A Journey with Mother Mary

Selected Gospel Lections
Mother’s Day – 3rd Easter
Elizabeth M. Deibert

O God, by your nurturing Spirit tell us what we need to hear, and show us what we ought to do, to follow Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

We’re doing something a little different this Sunday. Instead of following the usual lectionary readings, I decided that for Mother’s Day, we would walk through the life of Mother Mary. The only time of year when we think about Mary is on the third Sunday of Advent each year, as we anticipate the birth of Christ, and usually read the Magnificat, part of which we used as our Call to Worship today.

It is my opinion, and I believe I stand in strong company, that we Protestants over-reacted to Roman Catholicism on two points. First, we shifted from weekly communion, which had been the practice of the church for 15 hundred years. Secondly, we over-reacted to Roman Catholic devotion to Mary.

We have neglected Mary, ignored the fact that she is the supreme example of human faithfulness. Jesus, being of two natures – divine and human – is the one for whom and in whom we live, but Mary is the one to whom we can truly relate. She was fully human, as are we, yet she was so very receptive to the Word of God that she was able to give birth to God in human flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ.

(slide) So for all of us, male and female, Mary is a model of trust in God. On this Mother’s Day, as we are still in the season of Easter joy, let us ponder the life of Mary, from the time she was visited by an angel, to the birth of Jesus, to his childhood and ministry, and finally to his death, resurrection, and ascension. Let us hear these stories, not as we usually do, from the perspective of Jesus or of his disciples or of the crowd, but let’s think about Mother Mary, what she was thinking, how she was feeling, and the challenge she had to be faithful through all these experiences as Mother of God. Theotokos in Greek means God-bearer.

Hear now the Annunciation from Luke 1:28-38 (slide):

Jane Luke 1:28-38 "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. …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….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.

Perplexed and fearful, but Mary found favor with God, and was overtaken by Holy Spirit and gave birth to a Holy Child, the Son of God. Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Mary was receptive. Hear now the affirmation of her cousin Elizabeth, when the two unexpectedly pregnant women come together. Luke 1:39-42 (slide)

Richard Luke 1:39-42 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

Mary’s womb bore the eternal God, in human form. She is called more spacious than the heavens for that reason. Is it possible to be the God-bearer and not to be changed by that? The birth narratives are the most familiar to us, but let us listen for clues about Mary’s life. Hear Luke 2:16-19 (slide)

Tricia Luke 2:16-19 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

She hears from shepherds that angels are announcing his birth. She treasures these words and ponders them. Would that we would do the same when we hear what the angels and the saints through generations have said about this amazing birth. If we would just take time at home, even when we are exhausted as Mary surely was, to ponder these words. If we would just stay the one extra hour for Lively Learning so we can ponder the words of scripture, then we might be more like Mary, blessed, full of faith and grace.

All good parents are protective of their young children. People who believe they have a very gifted or special children, are even more so. You can imagine the fear of Mother Mary when she and Joseph learn that Herod is killing baby boys. So they have the courage to travel by night to a foreign land, to keep their boy safe.
Matthew 2:11-14 (slide)

Chip Matthew 2:11-14 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. 13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." 14 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt.

We have but one story of Jesus childhood, in fact, he is nearly a teen when his parents lose him in the temple. Nearly every mother and father have a story of forgetting the child or losing the child. Mary and Joseph traveled for three days and did not realize their son was missing. I guess they were traveling in groups from Jerusalem, and perhaps the adolescents would walk together. But turns out Jesus was lingering with the religious experts in the temple. Luke 2:43 -51 (slide)

Elizabeth Luke 2:43-51 43 When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it… 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, "Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety." 49 He said to them, "Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" 50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

Mary was upset. Well, remember they had walked three days journey and had to turn back. I remember one time Emily left her brand new favorite jacket at a rest area, and we had to drive an hour backwards in a 7 hour trip. I was not happy. I remember a few nights when my children did not make curfew or did not call back on their cell phones. That was just hours. Mary was worried for three days!

For three days, she had no idea where he was. Sort of reminds us of the three days which come at his death. By the end of this story, Mary is calm and treasuring these things in her heart. She is a reflective person, clearly.

