Sermon 2009-05-10

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Sermon May 10th, 2009 (Pastor Lise Sparrow)

Mother’s Day

 I did a search for the history of Mother’s Day and this is what I found:

   The history of Mother's Day is centuries old and goes back to the times of ancient Greeks, who held festivities to honor Rhea, the mother of the gods. The early Christians celebrated the Mother's festival on the fourth Sunday of Lent to honor Mary, the mother of Christ. Interestingly, later on a religious order stretched the holiday to include all mothers, and named it as the Mothering Sunday. The English colonists settled in America discontinued the tradition of Mothering Sunday because of lack of time. In 1872 Julia Ward Howe organized a day for mothers dedicated to peace. It is a landmark in the history of Mother's Day.

I love the way our ancestors put it aside “for lack of time”.

     These days I am often tempted to put a celebration of Mother’s Day aside for its complexity.    I suspect it has always been so but in these days of diversity we know too well that we must acknowledge the extraordinary loving of mothers, grandmothers great grandmothers and great great grandmothers but that there are stepmothers, adopted mothers, aunts, neighbors, teachers, therapists friends and fathers who provide the extraordinary love so needed in our lives and the lives of our children. 

     Our first lesson in Acts helps us see in a similar way not only the extraordinary reach of God’s Love for us all but the specific ways God calls to us as apostles to make God’s love visible and knowable.

     An angel tells Philip to go to a wilderness place and then to go speak to a specific man in a specific carriage where he finds a man reading aloud. Through their conversation the scripture is transformed from empty words about a distant misery to an inner knowing of how personal and transformative God’s love can be.  As if it were a “coincidence”, the scripture speaks specifically about a lamb being slaughtered, his generation having been denied justice naming exactly and specifically the humilation of the generation of men who had been castrated to better serve  the rulers of Egypt.   Scholars say that the fact man was black and Ethiopian was far less notable than the fact of his having been mutilated  and marginalzed. Nonetheless,  Philip not only teaches him but ultimately helps him claim his birthright as a child of a loving God and then, in a flash disappears—leaving the man to wonder and rejoice at this revelation.

     This was a moment when a perfect stranger made the words of scripture come alive and whose generosity helped this young man claim his right to full baptism in the River of Life. We learn in this brief passage that up until then the young man had been serving the queen and in charge of the entire Egyptian treasury but that even in this service he was bereft.    Philip this kind stranger then helped him find  in a simple river blessing an entirely new way to see himself and his purpose.   This young man who have been mutilated and marginalized and burdened with responsibility was left, changed forever.

     In the gospel we then hear Jesus talk of the good shepherd who is willing for a few moments to put his own life on the line for his sheep  only to pick it up again when the danger is past.

     We can’t know in the epistle story what danger Philip may have risked in his willingness to set his own life aside to spend time with the eunuch.   What of his own business might he have had to suspend when the angel called?   What danger might he have faced in taking up a conversation and traveling with this servant of the Queen?    And in the end, what joy might he have taken from having sacrificed to make this connection?

     This gospel passage has been given to us so perfectly for today… we hear so clearly Christ’s call to true love and connection for all of us:

     I know my own and my own know me, just as God knows me and I know God. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

 One flock, one shepherd, one God for all…One love,  one forgiveness, one rebirth for us all.

     In research on youth they have learned that children who are bullied or left behind in some way need only one caring adult whom they may not even see often but who is there for them-- showing them unconditional love--- who makes the difference to a child who ultimately succeeds and one who fails and falls into despair and trouble.

     We cannot underestimate the power of holding out a dream for another person of what is possible.   I always think on Mother’s Day of my first mother-in-law.   How in the day to day of married life I would become irritated  with my husband or at least, a bit frustrated,  and then we would go visit his mother, and there in the course of an afternoon visit I would remember all the reasons I had first fallen in love with him.   By spending time with her I could see how see could overlook all the small and petty things and revitalize his dreams for himself of who he was and is and could ultimately become.

     We all need these people in our lives and with luck they are our parents…but when they are not we can thank God they remind us nonetheless of who we truly are and of what we are meant to be.

     And we all need to be this for others—especially for our parents---who themselves may have forgotten their early dreams and  God’s amazing grace.  

     For those of us who are lucky, we have the fortune of being by our loved ones bedsides in gratitude as they slip back into God’s everlasting Love of thanking them for all the moment when they said just the right thing at just the right time---when unlike the hired hand or babysitter who slips away in fear—they laid their own lives aside to be with us—in our struggles. What precious moments these are.

     And it is good that women before us reclaimed the importance of honoring the ones in our lives who love us into healing and gave us a day to remember our mothers and all others, to remember the best of who we each are, and Christ the One who reminded us of what true love can be.

Let us pray.