This is the printed version of the message that I shared this morning. I will have to say what the I delivered was likely a bit different. At one point I had to find myself in the script to get back on track. At any rate this is the jest of what was said. The scriptures used were: I John 5:1-6 and John 15:9-17. The title was “Are You My Mother?”
First off before we get too far down the line here, I want to acknowledge that today is Mother’s Day. This is traditionally the day we honor our mother and mothers everywhere. Last year we spent time talking about the origin of this day, and I am not going to reiterate that. I do want to address being upset with myself today. I had all these grand plans to have a plant or flower or something to share with you, but illness and cold weather and such put a little monkey wrench into my plans. I still plan to share a few things, but it might have to wait a week or perhaps two before I can bring any plants. I am just glad that services weren’t cancelled because of snow. If you were listening to the weather forecasts the past few days, you might have dug out the snow scoops and boots and put the snow blower in front of the mower in the shed.
Anyway as much disappointment as I feel about not having things to pass out today, I will just have to settle for being thankful that we are all here and not under two feet of snow or hiding in a storm shelter because we have been hit by a tornado as some in the southern part of the US were earlier this week. [There was a tornado in a small town in South Dakota this morning. The only details I know is that only 9 people were
Are You My Mother? is the name of a children’s book by Dr. Seuss. I used it this past winter with a second grader who was having a tough time pronouncing some of his short “o” sounds. I am sure many of you have heard it or read it a few times to a child or grandchild or niece or nephew or some little one. It is the story of the little bird who falls out of his nest and gets lost. He begins to realize that he needs his mother to return home, and starts asking every animal and thing if they are his mother. My favorite is when he asks the large piece of equipment and his answer is a snort. Yet it is that large scoop that ends up picking him up and gently placing him back into his nest so that he is there when his mother comes home to check up on him and feed him.
In looking at some of the dictionary definitions of mother, I found what I expected, and a few interesting things. When I looked at “mother” in the verb form, I found the expected: To give birth to. To care for or protect someone like a mother. Acting as or providing parental stock, used without gender. And—To give rise to.
In the noun definitions there were: A female parent; an old or elderly woman; or—A woman in authority, the superior of a religious community of women; And then there was the adjective form which was: Something of extreme or ultimate example of its kind especially in terms of scale. I guess that is like the mother lode as is used in describing the best of a mine or such. Perhaps a really good mother should be described in that sense.
I was interested in the verb definition about the providing parental stock and used without reference to gender. In some of our more modern writings and liturgies and such, we see that reference used with the term God. Coming from the Patriarchal Western Civilization background, we are so used to God as the Father figure that we are shocked to think of God as our mother, but when we think of the qualities we admire about a good mother why wouldn’t we want to think of our God as being a mother of us all.
Certainly we think of God as our creator, and how were we made without our mother? It was our mother who gave birth to each of us. Without a mother none of us would be here biologically. Yet we all know that not all mothers give birth, and not all people who hold the qualities of a mother are biological mothers themselves. Many people are able to mother without ever having children of their own bodies. I personally think of my aunt and my sister. Neither of them had children, yet my aunt has always been like the second mother to all of us, and my own daughters look to my youngest sister as their extra mother. She has always been more than just an aunt. We all know people like that either in our own families or as friends.
Another quality of a mother is that they can do things, fix things. I know Fathers are like that too, but it was brought home to me in a very interesting way this past week. It was Thursday and we were in Ellendale. It wasn’t the warmest day, and though as coaches, we were wearing our winter coats, many of the athletes were running around with blankets draped over them. Two girls came up to me late in the day and needed help. They had one of those tie blankets draped over the two of them and in order to keep it on better, they had tied some of the fringes together.
Riley was the verbal one and as they came running, she said, “Mrs. Haak, Mrs. Haak you have to help us. You have to untie these fringes, so we can get out of this thing. You can do it Mrs. Haak. You are a mother and mothers can do anything.” They had been running around trying to figure out how to get out of the blanket and literally decided they needed one of the coaches who is a mother because no one else was getting the knot out.” It really wasn’t that tough, and I had them out in time to time the next race.
I will have to say that is the part of working with young people who I enjoy the most. Yesterday when I was sitting in bed all day sipping hot lemon and honey trying to get my voice back enough to be here today, I was missing the time with those who huddle around you asking for silly things like untying their blankets, or even the serious things like why does my leg hurt here and, yes, even the whining things of Why do I have to run that last race. I guess those are all mothering things, and as annoying as some might be on occasion, they all make it worth the effort.
And part of that whole business is another quality of a good mother and that is the ability to nurture. Nurturing is something that we all do for each other at different times. I feel so blessed to have so many of you in my life at this time for all the nurturing and teaching and guiding you have been doing for me. For this I want to thank you, today on Mother’s Day.
But there is one other picture of Mother’s that I want to bring up. It is a darker story. It is the sadness involved when mothers are not able to provide for their children as they would like or as perhaps we are able to do. Something I keep hearing about on the television advertising is a “day” that is being added to our calendar this year called Red Nose Day. Apparently later this month some of the celebrities are putting on an event where they will all wear red clown noses and entertain us in an effort to wipe out childhood hunger. Our local ministers association works to help out those in need in our area, and the Mobile Food Pantry which we promote helps, and there is a fund also through the ministers association that helps with school lunches to cover what the free and reduced costs can’t provide. But as mothers and mothering/nurturing people it should sadden us to know that in our modern era, we still have those in need.
This brings me to the table in the back of the room. Our ability to nurture is also related to the collection we take today and next Sunday. This is our annual drive for the blankets for Church World Services. As I mentioned earlier, there is an extra appeal this year for the blanket relief because of the earthquake in Nepal where so many people lost their lives or everything they had. Making donations for blankets is the least we can do to help out those who do not have all that they need let alone what they want or would like.
Not everyone is able to be the loving generous giving sort of mothers that we perhaps have known or have had or have been. I know that some of us have known some times that weren’t always easy, but nothing like what some face on a daily basis.
And this brings me to the scriptures that we find in the book of John today. In this passage Jesus is leaving instructions for his disciples. Jesus is teaching them and giving them last words much like a mother would do for her children as she is leaving for a time. In his instructions, the main point is that they love each other. What better thanks can children give to their mother than to get along with each other, to love one another? Boy what a tough thing that is to do at times. Many of us understand the issues of sibling rivalry, and rivalry was certainly a factor among the disciples at some points. Jesus says that is not what he wants, and not what he expects. He tells them to love each other as he loved them, enough to lay down their lives for each other.
Now we can certainly understand a mother loving her children enough that she would do anything for them. I am sure anyone of us would have done anything to save one of our children from any type of harm that we could think of. How many of us spent sleepless nights when they were young and sick, or teenaged and out and about, or any number of things as they get older and life happens. Jesus wants us to have that sort of love for each other as Christians. When we follow his lead it isn’t so hard to participate in a blanket Sunday giving or any other sort of thing we are asked to do. May we go this week with the idea of being a loving, caring, nurturing, fixing creature of God who mothers those around us in the love that Jesus asks us to share. Amen!