Today is Mothers’ Day. We open with our Easter Alleluias and some good music…Spirit of the Living God and Cantad al Senor ( I remember when we did it with actual trumoets…) Afterbour scriotures, 1 JOHN 5:1-6 and JOHN 15:9-17, I begin the reflection.
Today is Mothers’ Day. I know it can be, well, an ambivalent day at best for many. I sent greetings to many people.
* One whose husband died and who’s alienated from his family
* Another who struggles with her own children, though loves being a grandmother
*Another who lost her only child
There’s also this:
* A friend who posted on Facebook the pain of people sending Mothers’ Day greetings when she is not despite always wanting to be one..
Some of us did not have happy experiences with our mothers…
This day is more complex than the romantic Hallmark image..
And it’s also time to give thanks for those who were mothers to children not their own….
Let’s go back to look at it’s origins. In the wake of the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, Julia Ward Howe wrote this:
Again, in the sight of the Christian world, have the skill and power of two great nations exhausted themselves in mutual murder. Again have the sacred questions of international justice been committed to the fatal mediation of military weapons. In this day of progress, in this century of light, the ambition of rulers has been allowed to barter the dear interests of domestic life for the bloody exchanges of the battle field. Thus men have done. Thus men will do. But women need no longer be made a party to proceedings which fill the globe with grief and horror. Despite the assumptions of physical force, the mother has a sacred and commanding word to say to the sons who owe their life to her suffering. That word should now be heard, and answered to as never before.
Arise, then, Christian women of this day ! Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears ! Say firmly : We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country, to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: Disarm, disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence vindicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of council.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take council with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, man as the brother of man, each bearing after his own kind the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.
In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women, without limit of nationality, may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient, and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.
—Julia Ward Howe 18
(Actually it was Anna May Jarvis who actually succeeded in getting Mothers’ Day recognized as a national holiday. But she had her issues, too.
A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.
Our gospel this morning ,you might say in our Resurrection living series ,could be seen as
Rising through Laying down.
As we move towards end of Easter, the time of the risen Christ on earth,we turn to Jesus’ farewell discourse, to reflect on how to carry on when he’s no longer with us in the flesh.
…so that my joy may be in you and your joy be complete…he says. To be honest, joy is not easy for me…I’ve learned to understand hope as a spiritual/theological reality…but I an still working on joy… the whole ideas is a bit counter-cultural for an old-school Presbyterian.
When I was in church youth camp, a song leader had us sing Slap bang hear we go again, jolly Presbyterians. I brought that home to hear my own Sunday school teach her say, that is not Presbyterian.
Once in Pittsburgh, our Presbytery had a retreat led by someone from the Church of the Savior, the intentional Christian community in Washington, DC. He ended every session with a recording of Don’t worry be happy by Bobby McFerrin… …at first it was OK, but after 5 or 6 times I was ready to shoot myself or someone else. I didn’t yet understand the theological point he was trying to make. (You might want to check out his 23rd Psalm for Mothers’ Day….)
By reading James Cone, I learned how African-American worship was filled with joy….the creation of liberated space…even in the midst of slavery…and when you think of
Desmond Tutu, what image do you have but that ever present joyous smile, even in the depths of apartheid. Then there were the More Light worship services at our national general Assemblies, even at the darkest days for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.
Jesus speaks of laying down one’s life for his friends..we read this only in John…why? so that you may love…As someone once said, friends get you through times of no lovers better than lovers get you through times of no friends…
My cousins were Quakers…there official name was the society of friends…
Laying down for Jesus, meant going to the cross. Willingly. Voluntarily. To take away the power and fear of death. To set us free from that fear, that anxiety.
But for us…the question is, what do we lay down? And how? What risks do we take and why?
And can we truly be friends?
That is our question for Mothers’ Day.
For our offertory today, I sing my version of Rock of Ages.
After worship, our session meets again. To consider our future. There are serious questions to decide. We are due for an annual meeting.
It is a beautiful spring day.