May 14, 2006
I want you to know that I’m going outside my comfort zone a little bit today. This is a different kind of sermon for me because of two reasons. First, I’m going against what my preaching professor told us budding young preachers years ago. Dr. MacLeod told us that we should preach on the Bible and avoid doing sermons that have to do with civic holidays.
I can understand why he said that. I appreciate how we should be focusing our preaching on the scripture. But I haven’t always followed that. I’ve done the patriotic thing on 4th of July, I’ve done the Memorial Day thing from time to time. And I have done the Mothers’ Day thing on occasion. But I don’t do those things every year. Just so you know.
The other thing that makes this a little uncomfortable for me is that I am talking today about Mary. I know that subject makes people “edgy” because all that stuff about Mary and the “Holy Family” is thought to be in the realm of our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters.
So, as I was thinking about all this the other day, I said to Patty, “Egad, am I going to sound Catholic this week!” Well, I hope not, at least not in any kind of a negative way. But I felt like it was important to say that, because it’s always good to acknowledge what everybody’s thinking. For instance, I never talk about Moses without mentioning Charlton Heston, cause that’s what everybody’s thinking.
So, I’d like us to think about Mothers’ Day. And I’d like us to know that it is ok for us protestants to think about Mary. And I also think it would be safe to say that she was the most famous mother of all times. She held a unique place in all history, being the mother of our Lord. But not only is her perspective unique, but her story is amazing, if you think about it.
For instance, she was unlike so many of the people God called throughout the Bible. Moses, Jeremiah, Elijah, and so many others were reluctant to answer the call of God. They were hesitant and even resistant to that call and to take on the task God was giving them. Not Mary. When she was told she would be the one who would bear the holy one of God, her response was, “I am the handmaiden of the Lord. Let it be unto me as you have said.” Considering all the social implications of taking on such a role, that’s amazing. We should be so willing for God to use us!
Through all of that, Mary was willing to be used and led by God. At a number of points in this story we read, “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” That means she was willing to think about them and to be open to the many possibilities of all the things that were happening around her. She considered the significance of what was happening – to her and through her – as she heard the shepherds story, as she greeted the magi, and as she found the 12 year old Jesus speaking with the priests in the Temple. I’m not so sure we would be that willing to be so open and to ponder in our hearts the meaning of such momentous things that were taking place. But with her example, we should be so willing to hear and consider God’s still small voice in our hearts.
In the various parts of her story, we see in Mary a wisdom that is unusual. We can imagine her using that innate wisdom in raising this boy. For most of Jesus’ life Mary had that special influence that only a mother can have. And I hope her example is an inspiration to parents and children alike to see the importance of the relationships God has given us in our families. Those are incredibly important relationship. They are so important that God chose to be part of a family himself when he became one like us.
We don’t often think of that. We think Jesus came to earth to share our sorrows, our suffering, to know what it felt like to be human. We might even think he came to share joys and all the glorious things it is to be human. But we forget that he came to experience family life as well. I think there is something significance in this “Holy Family.” I think maybe we have that to learn from our Catholic friends.
In our story for today, Mary was willing to see something different about this boy. Some would say she was not just the “ultimate mother,” but the “ultimate Jewish mother.” For every Jewish mother thinks their boy is special. And Mary boy was the most special boy ever!
Like a good mother, she was able to listen to him, and to believe in him where perhaps others couldn’t. I love this story of the Wedding at Cana. John is the only one of the Gospel writers who tells it. Jesus blesses this marriage celebration with his presence. And he blesses it not just with his presence, but with his interaction. Certainly he would have come because it was the family and the community thing to do. But that’s not all that happened!
Now we then come to the fun part of the story. While they were there, the wine ran out. (Horrors!) So Mary went and told Jesus. Does she know something we don’t know? Does she know he can do anything to help? Is she really calling on him to act? Does she have any idea what he might do? It’s hard to say from this story. Those are the very questions I’ve always had about this story. And I love this wonderful “family interaction” going on here. At first, Jesus resists this request. But even though he resisted, saying his “time had not yet come,” still he acted. Was it that his mother called for his obedience? Was this part of his upbringing? Or was it perhaps that in their culture there was this expectation for a boy to do something when his mother asked.
This reminds me of my favorite “light bulb” joke. You know the ones. “How many Presbyterians does it take to change a light bulb?” “It takes nine. One to change the bulb and eight to form a committee to talk about how great the old bulb was!” Well, I love this one. “How many Jewish mothers does it take to change a light bulb?” The answer: “None, I’ll just sit here in the dark till my son comes and rescues me!” (I’ve always wanted to do a good Jewish Mother!)
Is that some of what is going on here? Is this a matter of a son honoring his mother? I think how ever this is playing out it’s amazing! Jesus set aside his divine sense of timing – that seems so important throughout the gospel accounts – and he honors his mother. We should all give our mothers that kind of honor! (Amen, mothers?)
Of course, one of the last places we find Mary is at the cross. And I can’t even begin to imagine what agony she felt that day. I think Mel Gibson captured some of that in his film “The Passion.” But, can we even begin to imagine that kind of personal, family loyalty, and bravery that would lead her, and only one other disciple, to the scene of the crucifixion? And even here at the cross, in this time of greatest crisis, we find that sense of family. From the cross, Jesus took care of his mother. Right there in his agony, he made a new family relationship, saying to John, “Behold your mother.” We should all strive to build that kind of bond in our own family.
I hope you see that this isn’t strictly a Mothers’ Day sermon after all. It’s about all of us. (Sorry, Mothers!) Do we see family as being as important as God sees it? Like Mary, do we value wisdom and the search for understanding more than we seek knowledge and insist on being “right?” Do we honor one another as much as we see in this story? As Paul counseled, do we strive to “outdo one another in showing honor.”? Are we loyal and brave and in such a way that we stand by each other? Do we see each other as a precious person that God has given us, and are we willing even to make changes in ourselves for the good of all?
Those are very important questions to ask in terms of our entire Christian experience. Do we as a Church family model the relationships of our own families in the light of the Holy Family. And wouldn’t world be a different place if we did?
I challenge you to think about Mary today as you honor your own mother, or as you honor her memory. I challenge you to think of the special relationship Mary had with our Lord, and to see her as a model for our own lives, as we seek to serve God and each other. And to God be all glory, honor, and praise, now and for ever, Amen.
Eternal God, we are so grateful for all the people who had influence on our lives over the years. Help us to remember them and honor them this day – especially our mothers. Help us to learn the lessons of this life lived together as your people. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.