Sermon for the Seventh Sunday of Easter – May 13th, 2018 – MOTHER’S DAY

Text: John 17:6-26 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Prays for His Disciples

“I have revealed you[a] to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of[b] your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by[c] that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by[d] the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

In the Name of God, the Holy and Undivided Trinity. Amen.

Today we celebrate mothers.

Many years ago now, when I was a student pastor at the Pilgrim Congregational UCC in Durand, I had occasion to officiate at a wedding along with a Catholic priest. He did the homily, and I recall his words regarding his mother all these years later.

It seems that, as mother lay dying, she said to him words to the effect of “what am I going to say to God when I get to heaven? What have I done in my life?”

Her son’s reply to her moved me then and they move me still. He said to her, “Mother, show him your hands!”

A mother’s hands are always busy. They lift up crying children, they nurture them, they cook food for them, they clean up after them, they prevent them from wandering off, they protect them, they give them cuddles in the middle of the night, they have wiped thousands of tears from crying eyes, wiped untold numbers of snotty noses, have applied Band-Aids to scraped knees, have made breakfasts, lunches, dinners, sewed Hallowe’en costumes and mended jeans and skirts and shirts …. they bear witness to all that you have done and do.

So, moms – if you ever wonder whether you’re making a difference, just look at your hands!

Mothers make an enormous difference in the world. It may be that mothers make all the difference, and always have. Where would any of us be without our mothers?

My sense of fairness and justice comes from my mother. I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating – I’m five years old, maybe less, and I’m watching some old Western on the afternoon movie matinee on WFRV-TV, Green Bay. There’s a scene of a fight between the white settlers and some Indians, and it scares me. Just as Mom walks by with a load of laundry, I blurt out, “I hate Indians!” Mom stops dead in her tracks, turns to me, and says, “What did you say?” I answered, “I hate Indians! They hurt those people!” And Mom proceeded to set me straight by telling me “The Indians were very just people.” “Just what?” “Just people – they had a sense of justice.” She took a few minutes to explain what she meant so my five-year-old mind could grasp it. Since that time, I have tried (with varying degrees of success) to maintain a sense of fairness and justice in my attitudes and in my dealings with the world and the people in it. This was a watershed moment in my life – I not only remember it as if it were yesterday, but I can even recount verbatim what her initial reaction and comments were. Thanks, Mom!

Mothers change the world. For the most part, they do it in small ways – by caring for their children and their families. But, really, there is nothing small or unimportant about that, because what they’re actually doing is nothing less than keeping the human race going. There’s nothing “small” about that!

We see all too often the heroic acts of mothers – like the mothers in Africa and elsewhere who carry their small children sometimes hundreds of miles on foot to reach safety.

We read about mothers who willingly and, without a moment’s hesitation, sacrifice themselves so that their children might live.

If anyone embodies the words “love one another,” and “no greater love,” it’s a mother.

It sounds so simple. It seems so straightforward. “Love each other.” But we all know from personal experience that there’s really nothing harder to do – at least consistently. Love is not for the fainthearted, particularly any kind of love that really counts.

I think that’s why God gives us mothers.

No one deserves a special day all to herself more than today’s Mom. A cartoon showed a psychologist talking to his female patient: “Let’s see,” he said, “You spend 50 percent of your energy on your job, 50 percent on your husband and 50 percent on your children. I think I see your problem.”

The American psychologist and philosopher William James once wrote: “The best use of life is to spend it for something that outlasts life.” This is what mothers do – they spend their lives raising their children, who will outlive them, in a long, unbroken chain of life stretching behind them into the dark mists of the past and forward into the uncharted future.

Mothers are the pillars of their families. They nurture and care for the children, provide their children with what they need to survive and thrive. They are the walls, and inside these walls they make a home. They provide the windows through which we see the world.

And that’s just for starters!

If it weren’t for the women who followed Jesus, we would not be here today. Women like Mary Magdalene, Johanna, Solome, and Jesus’ mother Mary, supported Jesus and his disciples, housed them, clothed them, fed them, and in so many other ways supported them and helped the Gospel message to spread. They weren’t the incidental characters later history has made them out to be – they were integral, vitally important people, disciples in their own right; they are as responsible for the growth of Christianity as any of the Apostles.

You’ve no doubt sung the children’s hymn that starts like this: “Jesus loves me / This I know / For the Bible tells me so.” And chances are that the person who first taught you that hymn was your mother.

