Friday, May 15, 2015

Mother's Day (Genesis 21:1-8; John 2:1-11) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

On Mother’s Day a young mother awoke to find her two children climbing all over her.  They said: “Happy Mother's Day, stay in bed mom, we're going to make breakfast.”  She lay there in disbelief, amazed at this rare moment of thoughtfulness.  Soon the smell of cooking bacon caught her senses.  Then she heard her children calling her downstairs.   Arriving in the kitchen, she found them sitting at the table, each with a large plate of bacon and eggs.  Looking up and seeing her they yelled out: “Happy Mother’s Day, we made our own breakfast.”

Renowned author and preacher Tony Campolo said that when their children were little, his wife Peggy was a full-time stay-at-home mom.  On occasion, someone would say to her, "Your husband is such a talented speaker what is it that you do dear?"   She would respond, "I am socializing two Homo sapiens into the dominant values of the Judeo-Christian tradition in order that they might be instruments for the transformation of the social order into the kind of eschatological utopia that God willed from the beginning of creation."  Then Peggy would ask the person, "And what do you do?"

A mother writes:  “My 5-year-old son accompanied me to my ultrasound appointment when I was 11 weeks pregnant.  As the technician pointed out the shape of the developing baby to my son, she kept referring to the position of the fetus.  After some thought my son asked, "If that's where the feet is, where's the rest of the baby?"

In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation creating Mother’s Day, the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers.   We honor mothers and motherhood to show we love, value and appreciate them and that they are special in our lives: single and married mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers, step mothers, adoptive mothers, and foster mothers. Today we both honor the memory and legacy of mother’s who have died and give thanks for  living mothers who devote their lives to their family, to their work, to their church or synagogue, to their community and especially to their children.   We thank mothers serving in the military and mothers of military men and women.   

We acknowledge that this can be a difficult day for mothers who have experienced the death of a child and our hearts and prayers go out to them.  Some families will take their moms out for lunch.  We will celebrate the 90th birthday of one of the mother's in our congregation in the courtyard after worship today.  Other families will visit their mothers in a nursing home and still others will go to cemeteries and lay a bouquet of flowers at the grave-site of their mothers.  So today evokes mixed feelings of joy and sadness, appreciation and nostalgia as we honor our mothers.

God has given us the gift and task of being a parent.  But being a parent, a mother or a father, is always challenging, sometimes humorous and other times nerve-wracking, because no manual exists with all the answers for raising children.   Today observers have identified different types of parenting styles.  There are authoritative parents, authoritarian parents, indulgent parents and neglectful parents.   There are helicopter parents, who hover closely over their children, drill sergeant parents, who command and direct their children's lives, and lawnmower parents, who mow down all obstacles they see in their children’s path.

The Bible contains engrossing stories of real life mothers and their joys and sorrows.  The Bible looks at motherhood realistically and honestly.  It honors mothers but it doesn't idealize them, it doesn't portray them as icons of perfection.  In reading the stories of mothers in scripture, we see their flaws and humanness, and yet we also see God at work in their lives calling them to fulfill his plans for His covenant people.  We think of mothers like Sara, the mother of Isaac, Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau, Rachel, the mother of Joseph, Ruth, the mother of Obed; Naomi, the mother of two sons who died prematurely, Elisabeth the mother of John the Baptist, Hannah, the mother of Samuel, Jochebed, the mother of Moses, and Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Our first story is about Jesus' mother Mary.   Protestants have not placed much emphasis upon Mary, but our spiritual brothers and sisters, the Roman Catholics have and we can learn from them.  Mary is a saint, a superstar in the Roman Catholic church.  They have four dogmas related to her: The Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, the Mother of God, and the Perpetual Virginity.  Today especially it is important to remember the significance of Mary in the life of Jesus.

Mary played a vital role throughout Jesus’ life.   After his miraculous birth in Bethlehem, she and Joseph raised Jesus in Nazareth.  They provided for him, educated him, passed on to him the faith of Judaism, and taught him the skills to become a carpenter.  Mary was there at the beginning of Jesus' ministry on the occasion of his first miracle of changing water to wine at Cana, witnessed her son's death on the cross in Jerusalem and witnessed His resurrection. 

Jesus, Mary and the disciples are at a wedding.  Jewish weddings were major social affairs, the entire community, everyone in the town or village was invited.  We don’t know who was getting married, perhaps a close friend of Mary's, because she appears to be in charge of serving the wine.   Mary was faced with a embarrassing predicament when it was discovered that they were out of wine.  In Jesus' day that was a major social faux pas.

Mary said: “Jesus they have run out of wine." Jesus' answer seems rather brusque, "Woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come."  How many of you would have answered your mother in that way?  Saying "Woman" to our mother today would be disrespectful, but Jesus was speaking to his mother in Aramaic.   The word he used was a term of endearment and respect and can best be translated, "Dear Woman" or "Gracious Lady".  Mary says to the servants. “Do whatever he tells you.” And Jesus performs his first miracle, changing water into wine.

Mary is a model of motherhood today.  She reminds mothers of important things - to be involved and active and encouraging in your children's lives for as long as God grants you the gift of life. To have confidence in your children, to see their potential, to be aware of their untapped talents and strengths, capabilities and possibilities, to see in them what others don't see, and to trust their judgment and ability.  To give them the freedom to act and to be responsible.  “Do whatever he tells you.”   It seems to me the very purpose of parenting is to launch our children into the world as independent, productive, faith-filled, moral and responsible human beings.   This mom is your mission.

We also meet Sara the wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac.  Sara expresses her heartfelt joy, gratitude and faith in God at giving birth at her advanced age.   She was 90 years old and Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born.  “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.”  “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sara would nurse children.”   Sara is filled with joy and understands that her child is a gift of the Lord.

Today we give thanks to God and pay tribute to different types of mothers, like this mom, who writes: “On this particular day, I was having trouble doing even routine chores - all because of our little boy.  Derek was 3 at the time.  He was on my heels no matter where I went.  Whenever I stopped to do something and turned back around, I would trip over him.  Several times, I patiently suggested fun activities to keep him occupied.  ‘Wouldn’t you like to play on the swing set?’ I repeatedly asked.  But he simply smiled an innocent smile and said: ‘Oh, that’s all right Mommy, I’d rather be in here with you.’  Then he continued to bounce happily along behind me.  After stepping on his toes for the fifth time, I began to lose my patience and insisted that he go outside and play with the other children.  When I asked him why he was acting this way, he looked up at me with sweet green eyes and said, ‘Well Mommy, in Sunday school my teacher told me to walk in Jesus’ footsteps.  I can’t see him, so I’m walking in yours.’”

Here is another type of mom we pay tribute to today.  Mary Thomas was a single mom of nine children living in Chicago's rough West Side neighborhood.  Seven of Mary's nine kids were boys, young men constantly stretching the boundaries of their tired mother's authority and patience.   One day in 1966, Mary opened her front door to find 25 street thugs on her stoop. The men, members of the notorious Vice Lords gang, had come to recruit her seven sons.   Mary, upon hearing their intentions, dropped her gaze and said "Oh, okay. Hold on just a second" and closed the door.

When the door opened again, the first thing the Vice Lords saw was the barrel of a loaded shotgun.  She said: "There's only one gang around here and that's the Thomas gang."

With that same fortitude, Mary Thomas ushered each of her nine children to their high school graduation.  Her youngest son is pro-basketball player and Hall of Famer Isaiah Thomas, a point guard for the Boston Celtics.

Yes, it's Mother's Day.  Motherhood is indeed a blessing from God and moms everywhere need our love, our gratitude, our support and our prayers.  Amen!

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