7 Easter, Year A
7 Easter, Year A
Ps 68:5-6a; Gen 1:27 & 3:20; Matt 12:46-50
Sermon by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Very rarely do I choose to base my sermon on texts other than the appointed lectionary readings for each Sunday. For the most part, basing one’s sermons on lectionary readings, not only complements the moods, themes and theological and liturgical emphases during the church year; but it also helps us pastors to discipline ourselves by focussing on the appointed readings, rather than falling into the temptation of preaching too often on our favourite texts, while neglecting those texts which may not appeal to us because, for various reasons, we don’t happen to agree with them.
Today, in addition to being the last Sunday of the Easter season, is Mother’s Day. Therefore, I have chosen the following texts, which I’ll read to you now: The first passage is from today’s Psalm 68:5-6a; which, although refers to God as Father, I believe reflects the role and work of a lot of mother’s too. The psalmist, speaking of God, says: “Father of orphans and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. God gives the desolate a home to live in.” The second passage is from Genesis 1:27 and 3:20; and affirms the image of God in which we human beings are all created as well as the important role of Eve and all mothers of giving birth and life: “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all living.” The third passage comes from Matthew 12:46-50, and occurs while Jesus is carrying out his public ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing. Matthew tells us: “While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside wanting to speak to you.” But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
In today’s complicated and supposedly sophisticated world, the role of mothers and motherhood may perhaps be compared to a boat sailing on a raging ocean storm—tossed about in all directions, not knowing whether it’s going to survive the storm or where it will end up. Our society sends many mixed messages to women today. If one views a lot of the adds or reads contemporary literature—it seems that moms are supposed to be superhuman: they are to be well educated and have a professional career as well as give birth to children, be the primary caregiver for the children, as well as look after all of the domestic duties of cooking, shopping, laundry, housecleaning, and a million other things. Is it any wonder that too many mothers find themselves reeling, frazzled, distracted, frustrated, depressed angry, confused, exhausted, and much more as they are torn in all directions?
In this ocean storm of being tossed in every direction, is there a Good Word; a word from which mothers can gain strength, guidance, encouragement and confidence? I believe the passages I just read are Good News for mothers and motherhood.
The passage from Genesis 1:27 and 3:20 reaffirm the truth that God created us human beings as male and female and we reflect God’s own image. The male gender is incomplete without the female gender; and the female gender is incomplete without the male gender. We were created for one another and meant to live side-by-side with one another. We complement each other because we are different, even though we are equals. When we recognise this, we are better able to accept and receive from each other what the other has to give us; and in so doing, makes both of us more fully human by fully reflecting God’s image in and through us. There will always be a deep and mysterious reality in this, which functions to fill us with the awe and wonder of God, insofar as we meet God’s image in one another.
That awe and wonder; that beauty and joy; that sense of holiness may well be reflected in the name Eve, which is associated with giving life. Eve as mother of all living reaffirms that the giving of birth, an integral role of mothers, is a holy act, which reflects the image of God. Martin Luther understood this very well when he spoke of the office of parents as the highest office given by God to human beings. Why? because, says Luther, parents are given the power to create human life. That power to create human life reflects God’s own power as the Creator of heaven and earth. Therefore it is a sacred gift, because life is God-given and sacred. Without our mothers, none of us would be here; none of us would have life; none of us would be able to reflect the image of God in us. So may we always be deeply grateful to our mothers and honour them for giving us the greatest gift the gift of birth, the gift of life.
Another very significant contribution mothers have made is their love for those most weak and vulnerable in society—the orphans, widows and homeless. For too long history has been written by men and, consequently, has forgotten about the countless contributions mothers have made to society by raising orphan children, caring for widows, and providing homes for the homeless. Although our psalmist describes God the Father as parent, protector and provider of home to orphans widows and the homeless—I believe that this has been, and still often is, also a job description of countless mothers. There is a Jewish proverb, which states: “A child without a mother is like a door without a knob.” Every child is missing something vital and priceless if they do not have a mother’s love and care. The following story of a mother’s healing love and presence for her adopted child reiterates this truth.
(Margaret H. Cobb’s) thirteen-year-old daughter is perhaps having more trouble than some teens “discovering who she is” because she is adopted from South Korea and has no idea who her birth mother might be.
Recently Amy received braces on her teeth and she was more and more uncomfortable as the day wore on. By bedtime she was miserable. Margaret gave her some medication and invited Amy to snuggle up with her for awhile. Soon she became more comfortable and drowsy. In a small voice that gradually tapered off to sleep she said, “Mom, I know who my real mom is, it is the one who takes away the hurting.” 1
In one sense, the church is like a mother who adopts us. When we were baptized God, through the church, adopts us and receives us into God’s family, and God’s home. At it’s best, the church as our spiritual mother raises us, cares for and nurtures us, loves and accepts us, forgives and heals us, and equips us to live more fully now as God’s family, and prepares us for our true eternal home.
In our passage from Matthew 12, Jesus likely surprises everyone when his mother and brothers seek him out while he is speaking to crowds. His answer is a revolutionary way of viewing mothers and motherhood. It may very well be a comforting and encouraging vision of mothers and motherhood for many women in our time. For those women who, for a variety of reasons and circumstances are not married or do not or cannot have their own biological children, or who may have had an abusive mother, or who lost their mother at an early age; the words of Jesus may speak to them and inspire them. Jesus sees a mother and the role of motherhood as expanding outward even beyond our family of birth and beyond our extended family system. Jesus says: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
In this sense, all of those women who devote their lives to the betterment of us all are, rightly regarded as mothers. Whether it’s devoting their lives to teaching, healthcare and medicine, music and art, the service industry, science, business, administration, or a host of other vocations; insofar as women are actively engaged in doing the work of the LORD and spreading Christ’s love to humankind, they are honoured as mothers in the eyes of God. So we as followers of Jesus are given the opportunity on mother’s day to honour not only our biological mothers and our mothers who have adopted us, but also all those women who contribute to the quality of our lives in countless ways every day—they too are our mothers and deserve to be honoured as such. Therefore, the African proverb, which states: “It takes a village to raise a child,” is quite complementary to Jesus’ vision of mothers and motherhood.
So on this Mother’s Day, we thank the LORD for our mothers and for all mothers for the enormous contributions that they make to us and all of society; we thank Christ for giving us his church, which functions at its best as our spiritual mother, giving us the eternal gifts of life in all of its abundance; and we thank Jesus for his new vision of mothers and motherhood, which includes all women who faithfully do the will of God.