…this was a prayer that ranges throughout time…it is an eternal prayer for us as his followers today. You will find this in John's gospel chapter 17 and verses 1 to 25. Well worth reading, particularly in the context of the disciples deserting Jesus not long after this. Like them, we are not perfect, but can be committed followers, committed to do the best that we can knowing that we can experience a closeness of the special presence of God that we call the Holy Spirit. This is the sort of faith and belief that Mothers and carers have. Despite our faults there is an almost unconquerable optimism that good will win out.
Having said all of this, we need to acknowledge that for many people, today is a time of sadness and regret. For some people Motherhood is very difficult and children do suffer abuse and neglect. Let's not forget these people. We need to remember their hurt, and deep sadness, often bitterness. The joy that many experience on Mother's Day heightens their sorrow because their own experience is thrown into stark contrast with those who have known loving and devoted mothers. It is very hard to cope with such feelings and sometimes they take many years to face them honestly. We can be part of the healing process just by being there. Not pushing ourselves upon other people as intruders but being available when needed…perhaps just a listening ear.
Well it's now Tuesday of the following week and I have worked out how to use the phone, made a couple of calls but somehow managed to turn off the sound when a call is coming into the phone. Unless I can see the phone I do not know when a call is coming. I've looked at the instructions attempted to correct the fault many times but this has just led to further frustration when nothing seems to solve the problem.
Fortunately my daughter is visiting today and she knows her way around mobile phones very well…I'm relying on her to 'fix it' for me. She, came, she conquered, she will return! The mobile incoming call sound now works. Being a school teacher, she did not fix the problem for me but showed me how to use part of the phone that I had not discovered and then how to use that new discovery to correct the fault. There was still some trial and error but eventually all is working well.
Isn't that what good Mum's and carers do? They help us to solve the problem ourselves with gentle leading, more aggressive assistance where necessary, but essentially teaching us to be resilient, confident and understanding... important lifelong attributes. In the same passage from John's gospel that I quoted earlier, Jesus speaks of more than lifelong peace and joy - but of eternity. He talks of eternal life which he describes as knowing God and Jesus, the care, love, trustworthiness, resilience, purposefulness of life for ever!
Jesus is talking about the quality of life right here and now. This is a major emphasis of John's gospel, that eternal life starts now! And that is certainly how the Greeks understood the concept of eternal life. They understood that eternal life was literally the life of God because it was so much more than people could imagine or attain. To know God and Jesus, to really know God and Jesus as the closest of friends is therefore to share something of this quality of life. That's what Jesus is inviting us into.
So here we are, my mobile works well, and it has been used as a metaphor to lead us into an understanding of Mother's day the importance of parts of the texts for today and significantly how we can experience and live the meaning of those texts.