14 May 2017
“‘I will come back again and take you to myself so that where I am you also may be.’” (John 14:3) In the name …
Today the nation celebrates Mother’s Day, and today the church tags along. We also honour mothers today with our prayers, with the flowers on the altar, and the crowning of the statue of Mary. When we place the crown on Mary’s statue, it is to honour Mary as Jesus’ mother, but it is also to honour Christian motherhood in general. The tradition in our church was to always emphasize the motherhood of Mary rather than her virginity. The virgin birth of Jesus was announced to a very startled Mary. She was the chosen one of God who shared her human nature with the Christ Child, but it was already set in motion by God, and Mary’s faithfulness was expressed in her words: “‘Let it be done to me according to your word.’” (Luke 1:38) It’s true that she accepted this role with great faithfulness, but it remains something that was done to her.
Mary’s motherhood, on the other hand, was a lifelong devotion to her son. Motherhood was what she did. I’ve mentioned it several times from the pulpit, and we talk about it frequently in Bible study, but there is a rule of thumb that the more difficult passages in the Bible, the ones that are harder to explain, the ones that cause us to take a second look, these are the very ones that are the most authentic. No biblical writer is going to create a story that doesn’t help his cause. Like it wouldn’t help my cause of celebrating mothers and their attachment to their children this morning if I shared the advice that on those occasional moments when sons and daughters of any age and of any combination may be more exhausting than exhilarating that mothers should follow the instructions on the bottle of aspirin they go reaching for: take two tablets and also keep away from children. So the Bible passages that seem the most strange may also be the most historical because there’s no other reason for them to be there.
One of those surprising passages is found early in the Gospel of Mark. We’re told that Jesus had been away preaching in other areas, then He returned home. There were so many people who gathered around His house that it was creating a huge disturbance and it was starting to attract the attention of the authorities. When Mary hears about this, she goes out, and in the words of the Gospel, she tries to restrain Jesus, she tries to stop Him from preaching this new and dangerous message about God and His relationship to God.
At first this may seem to place Mary in an unfavourable light, but I think what we have here in an honest story about a mother who is deeply concerned about the welfare of her son. She doesn’t want Him to get hurt so she tries to quiet His preaching. She obviously fails, but we also know what happens to Jesus because He kept preaching, and there again was Mary, His mother, mourning the death of her child that she so desperately tried to prevent. The story may be a bit unflattering in one sense, and this is why it probably actually happened because why else would it be a part of the Gospel, but it also testifies to the real-life-mother’s-love that Mary had for her son Jesus.
Motherhood doesn’t have to be perfect to be love-filled and even faith-filled. This is why I appreciate those public service ads for adoption and foster care. They show those moments when parents can embarrass their kids or just not be on the same wavelength as they are. I love the one where the mother is vacuuming under the couch. Her two sons rush into the room with an empty hamster cage. They’ve lost their pet rodent. Then you hear this weird sucking sound, you can hear it shooting down the vacuum hose and into the canister, then the vacuum starts spitting out sparks and smoke. The two sons can’t believe what they’re seeing. Then the announcer says, “You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent. There are thousands of kids in foster care who would love to put up with you.” And how true that is. Mothers, not even the mother of Jesus, have to be perfect to be mothers. They have to try their best and they have to love their best, and that’s a lot better than perfect.
This is why today, on Mother’s Day, the church not only celebrates all of the blessings that mothers add to our lives and those of their children, but we also pray for mothers themselves. Theirs is a selfless and tireless lot. A couple of days ago, for example, I heard on Storycorps a recording of a mother and her daughter. The baby was born with a genetic disorder that left all of her bones susceptible to fracture. The baby was born with a fractured skull, arms and ribs. The doctors told the mother that the baby would soon die, that she should leave the baby with them and that she should go home. The mother could not do that. She gently cradled the baby in her arms in a rocking chair in the hospital nursery. The mom could feel her child’s heartbeat against her own, and at that moment she told that baby girl: “We have one heart, you and I.” That baby is now a 45 year old woman with a successful career in San Francisco. Motherhood is not about logic; it’s about love. It’s about a togetherness that I don’t think the rest of us can really understand. And that love and connection means that a mother sacrifices for her child or children, no matter what the age, and that can be sometimes a heavy burden, and that’s why we pray today not only to celebrate motherhood, but to pray for mothers and for all they do. (http://www.npr.org/2017/05/12/527939087/a-mother-daughter-bond-we-have-one-heart-you-and-i)
I hope that our mothers have a wonderful day of pampering ahead of them. They deserve the extra attention. And sunshine or rain, may God’s blessing be with all of the mothers of this congregation, these communities, and throughout the world. And for this may we pray in the name of Mary’s child, Jesus. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randy Calvo