The service today is to celebrate Mother's Day as a day of universal blessing for mothers and for all the women that we honor in our lives. A day when all mothers and nurturers are enfolded lovingly in the prayers and blessings of all people everywhere. So let's take a look at Mothers.
In Reader's Digest, Jeanne Young wrote, "My children, who had forgotten to shop for Mother's Day, presented me with a homemade card. The contrite message read: "We know you deserve the very best, Mom. But we're glad you kept us anyway." It is a card I will never throw away."
And that's what being a mother is all about. Holding your children in your heart for who they are. When we honor and love them, they learn to honor and love us.
WE ARE STUDENTS AND TEACHERS
We are all here on this planet as students and teachers. The old rock song by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young says, "Teach your children well." It also says, "Teach your parents well."
Our children come not just to learn from us, but also to be our teachers. We learn much from having and being with our children and our parents. They often can see through us, be honest with us, and cause us to grow. Some of the hardest and most important lessons we learn are found in our families. And yet, I believe that before we come to this world, we pick the parents and the situation we want to come into so that we may develop and grow.
Somewhere, on some other plane of existence, we decide what challenges we need so that we may grow spiritually. So we put ourselves into the most atrocious situations so that we can grow up.
Or at least we THINK we grow - but let our Mother come into the room, and we are again 5 years old.
A man wrote to READER'S DIGEST. Here is what he said: "My mother has always treated me like her baby, no matter what my age. After turning 30, I purchased a computer and learned to use it. Thinking I'd impress her with my skill and maturity, I sent her a well-written letter, complete with computer graphics, borders and an elaborate typeface. I phoned to ask her what she thought of the letter. 'It's lovely, dear,' she replied. 'I have it hanging on the refrigerator for all the neighbors to see.'"
I'm sure more than one of you can identify with that story.
PARENTS & CHILDREN
Of parents & children, Myrtle Fillmore writes in the book How To Let God Help You: "It is truly wonderful to have children and to be truly awake in caring for them, that they may grow up in health and poise and assurance that they are God's and that all things needful come through them and to them. Parents are but representing the divine Father-Mother in receiving and caring for these new body temples which souls are building for experiences and further development of the God-given faculties and powers. Remembering this takes away the sense of anxiety and burden, and gives great peace and joy and consciousness of power and love and prosperity."
BEING A MOM
I would like to read a piece to you - the author is unknown. The mother writes: We are sitting at lunch one day when my daughter casually mentions that she and her husband are thinking of "starting a family." you think I should have a baby?"
"It will change your life," I say, carefully keeping my tone neutral.
"I know," she says, "no more sleeping in on weekends, no more spontaneous vacations ..."
But that is not what I meant at all. I look at my daughter, trying to decide what to tell her. I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes. I want to tell her that the physical wounds of childbearing will heal, but becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will forever be vulnerable.
I consider warning her that she will never again read a newspaper without asking, "What if that had been MY child?" That every plane crash, every house fire will haunt her. That when she sees pictures of starving children, she will wonder if anything could be worse than watching your child die.
I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish suit and think that no matter how sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will reduce her to the primitive level of a bear protecting her cub. That an urgent call of "Mom!" will cause her to drop a soufflé or her best crystal without a moment's hesitation. I feel that I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, she will be professionally derailed by motherhood. She might arrange for childcare, but one day she will be going into an important business meeting and she will think of her baby's sweet smell. She will have to use every ounce of discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure her baby is all right.
I want my daughter to know that every day decisions will no longer be routine. That a five-year-old boy's desire to go to the men's room rather than the women's at McDonald's will become a major dilemma. That right there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming children, issues of independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that a child molester may be lurking in that restroom. However decisive she may be at the office, she will second-guess herself constantly as a mother.
Looking at my attractive daughter, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about herself. That her life, now so important, will be of less value to her once she has a child. That she would give it up in moment to save her offspring but will also begin to hope for more years-not to accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish theirs. I want her to know that a cesarean scar or shiny stretch marks will become badges of honor. My daughter's relationship with her husband will change, but not in the way she thinks. I wish she could understand how much more you can love a man who is careful to powder the baby or who never hesitates to play with his child. I think she should know that she will fall in love with him again for reasons she would now find very unromantic.
I wish my daughter could sense the bond she will feel with women throughout history who have tried to stop war, prejudice and drunk driving. I hope she will understand why I can think rationally about most issues but become temporarily insane when I discuss the threat of nuclear war to my children's future.
I want to describe to my daughter the exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike. I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog or cat for the first time. I want her to taste the joy that is so real it actually hurts. My daughter's quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes.
"You'll never regret it," I finally say. Then I reached across the table, squeezed my daughter's hand and offered a silent prayer for her, and for me, and for all the mere mortal women who stumble their way into this most wonderful of callings. This blessed gift from God ... that of being a Mother.
HONORING OUR MOTHERS
Now I would like to pay tribute to the women we know. A white flower for those no longer with us and a colored flower to honor those who are still here.
So now anyone who would like to, please come forward and pay tribute to the women in your life by placing a flower in the vase.
As you look at this vase filled with multi-colored flowers, think of the women in your life who have influenced you, inspired you, strengthened you, and loved you. Women we loved and hated. Women we blame for all our faults and weaknesses, and thank for all our strengths and talents. Women who weren't perfect but did the best they knew how to do.