We move now into Jesus’ life of ministry to his first recorded miracle – water into wine. (slide) I am guessing that Mary was surprised at what her son could do. On the other hand, perhaps she thought he was capable of fixing the problem, as she reports it to him. John 2:3-5

Jane John 2:3-5 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 4 And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come." 5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."

Jesus gives a very typical youthful adult response to his mother. Mom, it’s not my fault. What do you want me to do? But Mary persists in her confidence and respectful behavior toward her son, telling the servants, “Listen to him and do whatever he tells you.”

This was only the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, but Mary is quickly learning she must let go of her son. When she comes to see him, he is surrounded by crowds. A message gets through to him, but he makes it clear that family is taking on new meaning as he engages his ministry. Luke 8:19-21 (slide)

Richard Luke 8:19-21 19 Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. 20 And he was told, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you." 21 But he said to them, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it."

I think that would have hurt. Doesn’t he care that his own mother is waiting outside? Come on Jesus, I nursed you. I changed your diapers and this is the respect I get? But Mary did get it. She carried on with doing the word of God. This was her life – to hear and do the word of God. But she thought her son was destined for a princely life, not a ghastly death. She celebrated all his miracles and the teaching which drew crowds. She was proud of her boy.

But she also heard the grumbling of priests and scribes. She knew Jesus was in danger. Can you image how much more she worried and prayed now than she did when her 12 year old was missing. Think of Mother Mary in the courtyard with Peter, as Jesus is being questioned. Think of Mother Mary as the crowd is shouting, “Crucify him!” And she’s saying “not my boy, not my boy.” But they did anyway, and faithful Mary took herself to stand there in solidarity with him, to weep over him. John 19:25-27 (slide)

Tricia John 19:25-27 Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." 27 Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can be very difficult. Sometimes we forget how painful these holidays can be for people. Maybe they’ve lost a child. Maybe they have or had a terrible relationship with their own mother or father. Maybe they always wanted to be parents and it never happened for them.

I have a pastor friend who finds these two months really hard. He and his wife have an adult son, who has paranoid schizophrenia. They find it hard to talk about, because people do not know how to respond. These devoted parents have done all they know to do for fifty years to help him. But despite all their attempts at offering help, their son lives on the street. It is agonizing. It is more agonizing, when people brag about their own children on days like this. They wish they could feel proud, but instead they just feel helpless -- unable to help their son. Same way Mary must have felt when Jesus was hanging on a cross.

But mental illness and death will never get the last word. God’s redeeming power will win in the end. The life of Christ will triumph over the death that still chases us. We assume Mother Mary might have been with the women who faithfully went to the tomb on Easter morning. Hear the end Luke 23-and the beginning of Luke 24:

Chip Luke 23:55-24:5 The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56 Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments…. 24:1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. (slide) 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.

What an unimaginable ending to Mary’s sad story. Her son is alive, but not only that, her son’s life brings life to all people. All the glorious things that were said at his birth really came true. Jesus has risen from the dead and so new life and hope has come to Mary, and to all of us. Death has lost its sting. Where O death is your victory? Don’t you know Mary wants to see Jesus and touch him, even more than Thomas did, not to help her believe but to bring her joy.

It would seem that Mother Mary did see her son again because just after he ascends, we read that the disciples and the women, including Mother Mary, were together in Jerusalem. Hear this story from Acts 1: (slide)

Elizabeth Acts 1:13-14 13 When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

Constantly devoted to prayer. Pondering these things in her heart. Treasuring these words. Going with him all the way to the cross and the grave. Mary was faithful. She was willing. She was obedient. She listened to God. She was the first disciple.

Sometimes when we read the stories of scriptures and so many of the main characters are men, we forget about the faithful women. Supreme among all the faithful was the Mother of our Lord, Mary, the God-bearer. Mary demonstrates the perfect human life. From Mary we learn to give birth to Christ in our lives, and to follow his way, even in fearful and dark times.

Blessed be the Mother of all Mothers, Holy Mary. Let us pray now, not to Mary, but with Mary, requesting her prayers for us, just as we might ask of our own Mothers in heaven or on earth:

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.