Speaking our Mothers
Sermon delivered by Minister Shirley Lin on 11th May, 2008
1五旬節那一天，信徒都聚集在一個地方。 2 忽然有聲音從天上下來，彷彿一陣大風颳過的聲音，充滿了他們坐著的整個屋子。 3 他們又看見形狀像火燄的舌頭，散開，停落在每一個人身上。 4 他們都被聖靈充滿，照著聖靈所賜的才能開始說起別種語言來。 5 那時候，有從世界各國來的虔誠的猶太人住在耶路撒冷。 6 一聽見這響聲，一大群人就都聚集在一個地方。大家非常興奮，因為每一個人都聽見信徒用他本地的語言說話。 7 在驚訝詫異中，他們說：「你看，這樣說話的人不都是加利利人嗎？ 8 為甚麼我們個個都聽見他們用我們自己的母語說話呢？ 9 我們當中有帕提亞人、米底亞人、以攔人；還有從美索不達米亞、猶太、加帕多家、本都、亞細亞、 10 弗呂家、旁非利亞、埃及，和靠近古利奈的利比亞一帶地方來的人，也有從羅馬來的， 11 包括猶太人和皈依猶太教的外邦人；此外有克里特人和阿拉伯人。我們竟然都聽見他們用我們本地的語言述說上帝偉大的作為！」 12 他們又驚奇又困惑，彼此你問我，我問你：「這是怎麼回事？」 13 有些人竟取笑信徒說：「這些人不過是喝醉罷了！」 14 這時候，彼得和其他十一個使徒站起來。他高聲向大家說：「猶太同胞和所有住在耶路撒冷的人哪，你們要明白，要留心聽我的話。 15 你們以為這些人是喝醉了嗎？不是的，因為現在才早晨九點鐘。 16 這情形正是先知約珥所說的： 17 上帝說：這是我在世界的末期所要做的：我要把我的靈傾注給每一個人。你們的兒女要宣告我的信息；你們的年輕人要看見異象；你們的老年人要作奇異的夢。 18 在那些日子，我要把我的靈傾注出來，甚至給我的奴僕和婢女；他們要宣告我的信息。 19 我要在天上顯神蹟，在地上行奇事；有血，有火，有濃煙； 20 太陽要昏暗無光；月亮像血一般的紅；在主那偉大榮耀的日子來到以前，這一切都要發生。 21 那時，凡呼求主名的人必然得救。
Today is a very special day. Actually, two very special days. Well, stating the obvious, it’s Mother’s Day. This is the day that we celebrate and remember the things our mothers have done for us. Mothers are important because they have typically been at the center of the family life. They are the ones who raise us, the ones who nurture us, the ones who teach us, and the ones who encourage us, among other things.
Today is also the day that our Church family celebrates the Pentecost, which is what we have found in the reading for today. It was on this day that the Holy Spirit descended upon us to fulfill us with the physical manifestation of God’s presence on this earth.
Today is a day where we can combine two holidays into one, where we celebrate the presence of our mothers and the Holy Spirit, both of whom propel us to be better, wiser, stronger, and more courageous. Today is the day that celebrates the presence of mothers and the Holy Spirit, through whom people are brought together to form a family.
Oftentimes we think about God as our Father. I want to challenge us today to think about God in terms of being our Mother and invite you to think about the impact that your mother has had on your life. After all, it is about time we see in our relationship with our mothers the way that God loves His people. Let’s take a look at what happened on the day of the Pentecost. When Christ ascended into heaven, he left His apostles behind, leaving them unable to see their future. They lived in fear and confusion.
They knew that their leader had just been persecuted in public. They knew that His teachings had not been popular with the political leadership of their day. Yet, they knew that their mission and calling was to continue to witness to God and disseminate the teachings of Christ, which would put their lives in danger. They were stuck between a rock and a hard place: their mission and their fear.
While we may not have to struggle with a life or death scenario in our daily lives, we often face the world with fear. Whether it is taking a risk, facing something difficult, or just plain self-doubt, we often go through these same emotions that the apostles faced in that room. It is us against the world, and the world out there is daunting. But we are provided with comfort and strength through God and the Holy Spirit, and above all things, we are blessed with wisdom to respond to these situations. When God calls, God provides us with the tools and support for us to respond to Him.
In many situations, it is my mother who I turn to for that kind of support. It is our mothers who give us their thoughts and opinions, encourage us to try our best, and are there for us regardless of whether we succeed or fail.
I remember a particular time when I was taking the SATs in high school. I was satisfied with getting a 1200 out of 1600 on this test. However, it was my mom who told me that if I didn’t raise my standards, how would I know what I’m capable of? Of course I didn’t set my standards higher! If I had, what would happen if I wasn’t able to reach that standard?! I would be a failure. I didn’t want to be a failure. Yet, when she pointed out my fear, I was pushed to face it. And in facing it, I was able to go beyond that to look beyond what I thought I could do. In case you were wondering, I did do better than 1200.
