Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Children love to tell jokes about mothers on Mother’s Day. What did the mother broom say to the baby broom? It’s time to go to sweep! What did the mother rope say to her little robe? Don’t be knotty. A Sunday School teacher asked her class if they said their prayers before eating. “No, ma’am,” one little boy answered. “We don’t have to. My mom’s a good cook.” A mother mouse and a baby mouse were walking along when suddenly a cat attacked them. The mother mouse shouted, “BARK!” and the cat ran away. “See?” the mother mouse said to her baby. “Now do you see why it’s important to learn a foreign language?”
It is said, once a mother, always a mother. No matter how grown the kids are, in her eyes, they will always be her precious little ones- even when they tell less than polite jokes about mothers. Nor does a mother ever stop worrying about her children, even when they are all grown up and having children of their own. Secretly every mother still hopes that even when they have left the house, that their children will still come through the front door without knocking, that they will head to the kitchen for a snack, and slump on the sofa to watch TV. Yes, every mother hopes that her children will come in and feel the weight of adulthood leave them for they are home. For a mother’s children, the door is always open. Even for Jesus and his mother, the Virgin Mary.
So how surprised and distraught she must have been at the Last Supper in Jerusalem with Jesus and his disciples when he announced that he would be leaving them. Of course, nowhere in scripture does it say that any women were present for the meal. But can you imagine Jesus not having his mother present for his last supper along with the other women who followed them? I don’t think so. According to scripture, Jesus’ mother Mary was one of his most faithful followers. She urged him to turn water into wine at a wedding feast and stood at his cross when he was dying. Another woman, Mary Magdalene, was the disciple Jesus appeared to first after his resurrection. Certainly, she would have been invited. There were other disciples there as well who were told to prepare the meal. No doubt, women who were the primary cooks in the ancient world were in the kitchen and in ear shot of everything Jesus taught that night. And there were the unnamed women who went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. Perhaps they were aunts and cousins, or friends of the two Marys. Unfortunately, the great renaissance painters of Giotto, Ghirlandaio, and di Vinci, created iconic images of the Last Supper with no women to be seen, leaving us with the notion that the women were unimportant to the faith. Nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout the generations, women have been the nurture of the faith.
This morning, I would like to meditate on Jesus’ words of comfort and hope in his farewell message to his disciples, and to the women who loved, followed and cared for him. Surprisingly, Jesus speaks with a mother’s touch- which would have made Mary very proud.
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever.” With his imminent departure nearing, Jesus knew that his disciples would be anxious about being alone and abandoned. Three years earlier Jesus had invited his disciples to entrust their entire future to him, and they had made that commitment. Now, Jesus wanted to assure them that his leaving would not unravel into the absolute disaster they were fearing. Incidentally, it is exactly what women must do for the children they love and care for as they prepare for their day of reckoning. Children are after all expected to leave home. Unfortunately, grown children often leave home before all of their belongings do.
Jesus’ disciples must have wondered how they could continue to serve the Lord and fulfill his mission in the world without him being physically present with them. Believe me, loving mothers, grandmothers, aunts and friends often have that same question about their own children. I remember one very proud and independent graduating senior who decided to put his mom in her place, and said, “So mom, what is it like to have the best and brightest child in the world?” She smiled, “I don’t know. Why don’t you go and ask your grandparents.” To address the disciples concerns, Jesus assured them of the on-going presence of the Holy Spirit: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”
This is an important word of counsel for mothers, doting admirers and fathers as well. You can’t always be physically present with your children. You may not even be there with them in their most own troubling and anxious times. And frankly, they may not want you to be there- as painful as that may be. That is why you too must be assured that there is power beyond yourself that can face life’s great challenges. That is the Holy Spirit. Regretfully, as spiritual mentors, we often think its all about us. I remember the coffee cup given to a friend. “I don’t need Google My mom knows everything,” but let me remind you, the Holy Spirit knows even more. The Spirit knows your possibilities and your limitations and is working within you always to do what is best.
Jesus went on to say, “I will not leave you orphaned: I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me.” Jesus’ mother Mary heard those final words more personally than all the others gathered in the Upper Room. The Greek word orphanous means “fatherless children.” In ancient biblical culture, orphans were among the most vulnerable people along with widows and resident aliens. According to Israel’s social structure, the father or male head of the household was responsible for guarding and protecting the family members. Orphans were left with no one to care for or provide for them.
As members of God’s family, there will be times when you feel is if you have been orphaned. It happens when the once close proximity to the spiritual women who nurtured disappears and seems distant and foreign. Sometimes it is when they pass away and your life ache for their presence again. For others, it when you see the women who have loved you, struggling physically and emotionally themselves. That is why Jesus’ words to his disciples at the Last Supper are so important and poignant. Jesus promises that the Lord will never abandon those who keep his commandments. Nor will he leave them unprotected to face the struggles and evils in this world alone. That is your promise as well. Instead, he will find a myriad of ways to let you know that he is near.
Deborah R. Culver wrote a lovely poem called “Your Mother is Always With You” which echoes that wonderful sentiment of Jesus’s promise at his Last Supper.
Your Mother is always with you.
She’s the whisper of the leaves as you walk down the street.
She’s the smell of certain foods you remember, flowers you pick, the fragrance of life itself.
She’s the cool hand on your brow when you’re not feeling well.
She’s your breath in the air on a cold winters’ day.
She is the sound of the rain that lulls you to sleep, the colors of a rainbow.
She is Christmas morning.
Your mother lives inside your laughter.
She’s the place you come from, your first home.
She’s the map you follow with every step you take.
She’s your first love, your first friend, even your first enemy.
But nothing on Earth can separate you.
Not time. Not space. Not even death.
When my mother was failing and nearing death, I found great strength in the words of Old Testament prophet Isaiah. At that point in time, she could stare at you knowingly and name off all six of her children and a few of her sisters as well before landing on the right one. “And what else is new?” was her favorite question usually asked every five minutes. The prophet Isaiah wrote of the faithful God, “Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! Can a woman forget her nursing child or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these might forget, yet I will not forget you.”
My friends, God’s love is greater than even the most passionate mother. And Jesus promises that the Lord will comfort you in life and death. Be assured that even though others who have loved you may forget your name, God will not forget you nor leave you orphaned- ever. Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.