Interesting week!! Seeing the possibility of being in-person church for the first time in over 14 months, and really hoping and praying it goes well. Continuing to fight through lower back spasm and ongoing pain, while wanting to be able to move on with improving my health. Watching Bonnie work so hard while Sarah is on vacation and not appreciating it enough outwardly. Seeing so much pushback against Chaplains on the Harbor, trying to help homeless people in Aberdeen with a full time shelter. And just so much divisiveness around us. And on top of all that, this is Mothers Day!
Our first reading from Acts 10 gives us a look at something that all who call themselves Christians today should understand and practice, the real focus of the early Christian faith and community once they figured it out—inclusiveness! In the earlier story in Chapter 10 before today’s reading, Peter had a vivid and strange dream that showed him that the love of God was available to everyone, not just for those Jews who believed in Jesus Christ. For the early Christian church, the cultural and religious barriers to extending open hospitality to the Gentiles because they were believed to be outside the grace of God, was deemed NOT valid. Peter challenged everyone that day to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit who had chosen to include all people in the family of God. Everyone there was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and was made a part of the community of believers.
In both the Psalms 98 and 1 John 5 readings one theme is of God’s victory, his power and coming judgment of the world. Part of 1 John really disturbs me a lot: “for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” This last sentence has been taken literally by self-professed Christians for centuries to justify all kinds of horrible actions:
--the Crusades in the 12th century
--colonization of the Americas and Africa in the 16th thru 19th centuries (wiping out of whole groups of indigenous peoples or subjugating them into slavery)
--and even militant Christians advocating civil war here, or conquering other whole nations in reaction or retaliation for the acts of a few radical people with no true faith or belief system at all.
This false concept that God has most blessed one group or nation of people over all others does not justify anything. In both readings the correct and true message is that faith in God is the key, and that living a life in the faith that Jesus showed us is what truly conquers the world. It’s not that we are to literally conquer the world to convert all to our exact faith or culture; we are to live and interact with others, showing love and compassion to all, and that is what “conquers” the world.
Our Gospel reading from John 15 says it all about the love of God as explained by Jesus to his disciples: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends…And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”
Nothing is clearer to us for our understanding of our Christian faith. It’s not about Biblical literalism, top down church doctrines, or archaic traditions; it is about the love of God and directed by the power of the Spirit, acting to make the world experience that love. And we here at St. Mark’s, I think, understand at some level what that means as part of our faith experience—to share that to others around us, especially to those in need and without hope.
I do want to bring up Mother’s Day in this sermon. You know me—I like to know about the history and origin of official religious and other days we celebrate.
From Wikipedia, Mother's Day is a celebration that honors mothers and motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. It is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world, most commonly in March, April, or May. It complements Father's Day, a celebration honoring fathers. Celebrations of mothers and motherhood occur throughout the world. Many of these trace back to ancient festivals, like the Greek cult to Cybele, the Roman festival of Hilaria, or the Christian Mothering Sunday celebrated in Europe. However, the modern holiday is an American invention and not directly descended from these celebrations.
The United States now celebrates Mother's Day on the second Sunday in May. Julia Ward Howe, the author of Battle Hymn of the Republic in 1858, was the first to proclaim Mother's Day in 1870. Her Mother's Day Proclamation was a pacifist reaction to the horrors of the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War (I find that fascinating and think it is great, and I bet most people today have any idea of this motivation for Mother’s Day!). The modern holiday of Mother's Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis honored her mother's dream of making a celebration for all mothers. She kept promoting the holiday until President Woodrow Wilson made it an official national holiday in 1914. Jarvis' holiday was adopted by other countries and it's now celebrated all over the world.
As with most holidays, it eventually became so highly commercialized that many, including its founder, considered it a "Hallmark holiday". Jarvis eventually ended up opposing the holiday she had helped to create. She died in 1948, regretting what had become of her holiday. In the United States, Mother's Day remains one of the biggest days for sales of flowers, greeting cards, and the like; it is also the biggest holiday for long-distance telephone calls. Moreover, churchgoing is also popular, yielding the highest church attendance after Christmas Eve and Easter. Many worshipers celebrate the day with carnations, colored if the mother is living and white if she has been deceased.
We usually have those same carnations here today--to celebrate all mothers everywhere and here with us. Our community common and individual outreach has at its heart giving to help mothers and their families. As we show our love of Christ in the world—everyday--remember to especially honor those mothers we encounter, and do what we can to help them show their love to their families.
I found a short list of mothers we can all relate to. It came from a litany in the Methodist Church Governing Board of Discipleship, written by Peggy Emerson:
-Mothers come in many different forms, and today we celebrate them all! Everyone here is either a son or a daughter.
-For those women who have joined God in Heaven and whom we miss dearly here on earth.
-For every woman who is working day and night to raise her children right now.
-For all the women who are expecting, but aren't quite mothers yet!
-For the women who took in others' children through adoption and foster care.
-For those women who have lost a child to death and must carry on.
-For all the women who have desperately wanted to have children of their own, but chose instead to mother everyone else.
We thank you, Lord, for the women who have influenced our lives in so many ways. We pray that we will honor them in everything we do. Amen.