St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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Easter 6 2015 Sermon
Rev. Joyce Avery

Glory & Peace to our Mothers on this special day.  Amen

No one casts a longer shadow throughout the course of one’s life than a mother.  Will all our mothers stand?   We honor and celebrate you for the sheltering shade of those shadows.

Back in the mid-1950's Theodor Geisel railed and revolted against the boringly banal primers forced on first time readers.  His books, penned under the now famous name of "Dr Seuss”, transformed reading to our little ones from dull and dreary tales of "Dick and Jane" to the lyrical fun of "The Cat in the Hat."

Adding to this new literary library was a protégé of the Dr. Seuss style, the books of P.D.Eastman.  His "classics" as this new children’s literature include "Go, Dog, Go”,"One Fish Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish”, a favorite one, "Are You My Mother?"

Just in case you did not get the chance to read "Are You My Mother?" aloud six hundred times over the course of your children’s childhood, it is the simple story of a baby bird who hatches out of his egg while his mother is off the nest.  The little bird falls out and promptly sets off looking to find his missing mom.  Having no clue what his mother may look like, the fledgling approaches dogs and cats, trucks and boats, and finally a huge steam shovel (who gently dumps him safely back into his nest), earnestly asking each one, "Are you my mother?"

We all crave a mother’s presence and pine for a mother’s love.

This Sunday in May, has been officially designated as "Mother’s Day”--since May 9, 1914.  But in England as far back as the 1600's there has been a tradition of a "Mothering Sunday."  Originally born out of the Catholic celebrations of Mary, the Mother of Christ, the English "Mothering Sunday" allowed poor women who worked and lived as servants in wealthy households a day off to return home and be with their own families.

It is fitting that "Mother’s Day" is designated as a Sunday celebration.  For though we do not refer to his imagery very much anymore, we are gathered together this day in our "Mother Church."  St. Cyprian, a third century African bishop, said it is impossible to have God as our Father if we do not have the church as our mother.  We don’t worship the church, and we do worship Christ.  But as access to God in primarily through Christ, and the body of Christ is the church, so the old ship of Zion is our Mothership.

If we are all "adopted children of God through Christ," we have our spiritual re-birth through the ongoing presence and witness of the church.  All who gather in Christ’s name and in loving obedience to his commandments bring forth new generations of Christians.  Friends in Christ, what better place to celebrate "Mother’s Day" than in the Mother Church, the community that exists because of Christ’s love and the community that spreads Christ’s love to the world.

Today’s gospel text is all about creating that intimate "family" connection that binds together the odd assortment Jesus collected to be his disciples.  Other than a couple of brothers there was no bloodline, no genealogy to hold fast these first believers.  So Jesus offered them the image of a "family tree" – except this "Tree of Life" was not some mighty cedar or oak. It was instead a "vine" – a sinuous, growing, spreading, organism whose ultimate purpose was to "bear fruit."

Dozens of websites now offer all sorts of online historical help so we can trace our ancestral roots, our "family tree." But for those of us gathered in the body of Christ, in the nurture and nourishment of "Mother Church," we need look only one place to find our family tree.  We are living out our faith as branches on the Tree of Life, growing out of the origins of divinely gifted life, the incarnation of Christ, the covenant of faith, and of God’s continued, living relationship with the world.

In today’s gospel text Jesus tells his disciples that it is only by "abiding" in him, that is only in following his commandment to "love on another," that they will fully participate in God’s love – a love so great that it laid down the life of the Beloved Son for our sake.
But this "abiding" isn’t defined by "just sitting around.  "Abiding" in Jesus means being "fruitful."  "Abiding" in Jesus means producing and then reproducing the love of Christ in our own lives and in the lives of a new generation.  "Abiding" in Jesus means growing new "branches" within this vineyard of faith.

There is a Robert Frost poem entitled "Leaves Compared with Flowers."
A tree’s leaves may be ever so good
so may its bark, so may its wood;
But unless you put the right thing to its root
it will never show much flower or fruit.

One of Spring’s most artful and alluring plants is the wisteria.  A twining, vine, winding shrub, it can be trained up on and over porches, doorways, trellises, and towers. In spring the vines dip and drape with clusters of grape-like blooms. The greenery grows up as the flowers cascade down.  Louis C Tiffany immortalized the stunning stylish beauty of a flowering wisteria in dozens of his stained glass creations.  But in order to get those gorgeous grape-like clusters of blooms, there must be a male and female wisteria in close proximity to each other.  Otherwise all you get is green.  Lots of lush, lovely leaves, but not one flower.  No flowers mean no seeds.  And no seeds mean no fruit.

Every living thing has its own requirements for fertility.  Robert Frost’s poem highlights the fact that even though a tree might appear lush and healthy, "unless you put the right thing to its root," its fruitfulness is doomed.

A traveler found himself lost on a quiet country road.  He stopped at a farmhouse to ask for directions. An elderly woman sat on the front porch, rocking quietly and contentedly. A younger gentleman was working around the front yard, whistling non-stop.  The whistling was loud and clear, a stringing together on one song after another.  As the lost traveler approached the whistler for directions, he greeted him with a smile and observation: "I’ve been enjoying your whistling."  "Oh, it’s second nature with me now."
Then pointing to the woman on the porch, he said, "That’s my mother.  A few years ago she lost her eyesight.  Blindness became a very frightening experience for her, and she was feeling very insecure. So I moved her in with us.  I figured if I just keep whistling when I’m outside the house working on the lawn or whatever, she’ll know I’m still with her."

The world is desperate to wet its whistle on the cup salvation.  It needs to drink the Living Water of Christ’s love.  Will you start whistling?  You won’t be just Whistling Dixie. You’ll be Whistling Jesus.  Amen