The Unconventional Mother
The following is a sermon I gave on Mother's Day...Happy Mother's Day to All!
Apologies to the men in the congregation, but today is Mother’s Day. So I’d like to thank the mothers. I’d like to thank my mother and my grandmother and all the other mothers in my life who helped make me the person I am standing here today. When it comes to children, Hilary Clinton said it takes a village; I think it takes a whole lot of mothers to nurture and care for us. And for some of us, this time right now, might be the only time we have to sit back and relax. So do so right now…because this sermon is not that long and before you know it you’ll be back in the trenches as “mom”.
When I say “mother” I’m not necessarily talking about the traditional mother. You don’t have to give birth to be a mother. And you don’t necessarily have to have your own children to mother them. Think of all the wonderful women around us here. Isn’t CC a mother to all of the children in the choir? (And perhaps even to some of us adults in the senior choir.) And our Sunday school teachers, past and present, who have not only taught the tenets of Christianity, but have nurtured and helped shape our children. Not all of them have children, and yet they mother and tend to our children and to our congregation. I might even venture to say that there are men here who are “mothers.” For to “mother ”as defined as a verb is to attend to the needs and comforts of. When you hear that definition, what person comes to mind? There are so many people within this church that do just that. For me, the person who tends to the needs and comforts of us all here is AT. I think you would agree that he is most definitely an unconventional mother to this church and everyone who passes through its doors.
To attend the needs and comforts of, isn’t that an important component of Christianity? Isn’t that the backbone of what Jesus taught? As it says in Matthew chapter 25: 35 I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes,36 naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me.’ 37 The righteous will then answer him, ‘When, Lord, did we ever see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? 38 When did we ever see you a stranger and welcome you in our homes, or naked and clothe you? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’ 40 The King will reply, ‘I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these followers of mine, you did it for me!’ Isn’t that what mothers do? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked and take care of the sick? Isn’t Jesus teaching us the importance of nurturing and mothering everyone?
Many of us may not be not mothers in the conventional sense, but then the Bible is full of unconventional mothers. The most obvious of these is Mary, the mother of Jesus. She’s in no way your “typical” mother by any definition. A young woman engaged who is visited by an Angel who tells her she will give birth the Messiah. News that would scare anyone. As it says in Luke Chapter 26:
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you."29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.1 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." 34 Mary said to the angel, "How can this be since I am a virgin?" 35 The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who is said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God." 38 Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.
It’a heck of a way to start motherhood. And yet Mary, like so many women, carries on. Confronted with news that seems impossible, Mary has faith. Mothers have to have faith. How else could we survive? How could we survive the long nights of a newborn who cries continuously? How could we survive sending out little ones off to school? Letting them out into a world that can be cold and cruel; we must have faith that they will know right from wrong and that they have learned what we have taught them. Mary’s faith carried her through a life that was extremely difficult. The mothers of this church must do the same.
Being a mother is not easy. It certainly couldn’t have been easy for Mary. Besides the obvious issue of being pregnant and NOT married, right before she was ready to give birth, she had to travel a long distance with her husband Joseph. I know it was nerve wracking enough for Steve and I to travel 6 hours by car when James was about to be born. I can remember the night before he was born and trying to find a hotel room during the height of the summer season. We might not have had it as bad as Mary & Joseph, but one of my first tastes of motherhood was trying to find a place that would take us for a week. It was around 11 o’clock at night and I was calling various hotels. The first one could only take us for 2 nights and then we would have to leave. The second didn’t even answer their phone. It wasn’t until my third try that I was able to get someone to promise us a room for a week. If that, along with the impending drive stressed me out, what did Mary feel like? While we might think of the manager as basked in a heavenly light, can you imagine for a minute what it must have been like to give birth and then to live in stall with animals around you? Not the ideal place to be with a newborn. Then to have to flee to a foreign country shortly thereafter. And what was it like to see your beloved child crucified on the cross? God bestowed great joy to Mary, but there was also great sorrow and grief. Being a mother means being exposed to both. Maybe not on the same level as Mary, but to be a mother requires the ability and the flexibility to experience both joy and heartache.
God chose Mary to be the mother of the Messiah. Mary accepted this. And as much as we think of Jesus of the son of God, he was also the son of Mary. And her influence cannot be under estimated. Don’t we see Jesus as a loving nurturer? Mary shaped her son into the man he would become; into the savior that the Lord commanded. Without Mary there would be no Jesus. Without Mary’s nurturing presence the story could not be the same. When we hear this passage from Mark, Chapter 10, how can we not understand the value of motherhood: 3 Some people brought children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples scolded the people. 14 When Jesus noticed this, he was angry and said to his disciples, "Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I assure you that whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it." 16 Then he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on each of them, and blessed them.
And so it is with our children; our influence on them here in this church helps to shape them into the adults that they will become. Whether we realize it or not, we each are an integral part of the lives of all the children who comes through the doors. Here in this church we mother our children. We are all unconventional mothers. We teach them the stories of the Bible, we teach them the hymns and anthems. We teach them the way of Jesus. God calls us each to watch over and nurture, to “mother” all of his children. This is our charge; our duty.
I’d like to think we do it well. We have a bunch of wonderful children here. Not only in our congregation, but in our church as part of the Montessori School and Music Together. Having these programs on our premises shows our dedication to being good mothers. To allow “outsiders” in. To provide them with a safe place to learn and grow. And although their families may not necessarily be part of our congregation, I know that this church and we the people in it, will make its mark on their lives.
So blessed be to all of you. For we are all, each in our own way, unconventional mothers. ‘Amen.