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Dear Friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Happy Mother’s Day! For many mothers today, this is a Mother’s Day like no other. No flowers, no cards, no chocolates, no Mother’s Day brunch, and no hugs or kisses. Of course, for some of you this Mother’s Day might be just like every year- but with a reasonable excuse.
Oh, yes, you have experienced Mother’s Days like this before. It was rather like the two children who ordered their mother to stay in bed one Mother’s Day morning. As she lay there looking forward to breakfast in bed, the smell of bacon floated up from the kitchen. But after a good long wait she finally went downstairs to investigate where she found them both sitting at the table eating bacon and eggs. “As a surprise for you,” one explained, “we decided to cook our own breakfast.” Or perhaps yours was the experience of the poor neighbor boy’s lament, “I bought my Mom a coffee mug which said, ‘Happy Mother’s Day from the World’s Worst Son.’ So I forgot to mail it,” he added, “but I think she knows it.”
This year, you would be content with a simple hand-made card, and a few of those childish Knock- Knock jokes written inside. You know, “Knock, knock. Who’s there? Annie. Annie who? Annie thing you can do, Mom can do better. Or “Knock, Knock. Who’s there? Water. Water who? Water you doing for Mother’s Day?”
No, for most mothers who are physically distanced from the ones they love, this is not going to be a Mother’s Day like any other. But that doesn’t mean we should skip over it. Fathers already know what that’s like. As we often say, you know why Mother’s Day comes before Father’s Day? So kids can spend all their Christmas money on their mother.
My wife Janna always warns me that I am not supposed to say anything that will make people cry on this Mother’s Day, but since I can’t see you, I will just preach as if I didn’t hear her. It is difficult know why people cry on Mothers’ Day- sometimes, it’s sadness; sometimes it’s joy, and sometimes it’s the reminiscence of a grateful heart. The mere mention of the word mother stirs up in us a whole range of responses, both laughter and tears.
Mothers have a special place in everyone’s life. Even for those whose relationship is strained, there is a longing to restore to perfection that which has been lost. No matter how far the distance, or length of time, you remain dear to your mother. Whether it is the woman who bore you, or the woman who opened her heart to you, there is a permanent place just for her.
Mother’s Day may not be a church holiday, but it has been a central theme and festival in life throughout the centuries. It is also quite Biblical. This morning’s meditation is inspired by the words of Jesus in St. John’s gospel. These were the words Jesus offered his disciples the night in which he was betrayed. Jesus, knowing what trials and uncertainties lay before them, prayed that God would watch over his disciples protecting them and keeping them. He then offered a word of promise and strength that has comforted generation upon generation. “Peace, I leave with. My peace, I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be hearts, neither let them be afraid.” Jesus may have attributed these sentiments to the Father, but I have a good idea that a mother’s hand was present as well. There always is. And Jesus taught them that they should never forget that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
So on this Mother’s Day let me share with you three lessons of God’s peace and guidance that the noble women in my life have taught me. First, God’s peace is more than the absence of conflict. It is a peace that can be found in a world that is in turmoil around. Second, God’s peace is found when you have a clear focus on what is ultimately important. What is your Way, your Truth and your Life? Third, God’s peace is more than a calm exterior. God’s peace is a deeply felt conviction.
First of all, children need to discover early on that life is not perfect- and that there is pain and sorrow. As parents, we would like to protect them from every misfortune that could come their way. And the mistake is made of smothering children instead of mothering children. One of the most important lessons that you can teach your family is that God’s peace is not simply the absence of trouble. God’s peace is a deep experience of serenity in the midst of trouble. You can only do this by finding that quiet time to rededicate your life to God’s love and work. It is the example you offer of prayer and Bible study, worship and family time. We make a critical mistake of waiting till our children have left home to begin our spiritual care. Young and old need to see your pursuit of God’s peace- otherwise they will never know where to begin.