The life of faith begins at the cradle.

Robert Ingersoll was a well-known U.S. lawyer and political leader in the 19th Century, as well as a notorious skeptic. Two college students once went to hear him lecture. As they walked down the street after the lecture, one said to the other, “Well, I guess he knocked the props out from under Christianity, didn’t he?” The other said, “No, I don’t think he did. Ingersoll did not explain my mother’s life, and until he can explain my mother’s life I will stand by my mother’s God.”

Mothers come in all shapes and sizes, but – though there are exceptions – the one thing most of them have in common are their big hearts, and the courage to go with them.

A few years ago, a woman by the name of Susan Dibene, who was thirty-three years old at the time, died while trying to free her two-year-old daughter’s stroller from the tracks of a commuter rail line in Riverside, California. Imagine this – you’re out taking your infant daughter for a walk, and you try to cross the train tracks, which you’ve probably done many times before, only this time, the stroller’s wheels get stuck, and here comes a train. What would you do? Many people would panic. They’d run and save themselves. Others would freeze up and both mother and child would die.

Not Susan Dibene. As the news report puts it: “In a final moment of heroism she managed to free the buggy and push her child clear – but did not have enough time to get herself out of the way.”

Truly an heroic act. Mothers routinely do heroic things – some of them are “big things,” and some of them a “small things,” but all of them make the world a better place.

One thing we need to keep in mind, too, is that motherhood is not necessarily a matter of biology. Stepmothers, aunts, nannies, loving neighbors, teachers – all of them qualify for the crown of motherhood, because, to paraphrase Abe Lincoln, “no one stands so tall as one who stoops to help a child.”

There’s a woman in Chicago who’s been called “The Baby Whisperer” – she’s been the mother to dozens of babies in her life. She has devoted her life to caring for babies who have no one else to care for them. Babies don’t know if you’re really their mother or not – but they definitely feel love, and I know women who are stepmothers or who have adopted children and who love them as much as any biological mother could; and their children love them back just as much!

I like to think that, when Jesus said in his prayer “And glory has come to me through them,” he was especially thinking about mothers – because no one exemplifies Christ’s teachings more than mothers!

As I have done in past years, I’d like to close with this short essay on mothers by the late, great Erma Bombeck. She tells us that on the day God created mothers He had already worked long overtime. And an angel said to Him, “Lord, you sure are spending a lot of time on this one.”

The Lord turned & said, “Have you read the specs on this model? She is supposed to be completely washable, but not plastic. She is to have 180 moving parts, all of them replaceable. She is to have a kiss that will heal everything from a broken leg to a broken heart. She is to have a lap that will disappear whenever she stands up. She is to be able to function on black coffee & leftovers. And she is supposed to have six pairs of hands.”

“Six pairs of hands,” said the angel, “that’s impossible.” “It’s not the six pairs of hands that bother me.” said the Lord, “It’s the three pairs of eyes. She is supposed to have one pair that sees through closed doors so that whenever she says, `What are you kids doing in there?’ she already knows what they’re doing in there.”

“She has another pair in the back of her head to see all the things she is not supposed to see but must see. And then she has one pair right in front that can look at a child that just goofed & communicate love & understanding without saying a word.”

“That’s too much.” said the angel, “You can’t put that much in one model. Why don’t you rest for a while & resume your creating tomorrow?”

“No, I can’t,” said the Lord. “I’m close to creating someone very much like myself. I’ve already come up with a model who can heal herself when she is sick – who can feed a family of six with one pound of hamburger – & who can persuade a nine year old to take a shower.”

Then the angel looked at the model of motherhood a little more closely & said, “She’s too soft.” “Oh, but she is tough,” said the Lord. “You’d be surprised at how much this mother can do.”

“Can she think?” asked the angel. “Not only can she think,” said the Lord, “but she can reason & compromise & persuade.”

Then the angel reached over & touched her cheek. “This one has a leak,” he said. “I told you that you couldn’t put that much in one model.” “That’s not a leak,” said the Lord. “That’s a tear.”

“What’s a tear for?” asked the angel. “Well it’s for joy, for sadness, for sorrow, for disappointment, for pride.” “You’re a genius,” said the angel. And the Lord said, “Oh, but I didn’t put it there.”

Thank you, mothers of St. John’s! Thank you mothers everywhere!
In the Name of God, the Holy and Undivided Trinity. Amen.