Jesus, Mothers, and Me

Several weeks ago, I was asked to speak at a press conference honoring immigrant mothers, just before mother’s day. I found myself reflecting on the words of John Wesley, “I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians in England.” In the days leading up to the press conference, a friend reframed these words by asking ““How might the church and world be different if we listened to and were willing to learn from our mothers?” I have learned more about what it means to be a faithful follower of Christ from my mother and those who have played the role of mother in my life.  

As a child, my mother taught me that hard work and dedication will make you the best. My maternal grandmother still teaches me the power of hospitality and relationship because every time I walk through her door, she stops what she is doing to make me a meal then she sits with me and we talk. My paternal grandmother models kindness. Every time I visit her in Puerto Rico, I often have to push aside the case of water and peanut butter crackers she keeps in her car, so that I can take a seat. She keeps the water and crackers in her car to offer to her homeless neighbors while she is waiting at a traffic light or stopped at an intersection. Ms. Clara Webb taught me about persistence in the face of adversity.

Ms. Webb was a nurse and an activist. During the civil rights movement, she integrated churches on Sunday mornings and often would be met by police when trying to attend worship. Finally, I learned what it means to care for others from Maria. Years ago I was serving a local congregation and Maria made a point to bring her children to church every Sunday and to make sure kids in the neighborhood were coming to church also. As I got to know Maria, I learned that she had to leave her oldest daughter behind when she first moved to the US. It took Maria a few years before she could create a pathway for her daughter to join her here in the states. Maria cared deeply for her daughter and made a tough decision that no mother should ever have to make. Families are sacred and should be kept together.  

Those who exist in the halls of power continue to declare that immigrant mothers are criminal, that Muslims are terrorists, that black bodies are to be feared. It is our duty to as people of faith to proclaim the gospel imperative to love our neighbor. Throughout my life, I have been taught by my mothers. These mothers have been kin, black, brown, immigrant, queer, and trans. As a follower of Christ, it is clear to me in scripture that I am to care for the orphan, and that family is sacred. Because of my faith, I believe we must bring families together. This is the kind of community we are called to be. Because of my faith, I believe we must welcome the stranger. This is the kind of nation we are called to be. It is time we take a serious look at our misguided values and proclaim a new moral imperative rooted in the Gospel.