It is difficult for fathers to admit it, but children seem to instinctively turn to their mothers in times of need. Of course, the possibility of personal pain can happen at any time. Mothers know that. Ann Taylor writes, “Who ran to help me when I fell, Or kissed the place to make it well? ….My mother.” When my sons were young they would look straight through me, and say, “Mama, mamushka, mom.” My grandchildren do the same things. They act as if in time of trouble that don’t need me and run to Grandma.. There is an old Jewish saying, “A mother understands what a child does not say.” Another saying is equally true, “Mother is the bank where we deposit all our hurts and worries.” It can happen when a child is sick, or injured, or simply without a focus or purpose in life. It can be when children are estranged from one another. They offer the gift of peace when the world seems to be crumbling down around them..
Let us turn to my second conviction. God’s peace is found when you have a clear focus on what is ultimately important. For some sainted mothers, this sense of peace and calm is natural, but for most mothers, and I would add say, for the majority of fathers, this calm and peace is a work in process. Day after day, and year after year, we need to re-establish our focus, and recalibrate our values and beliefs. Even the disciples who were closest to Jesus, needed to be reminded that in times of trouble, when one is looking for hope and direction, Jesus needs to be your Way and Truth and Life.
Somebody recently wrote that their worst Christmas present of 2019 was a daily planner for 2020. Life doesn’t always unfold as you expect, so you may throw up your hands, and give up. You resign yourself to the actions of the world. Yes, when things get tough, you surrender to the baser, less noble human behaviors. You may drown yourself in sorrow, or feed upon your bitterness and anger. When life seems unfair and unjust, you may try to escape and run away from your feelings and emotions. But my friends, God has destined you for something more. That was Jesus’ word to his disciples. You have been created in God’s image to dwell with him in his eternal home. And you have been given a free will to stay the course- or not. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. But sometimes when we are so stymied at the crossroads of life, we need to hear that reminder again and again. Mothers seem to a have a way of sharing that hope which fathers often overlook. Fathers prefer to teach lessons of success and perseverance. Mothers share the lesson of peace in the midst of chaos. It is a matter of the heart and mind and conscience. A mother’s love and witness are uniquely powerful. As George Herbert once wrote, “A good mother is worth hundreds of schoolmasters.”
I’m onto my third point, now, and I don’t think I’ve caused any tears. At least I can’t see any from hear. So finally, God’s peace is more than a calm exterior. God’s peace is a deeply felt conviction and trust in the one who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Calm exteriors are hard to manage, especially with age, though I think I’m doing it pretty well- except for my changing eyesight. I am beginning to have an appreciation for my mother and escalators. My mother’s bifocals drove her and us crazy. She would stand for minutes waiting at the bottom of the escalator till her eyes had focused while I was waiting at the top. Recently, I’ve noticed difficulty reading the menu in restaurants. That is not a problem these days. I am convinced that they are dimmer watt bulbs, and smaller print. Now, I simply point to blurry line on the menu and hope for the best. This is what you do for the sake of keeping up my stoic appearance. But the peace of God is more than a calm exterior when the world is in turmoil around you. God’s peace is a confidence that even in your surrendering, you will enjoy his final victory. That confidence is found in knowing Jesus.
Nearly 40 years ago, when my Confirmation Pastor, Carl Borgwardt died at 54 years old on the handball court, the familiar words he preached to the congregation came back to the parish as a word of comfort and strength. “Death is not a tragedy for those who live in the hope of Jesus Christ.” Why is this so true, you may ask? During this troubling time, I am reminded over and over again that when you believe that there is a destination calling you homeward, then you can affirm your faith in the loving purposes of God. Yes, when you trust that there is a place waitng for at the end of life’s journey, then you can press on with confidence. When you believe that there is a dwelling place prepared for you, where you will gather together forever with those you have known and loved, then the unbearable becomes bearable and in the midst of darkness, you can see a glimmer of hope.
My friends, this may not be a Mother’s Day like any you have known before. The physical separation may be more than you can bear, and frankly even a hand-made Mother’s Day card with simple Knock Knock joke would be a meaningful gesture. “Knock, knock! Who’s there? Justin! Justin who? Justin time for Mother’s Day.”
As countless generations of mothers have taught us- physical separation may last awhile- even the separation of death. But God has wonderful surprise. We will gather together again. So be of good courage. That’s what your mother would say- and button up your overcoat. And let God’s promise of his peace, and the encouraging words of loving and caring mother’s sustain you this Mother’s Day with the confidence that we will meet and embrace again. Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.