To celebrate Mother's Day, I am remembering the many biblical stories of motherhood - stories that too many of us forget, or lack words, to celebrate.
I remember Dinah and Joseph, children of Jacob and Rachel, burying their mother on the way to Bethlehem and leaving her grave behind. I know too many children who have faced this day, suddenly without their mother.
I remember Rachel, Sarah, and Elizabeth, and I have celebrated with every friend who held her newborn child and found it to be simultaneously the greatest gift and the hardest task.
I imagine the hundreds of women who never merited a name in Scripture because they were unable to bear children to pass on the family faith. I know too many women facing miscarriage, infertility, and loneliness.
I remember Rahab, Deborah, Joanna, and Phoebe - women whose work surprisingly outweighed the need to record whether or not they had children. Were they childless by choice, by circumstance? Were the names of their children lost to a history that found them unimportant? Were they shamed in their lifetime for putting work ahead of family?
I remember the mother of Moses and the daughter of Pharaoh, linked and yet so separate. One gave up her child to save her child, and one took in a child despite the risks. I remember all the women who have given up their children in the hope of better life for them. I remember every woman who has made family through adoption, who has taken in a child "not her own," because bone of bones is not always how a family is made.
I remember Naomi, demanding, "Call me 'bitter.'" I remember the unnamed wife of Job. I know too many women who buried their children, lives lost unbearably early.
I remember Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, and Tamar, the daughter of David. I know too many women whose bodies, sexualities, marriages, and children should be a source of joy, instead corrupted by someone else's sin.
I remember Hagar, and Tamar the wife of Er, women whose only hope for protection and care lay in having a child with a man who was not married to them. I remember that Hagar was sent into the wilderness to die, her son Ishmael at her side. I know too many women raising their children alone and remember the women whose destruction has become a footnote while the men made history.
I remember Rebekah, and her twins Esau and Jacob already at war within her. I remember she chose a favorite son, just as her husband had. I know too many children who bear the trauma of parents who, perhaps, did what they thought was right and did the best they could, and scarred their children's hearts for life.
I remember Hannah, her heart so wounded by the abuse of her husband's other wife that she wept at the altar of God until she could not speak - and how Eli, the holy priest, assumed she must have been drunk to pray so hard. I know too many women whose heartbreak has been turned into a weapon against them.
I remember the woman at the well, silenced and shunned by divorce. I know too well the wretched freedom found in divorce, the messiness of new life with a broken heart.
I remember the foreign women described in Ezra and Nehemiah, the wives of God's people, who came home with their husbands to rebuild the temple only to be cast aside by men claiming to be righteous and pure. I remember how many mothers have been made homeless or landless, often for reasons beyond their control, and how powerful men have turned them into pawns to be manipulated and ostracized.
I remember the Syrophoenician woman, alone, unsupported, and persistent beyond comprehension on behalf of her dying child. I know too many women whose demands were mocked or pushed aside, whose insistence on justice and equality meant others soured their lips.
I remember Mary Magdalene, the first preacher of the resurrection, soiled by centuries of slander that turned her from wide-eyed witness to reformed harlot. In her testimony, she gave birth to the church. I know too many women whose gender, sexuality, history, and bravery has been used against them and the gospel they proclaim.
I remember Mary the virgin, a teenage girl, cradling her stomach with wonder, answering the shock of a miracle and the sureness of societal judgment with a simple and determined "Yes."
And I remember Eve, the mother of all, bone of the bones of the man of dust, her name a reflection of the Hebrew word for life.
I remember each woman who has found an inner courage to face impossibility. May the God who mothers each of us be a source of life for all who long for hope.
I would like to wrap up today with what my Mother taught me:
My Mother taught me LOGIC...
"If you fall off that swing and break your neck, you can't go to the store with me."
My Mother taught me MEDICINE...
"If you don't stop crossing your eyes, they're going to freeze that way."
My Mother taught me TO THINK AHEAD...
"If you don't pass your spelling test, you'll never get a good job!"
My Mother taught me ESP...
"Put your sweater on; don't you think that I know when you're cold?"
My Mother taught me TO MEET A CHALLENGE...
"What were you thinking? Answer me when I talk to you... Don't talk back to me!"
My Mother taught me HUMOR...
"When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don't come running to me."
My Mother taught me how to BECOME AN ADULT...
"If you don't eat your vegetables, you'll never grow up."
My mother taught me ABOUT SEX...
"How do you think you got here?"
My mother taught me about GENETICS...
"You are just like your father!"
My mother taught me about my ROOTS...
"Do you think you were born in a barn?"
My mother taught me about the WISDOM of AGE...
"When you get to be my age, you will understand."
My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION...
"Just wait until your father gets home."
My mother taught me about RECEIVING...
"You are going to get it when we get home."
And my all-time favorite thing- JUSTICE "The Mother's Curse":
"One day you will have kids, and I hope they turn out just like YOU. Then you'll see what it's like."
Blessed are the mothers of yesterday. They nurture us with loving memories and inspire us to become all we are meant to be. Blessed are the mothers of today. They hold in their hands and in their hearts the keeping of tomorrow and the destiny of our children's future. Truly, God is blessing all mothers now. Amen.