About Me

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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Who's Your Mama?

2017-05-14 1 Pe 02 02-10 Jn 14 01-14 Who's Your Mama?


It's Mother's Day. I hope this is a happy day for you.

I know this can also be a very hard and not-happy day, for all kinds of reasons. I believe the best we can do is what the Bible says to do: "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." (Romans 12:15). We praise that which is praiseworthy, and we pray for all mothers, because no matter whose child we are, we are all children of God.




Who's your mama?


Like my mother before me, I was born and raised in West Virginia. Which means I was required by law to learn all the words to "Country Roads." (Not that far from the truth.) "Almost heaven" – it's a religious song – "Take me home, Country Roads, to the place I belong, West Virginia, mountain mama." I know y'all think the Smokies are just the "Mother of All Mountains," but you're wrong. The song proves it.


I like to remind people that if it weren't for West Virginia, there would be no Don Knotts, no Steve Harvey, and no Nancy Hanks (the mother of Abraham Lincoln and distant cousin of Tom Hanks). Without West Virginia, there also wouldn't be a Mother's Day.


Ann Reeves Jarvis came from the coal-dusted railroad town of Grafton, West Virginia. She was a peace activist during the Civil War. She cared for wounded soldiers from both sides, Southern and Aggressor. She created Mother's Day Work Clubs in rural Appalachia. The clubs were made so women from opposing political sides could talk to each other. Former enemies could work together to become a force for peace, to improve sanitary conditions, to curb milk contamination, to fight disease and lower infant mortality. Ann Reeves Jarvis herself had eleven children, seven of whom died in infancy or early childhood.


So it was her ninth child, Anna Jarvis, who took up her mother's cause and led a movement to make Mother's Day a national holiday.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother%27s_Day, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Jarvis




Anna Jarvis actually trademarked the phrase "Mother's Day" and even, "Second Sunday in May" (which I did not know you could do). She is why "Mother's" is spelled apostrophe-S. She said it should be, "a singular possessive, for each family to honor its own mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world."


But. This is another of example of why we just can't have nice things. Corporate America seized on Mother's Day and ran with it, ran away with it. This disgusted Jarvis. She said,


"A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment."

— Anna Jarvis


Jarvis came to loathe Mother's Day. She bankrupted herself fighting to end it. She organized a nationwide petition to have the holiday rescinded. "In 1923 she crashed a convention of confectioners in Philadelphia," and was arrested for disturbing the peace.


Eventually Jarvis was committed to the Marshall Square Sanitarium in West Chester, Pennsylvania. And – I am quoting: People connected with the floral and greeting card industries paid the bills to keep her [there].


(Happy Mother's Day?)


That's the problem with kids. Well, it's ONE problem with kids. They break things. Nice things. Things you put your heart into. They're careless. They leave the Legos in the floor so they pierce the soles of your bare feet, making you stumble and fall. Swearing. Broken.


Of course it's unfair to pick on kids. All the children of our creator God. People. People in general are just careless. People – mess things up. Even our best days.  People are just – sinful. That which is intended to build us up becomes as the Apostle Peter says, "A stone that makes [us] stumble, and a rock that makes [us] fall… as [we are] destined to do."


I would imagine God would say, "Y'all tell me something new." So it was with the paradise of Eden. Again and again in the Bible, the pure, spiritual milk of God's salvation was left to sour.


And so it was even with Jesus. The perfect baby boy, born of Mary – God's perfect gift – grows up to be praised Palm Sunday and betrayed on Thursday. Crucified by Friday.


This is why we can't have nice things. Because we are destined – destined – to stumble over them. To let them sour. To break them.


Saint Peter says so. Jesus says so. Jesus speaks "peace" to his disciples, not from a Rose Garden, but on the way to the cross. He knows how this works. How it's destined to work. Things fall apart. We stumble and fall over even our best days and our best intentions.


Mothers know this. Which is why so many of them feel worried and guilty so much of the time. Did I do enough? Am I good enough? They know how this works.




So, I'm writing this yesterday, in Panera, because that's where God and everybody knows to find me. I'm sucking down the coffee at my little two-top in the corner. And a lady – maybe in her 60's – and her grown daughter take the table right across from me. And they are silent. Uncomfortably silent. So uncomfortably, they're making me uncomfortable and I don't even know them.


The mom has her salad. The daughter has her sandwich. And all I can hear from the table is clicking of the silverware and the rattling of the chip bag. They're just consuming the food, looking down at their plates.


They finish. And as they stand up to go, this man with a bouquet of flowers walks up to them. He says, "Excuse me. I'm on my way home and I've been out delivering Mother's Day flowers to members of our church today. I've got this one extra bouquet and you look like you might be a mother and daughter, is that right?"


They say, "Yes. We are."


And he says, "Could I give you this bouquet and wish you a happy Mother's Day? And the daughter and the mom look at each other and then at the man. I see them wiping tears. The mom takes the flowers and hugs the man. And then the daughter hugs him. And then he asks if they can hold hands and have a prayer together, and they do. I wipe my own tears and go back to my sermon, although I'm pretty sure I just saw one way better than I could ever write.




The Apostle Peter is writing to people who aren't really talking to each other. There are those who believe, and those who don't. They're on different sides of the same family. Peter's letter isn't mean to tear anyone down. It's to build people up. He knows that the people stumble over each other. They even stumble over the words of Jesus Christ. They even stumble over his salvation.


Peter's message is to help these people on opposite sides of the same family speak and hear a word of hope, Christ's unifying word of hope. To speak forgiveness and hear forgiveness. So they can stop throwing stones at each other and become themselves as living stones, to be built up into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, sharing good news and forgiving the sins of others, sins of themselves, sins of their families, sins we just seem so destined to trip over in the dark.




I drive past a church and this week their sign said, "Mothers are God's greatest gift."


No pressure there. And we wonder why moms are so stressed out.


I think one of the greatest gifts God gives us is the holy truth – that even our greatest gifts to each other are imperfect gifts. Even our best days can get the best of us. We are all broken by the sin to which we are destined. We are all rough and sharp around the edges.


And it was to people just like us that Jesus said, "Peace."


"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me."


"I will not leave you orphaned."


"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid."


Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers – we are all children of God. Let us bring peace and share family with all.