And on that day of the Pentecost, from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. God knew what the apostles were capable of. God knew that they were afraid and they needed his encouragement. When the spirit came upon them, they were immediately transformed. They were no longer afraid. Instead, they went out and they spoke.
What is more, they spoke in languages that others could understand. Jerusalem was a pretty cosmopolitan place, even by today’s standards. The passage in Acts listed people from 13 different locations. Yet, the apostles, these Galileans, were able to communicate with each and every one of the people in the street in their own language.
I imagine this scene to be akin to something that one would see a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. If you’re confused by what I just said, you probably haven’t seen Star Wars lately. If you had, you’d remember that there were many kinds of beings who spoke many kinds of languages in this classic movie from the 80’s. C3PO and R2D2, the robots, for example, used two different “languages” in their communication. But they didn’t need translators. They didn’t need to speak in the same language as the other person; they could speak to each other and be understood just as they were.
This is the way it is in my house as well and in probably most of your homes. We can all more or less speak English, Taiwanese, and Chinese. When I talk to my mother, there are times when the depth of the conversation we have goes beyond what I can express in one language alone. It can happen in our conversations where we can each speak in whatever language in order to further our communication. It is times like this that I appreciate the relationship I have with my mother that we are able to have deep, meaningful conversations, but also that we are able to use the resources we have been given by God in order to make that connection to each other to offer support and understanding. It’s a nice way of communicating.
This is the power of language, and, I daresay, one of the reasons that the Holy Spirit manifested in the ability to speak in different languages. In order to go forth and witness to what God has done, we must be able to speak. Yet, the connection we have with our mothers, as with God, can go even beyond that. It was certainly not just the ability of the apostles to speak different tongues that encouraged and strengthened them to go out and speak to the world. The Holy Spirit provided much more than merely language skills.
I don’t know if you have experienced this, but there are oftentimes when I find that I can’t really express myself in a way that truly communicates what I’m really thinking and feelings. Words are helpful, but communication encompasses much more than just words alone. There are things that we cannot explain or do not have the words to say, yet we are able to be understood. I truly believe that God can see our hearts and can speak to that which we cannot.
In the same way, mothers are intuitive beings. They can get a sense of what their children want and need. There are times that our mothers just know something about us that can certainly stun us. I remember the first time I came home from college. I remember that I got home in time for dinner. When we all sat down to have dinner, I found dinner to include fish and 空心菜，蘿蔔乾炒蛋. I was surprised so I said, “but how did you know these were my favorites?” She said “of course I know. I’m your mother.”
In the moment that the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles, God provided His people with something they desperately needed though they did not ask for it. I would even venture to guess that they did not know what it is that they needed. They just knew they needed something to help them get over their fear. The apostles didn’t know what they needed to get through this time, but God did. I certainly didn’t know what I wanted for dinner, but my mom did.
The coming of the Holy Spirit transformed the apostles and gave them courage to face life without Christ. With the love and support of our mothers, we are able to be encouraged to go forth into the world. When we grow up, we do not need our mothers’ constant presence, but their wisdom and guidance are always on our minds. In this way, they are constantly with us.
The apostles had to grow up, in a sense, because Christ had left earth. They had to learn to be independent and face the world, but from today on, they will always have the presence of the Holy Spirit to remind them of what it was like in the presence of Christ. We, too, will have the presence of the Holy Spirit, but we will likewise have all the impact of our mothers in our lives as we grow and leave our home.
The apostles, of course, were not the only ones with fear. When the people of Jerusalem heard what the apostles were doing, their minds immediately turned to fear. They became afraid and began to come with reasons and logic in order to define what was going on. So, they decided that the apostles have had lots of wine and were drunk.
For the first time since the ascension, Peter spoke up. He was no longer in fear. This is the power of the Holy Spirit. The presence of God in our lives will transform our fear and anxiety to provide comfort and courage. This is what it feels like when we have the support of our mothers behind our decisions—it gives us courage in the pursuit of the fearful. When I was trying to figure out whether to apply for Hawaii or not, it was because of the encouragement my mother gave me that I got up the courage to not only do it, but to accept the position.
On Pentecost, we are reminded that God’s presence is always with us, always supporting us, and always available for our usage in order to witness to His greatness. My mother, and perhaps some of your mothers as well, has this gift to give to us: to instill the love of God in us, as well as encourage us to follow God’s call. When we are afraid, or when we are feeling timid, they give us that tangible spark that we need to keep going and speak the truth that is in our hearts.
On this day, we celebrate the resources given to us by our mothers, just as we celebrate the Holy Spirit given to us by God in order to help us face this broken world with courage to speak the truth and witness to the greatness of God. Let us remember today that we are not alone and that we need not fear. Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Pentecost. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all, this day and every day.