Today is Mother’s Day, a day when people in many countries around the world honor the mothers of their family and celebrate the loving bond between a mother and her children. On this day, we should also consider the spiritual dimensions of motherhood. To be a mother is to be like God, for God not only is our Father in heaven, but also our heavenly Mother.
The Bible is full of examples of the Divine Feminine, but most people think only of the male attributes of God, our Father, or the proverbial “Man Upstairs.” Without seeing God as our Heavenly Mother, mainstream Christians are missing an important part of the story. Today we celebrate Mother’s Day — and not only do we honor our human mothers, we give thanks and praise to our Mother in Heaven. We also tell the story of Pandita Ramabai, a Hindu woman who worked for equal rights for women and girls in India, and later became a Christian.
Many Christians believe that all we need to do to get to heaven is to say the magic words that “Jesus is Lord.” You know the type: the Christian who focuses more on professing beliefs about Jesus than living the faith of Jesus. Such believers are especially common in Evangelical churches, where Christianity is seen as something of a tribal identity group to which we must belong if we wish to be saved from damnation — and within which, we can rest easy in the knowledge that confessing Christ with our lips will cover a life of habitual sin.
But as easy as it is to criticize Evangelicals nowadays, a loose and largely meaningless view of salvation is also increasingly common among liberal Christians. As the teaching of universal salvation has grown more popular in recent years, and as liberal churches struggle to fill the pews in an increasingly irreligious age, there is a tendency to shy away from challenging our brothers and sisters in Christ to aspire to high standards of religious discipline, spiritual growth, and a life of extraordinary sacrifice for the cause of God. If God loves everyone as they are, why do we need to do anything?
The Apostle Paul used the metaphor of athletic training and competition to inspire us to live a disciplined life of the spirit, striving to win the eternal crown of glory with Christ. The world of sports offers profound lessons for our spiritual quest.
In this week’s service, we focus on the Triumph of the soul that is possible when we understand salvation as more than just believing in Jesus. We also remember Eric Liddell, an Olympic athlete and missionary whose deep religious principles propelled him to a truly triumphant victory.
Today is the first Sunday of Lent, a 40-day season of sacrifice leading up to Easter in the Christian liturgical calendar. Lent commemorates the 40 days that Jesus fasted in the wilderness of the desert before beginning his mission, according to the Gospels [e.g. Matt. 4:1-2].
To fast for 40 days is a big commitment. This year, for Lent, I’d like to ask all who are watching or reading this sermon to make a much smaller, but very important commitment: to wear a mask whenever you’re around other people. In fact, I’d like to ask you all to wear two — a surgical mask on the inside, and a cloth mask on the outside. According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, double-masking in this way increases protection from the Covid-19 virus from under 50% with just one mask to a remarkable 90% or greater rate of protection with two masks.
During Lent, many followers of Jesus make conscious sacrifices or commitments to become more righteous in the path of Christ. In our service this week, we focus on the theme of Commitment — an essential virtue for spiritual progress, or for any kind of success in life. We also honor Richard Allen, a former slave who was so committed to the cause of equality that he founded a new Christian denomination.
About a year ago, I began reflecting on the growing need for a new type of church — a community of faith that brings people together in a coherent understanding of who we are as beloved children of God, and which, while being open-minded and inclusive, inspires people to live a devoutly religious life. The combination of progressive faith and a strong commitment to organized religion is hard to find, but for many years I have believed it to be the answer to many of humanity’s problems. This elusive synthesis can facilitate the greatest moral progress and spiritual maturity both for the individual and society.