Mother’s Day 2019

JonathanDavid

This past Mother’s Day was a different experience for me.  I had the pleasure and challenge of preaching at my parish, Church of the Holy Nativity.  It’s only the second time I’ve ever preached.  It’s humbling.  It’s challenging.  It leaves me filled with the reminders of God’s love and grace.

When my priest initially asked how I’d feel about preaching on Mother’s Day, I hadn’t looked at the lectionary and our conversation was more about what it might mean to be a mother preaching on Mother’s Day.  I didn’t have any reservations within that context and so, agreed.

The week after peaching the first time, late January, I finally got a look at the readings and my breath caught.  I would be preaching on Mother’s Day.  The scripture readings included the 23rd Psalm.  The same words written on my brother’s tombstone, the same brother, whom we named our own miracle after.  The one who has made me a mother.  I share this backstory with you because it’s important for me to share how God works our healing in mysterious, but deliberate ways.  Sometimes we don’t even know these are parts of us that are in need God’s guidance, grace, love and healing…but they are given whether we know the need or not.  I am humbled.  I am challenged.  I am filled with reminders of God’s love and grace.

THE READINGS

Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-19
John 10:22-30 (The Gospel)

THE SERMON

The Lord is our strength and shield.  Holy Spirit, come.  Make your presence known to us through word and meditation.  Amen.

Happy Mother’s Day.

I don’t know if anyone here feels the same, but Mother’s Day is actually kind of tricky for me.  How do we celebrate a day that on one hand brings our cups to overflowing and on the other, rips the scar tissue or maybe even a fresh scab off of a deep wound?

You see, though many are mothers in the traditional sense,  blessed to be able to witness first hand, God’s miracle of creation, there are many other mothers out there.

*The woman who has been trying to conceive for years – Yes.  She’s a mother too.

*The man who’s both mother and father, because he’s it – Yeah, he’s a mother too.

*The adoptive and honorary role models who take children under their wings – Yep, they’re moms too.

*The bereaved mother, who no longer has a child to hold in her arms – Let me tell you, she’s still very much a mother.

…and these are just a few examples of the other.

Added to that, where does this leave children like AJ Freund?  I don’t know how many of you have seen the recent DCFS audit in Illinois, but from 2015-2017, 102 children had prior contact with the system, but were left vulnerable and died.

In a time when so many of us feel powerless, isn’t it wonderful to be reminded of…to rediscover to beauty and power of the resurrection?

Are any of you familiar with the story of Horatio Spafford?  There’s a Chicago connection.  He was a successful lawyer who had invested significantly in property that was extensively damaged in the Great Chicago Fire.  In the hopes of finding a new life, the family planned to move to Europe.  Consequently, Mr. Spafford was delayed on business, so he sent his family on ahead of him.  While crossing the Atlantic, the ship his family was on sank after a collision with another vessel.  All 4 of his daughters died.  This added to a son the family had already lost previously, when he was 2 years old.  It was this man, who after significant personal trauma, wrote the lyrics to the well-known hymn, It is well with my soul.

Bear with me, for I very much think in song and lyric…but I’d like to invite you to close your eyes and hear the words (the original lyrics), which I believe are the essence of our readings this morning.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet,
Though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed his own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal,
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
A song in the night, oh my soul!

As  I read and re-read our scriptures for this morning over and over – my own practice of meditation and reflection, I couldn’t help but be lifted by the Spirit and season of Easter.  We are a resurrection people.

Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

First we have God working a miracle through Peter – raising Tabitha from the dead.

Then we are given peace in the knowing our Shepherd always guides us towards life, in the Psalm.

He revives my soul and guides me along right pathways
for his name’s sake.
Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the
days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the
Lord forever.

Followed by a beautiful picture of what the resurrection might look like –

God will shelter them.
They will hunger and thirst no more.
For the Lamb will be their Shepherd.
He will guide them to springs of the water of life.
God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

A world Unified – every nation, tribe, people and language –
made pure through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And finally in our Gospel, absolute assurance –

“My sheep hear my voice.
I know them.
They follow me.
I give them eternal Life.
They will never perish.”

Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In his great mercy, we have been given a new birth into a living HOPE through the resurrection.  (1 Peter 1:3-9)

Where, O death, is your sting?  Where, O grave, is your victory?
(1 Corinthians 15:55)

Or as Rachel Held Evans (1981-2019) put it:
“Death is something empires worry about, not something gardeners worry about. It’s certainly not something resurrection people worry about.”

…which reminds me of a saying that goes something like this:
When you’re in a dark place, you tend to think you’ve been buried. But perhaps, like a seed or a bulb, you’ve been planted.  BLOOM!

…and so I say with Faith and Joy and Hope, Happy Mother’s Day!
To all moms: step-moms, honorary moms, adopted moms, foster moms, yearning moms, angel moms, grieving moms, grieving children, pet moms, expecting moms, new moms, mother-in-laws, Dad moms, anyone who has a mom or mother figure…Happy Mother’s Day!

Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

JonathanJames

Me and my miracle boy, Jonathan on Mother’s Day.