Mother of All Mothers

Selected Gospel Lections                                                  Mother’s Day – 6th  Easter

Elizabeth M. Deibert                                                          10 May 2015

 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.

 Mother’s Day is a good time to depart from the Common Lectionary to focus on the gifts of women in scripture, and especially on the Mother of all mothers. 

Mary is the supreme example of human faithfulness.   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.  So for all of us, male and female, Mary is a model of trust in God.   So 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.   (You can hear the scriptures while viewing the images on the screen, or follow the readings in your bulletin.)

 

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 pondering, Mary stayed open to the message of God.   She found favor with God, and was overtaken by Holy Spirit and received in her womb a Holy Child, the Son of God. 

Though fearful, Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”   Mary was completely receptive to God, despite great risk of misunderstanding.   Are we that open to God?   (slide)

 

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. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord." 46 And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  0 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever." 56 And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

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?   I think the Magnificat, in its subversive language tells us Mary was being shaped by the Son being shaped in her.  Just when it would seem Mary might be scared out of her wits, she is announcing the topsy-turvy world of a Messiah, who will do unexpected things, especially in reversing blessings, giving hope to those who are poor, lowly, and hungry.   We see that Mary’s theological strength in this Magnificat.   (slide)

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.

Mary takes time, even with a newborn child, to treasure and ponder the words of the shepherd and kings.    We too should take more time for pondering reflection in life about who Christ is.   We should take that same kind of time to ponder all our human relationships, to treasure people and value their thoughts and feelings.   (slide)

 

Matthew 2:11-14 On entering the house, (the Magi) 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.

Nothing is said of Mary’s fear here, but our imaginations can help us see that Joseph and Mary becoming aware of Herod’s systematic killing of babies would be terrifying.  The Thomas Faith & Film Group while viewing Philomena, was sensitized us to the pain of parents and children between forcibly separated from one another, after several years of bonding.   Watch a Holocaust film, or imagine even today, the slave trade in children, the abuse of children, and be horrified.   If only we could protect all children as Jesus was protected by Mary and Joseph here.    But there was a time when they lost him; it is only story of Jesus’ growing up.   (slide)

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 been traveling in groups.   It might have been easy to assume Jesus was with the other youth.   They had walked three days journey and had to turn back.   Jesus may have been in the right place, but it wasn’t where Joseph and Mary expected him to be.   Adolescence is the season of separation – a child becoming an independent, separate adult person.   This story illustrates that.   Even Jesus pulls a little teen attitude.  “Well, duh.   Didn’t you know where I’d be – in my Father’s house, of course.”   Communication gap ensues.  But notice, he humbles himself and becomes obedient and Mary, again treasures these things in her heart.   She takes time to ponder, reflect, and grow as the mom of boy becoming man with a significant ministry, the ministry of all ministries.   (slide)

 

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 now gives his mom a condescending response.   He’s now fully a man, and she must respect that.   But Mary persists in her confidence and respectful behavior toward her son, telling the servants, “Listen to him and do whatever he tells you.”   (slide)

 

 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."

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.   He makes it clear that his ministry is beyond family now.   I think that would have hurt a first century Jewish mom.  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?”  A message gets through to him, but he makes it clear that family is taking on new meaning as he engages his ministry.   Family has its place in society, but Jesus gives a deeper meaning to family, as those who do hear the word of God and do it.

 Mary carried on with doing the word of God.   This was her life – to hear and do the word of God, as she birthed and raised the Word of God.   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 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 “No, 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.  (slide)

 

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 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.   Maybe they miss their own mother or father.   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 helplessness 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.   Mother Mary may have been with the women who faithfully went to the tomb on Easter morning.  (slide)

 

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. 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. 

The ending becomes the beginning, and as the story gets shaped and reshaped by the Holy Spirit at work in the church, one can see ever more clearly, how the ending is in fact right there, in the beginning.  Jesus has risen from the dead and so new life and hope has come to Mary, and to all of us.   (slide)

 

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 women and men was the Mother of our Lord, Mary, the God-bearer.   From Mary we learn to give birth to Christ in our lives, and to follow his way, even in difficult times. Let us pray now, not to Mary, but with Mary, asking her prayers for us, just as we might ask for the support of our own Mothers on earth or in heaven:   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.