Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church
May 12, 2019
Luke 2: 41-52 (CEB)
Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival.42When he was 12 years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to their custom. 43After the festival was over, they were returning home, but the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t know it. 44Supposing that he was among their band of travelers, they journeyed on for a full day while looking for him among their family and friends.45When they didn’t find Jesus, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple. He was sitting among the teachers, listening to them and putting questions to them.47Everyone who heard him was amazed by his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him, they were shocked.
His mother said, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Listen! Your father and I have been worried. We’ve been looking for you!”
49Jesus replied, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that it was necessary for me to be in my Father’s house?” 50But they didn’t understand what he said to them.
51Jesus went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. His mother cherished every word in her heart. 52Jesus matured in wisdom and years, and in favor with God and with people.
Does anyone know the story of how Mother’s Day came to be? A young woman named Anna Jarvis, a Methodist in West Virginia, began advocating in the late 1800s for a special service in her church to honor mothers. Anna’s own mother, Ann Jarvis, had worked with other Mothers during the Civil War. These women were so distraught over losing their children in the war that several came together across the lines of the Civil War to talk about what they might do to end the war so their children wouldn’t keep dying. Anna so admired her mother and her mother’s work particularly during the Civil War, that she advocated for a special service honoring mothers until the first one was held in May 1907 at the Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia. But even after that first service was held, Anna continued to contend that all mothers should be honored on the second Sunday in May. In 1912, the Methodist Episcopal Church recognized the day and raised it to the national agenda. In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day to be a national holiday. Incidentally, by the time her push got the President’s attention, Anna was no longer so enthusiastic about Mother’s Day because she had become so disgusted with Hallmark and Whitman’s candies for trying to profit off the day.
Mother’s Day is the biggest day of the year for restaurants and florists. And for many, Mother’s Day is a wonderful day of celebration. Some of you had June Cleaver as a Mom; a few of you don’t even know who June Cleaver is. Sometimes it’s easy to honor Mom, sometimes it’s really hard. If you’ve lost your Mom, Mother’s Day can be difficult. I kept thinking this week about the children of Rachel Held Evans, a Christian author about my age who grew up and lived just up the road in Dayton. She passed away last Saturday, leaving behind her husband, a 3-year old son, and a not yet one year old daughter. What will Mother’s Day be for that baby girl, who will never celebrate a Mother’s Day with her Mom?
See, that’s the strange dichotomy of Mother’s Day—it can be wonderful, or it can be awful. And what about Mother’s Day from the Mom’s perspective? For those with wonderful children, or with difficult children, or with lost children? Then there are those who want to be mothers, but can’t. There are others who chose not to be a parent and are shamed by society for that choice. And now, there’s this whole new experience for Mom’s that is referred to as “Mom Guilt,” which is the guilt that Mom’s often feel for not parenting as perfectly as the experts suggest, or as perfectly as it seems their friends on social media are parenting. So you get the gist of “Mom guilt,” let’s watch a little video.
With all these things going on around Mother’s Day—Mom guilt, and sadness, and joy, and everything else—what would Jesus say on Mother’s Day? This is the question we will consider this morning as we continue this sermon series, “Jesus Speaks Today.” Today, as we dive into this question, we go to the one story we have of Jesus’ childhood. And there’s a lot we can learn from this story about dealing with Mom guilt, and the power of forgiveness when we are shamed by such guilt.
Imagine for a minute that you’re going to take a road trip down to Disney World. So you get all packed up and load the family into the car and start the 550 miles or so toward Orlando. But this is a family trip, and someone always has to go to the bathroom, so you pull into a rest stop north of Atlanta. Everybody gets out and does their thing and climbs back in, or so you think. Because not until the next rest stop at the Florida welcome center do you suddenly realize that “Little Timmy” is not in the car! You can imagine the frantic chaos that would ensue as you double back as quickly as possible to the first rest stop. Then, can you imagine what would happen when you got there? I could see it going something like this: you engulf little Timmy in a giant bear hug, tell him you love him and you’re sorry, make sure everything’s okay. Then, the minute you figure out everything IS okay, the next refrain begins, “Little Timmy, we were so worried about you? How could you have done this to us?”
Now, imagine that same scenario when you’re the mother of Jesus Christ; when you have misplaced the Son of God. Remember what Luke tells us, “When his parents saw him, they were shocked. His mother said, ‘Child, why have you treated us like this? Listen! Your father and I have been worried. We’ve been looking for you!’” Maybe that’s why we don’t hear about him again for the next 18 years, because Jesus was grounded!
But in all seriousness, do you think maybe Mary struggled with some Mom guilt sometimes? She must have. I think it’s almost impossible to be a Mom and not experience a little guilt about the mistakes we make as parents sometimes. It’s possible that we have this story because Mary shared the story in order to say to others, “It’s hard sometimes. We all go through this.”
I think if Jesus were teaching on Mother’s Day, he would talk about forgiveness—forgiveness for Moms who are dealing with guilt. Mother’s Day is a great day for us Moms (and Dads too) to be able to say, “I’m sorry for all the times when we didn’t do parenting well.” And as children of parents, we also need to apologize to our parents. We are awfully hard on them sometimes, aren’t we? Not only do we need to be willing to offer our apologies and seek forgiveness, we have to learn to forgive, even if the other person hasn’t asked for our forgiveness. When we are able to forgive, it means that we are not going to continue to let this action hurt, or bother, or control us.
I think if Jesus were here today, speaking to us on Mother’s Day, he would be intentional to turn to the Mothers who have lost a child. Those who, are wondering if they are really a Mom or not, or maybe they are spending the day at the cemetery, but certainly only finding deep pain in this occasion. I think that Christ would assure those beautiful women that even if they held their child only for a few brief moments, or for many years, they are still a Mom. And in that place of grief that is always with them, Christ is present, a strength to lean upon on days like today.
If Jesus were among us today, I think he would also be sure to speak to those who have dealt with infertility. You know, the Bible says a lot about infertility. Infertility is central to the stories of Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth. Maybe Christ would lift the names of these women and others, and celebrate their heroic faith in the face of tragic hardship. Many times in the Bible, infertility is blamed on the woman’s sin. I wonder, if Jesus were here today, if he wouldn’t try to correct some of that theology of Scripture where there is not a full understanding of infertility and its causes; to help these women understand that they don’t need to feel shame, or guilt, or inadequacy, on top of all the other emotions that come along with infertility.
Indeed, as joyous as this day is for many, it is also difficult for many, and Jesus speaks to all of those things. Jesus might tell us again to “honor your father and your mother.” Or he might remind us of the words of James that “true religion is to care for the orphans and the widows.” To every person who finds pain in this day, I think Jesus would comfort them and say, “I love you. I promise you I will not let you go. I will walk with you, and if you will let me, I will yet bring something good into your life.”
So, on this Mother’s Day, remember the pattern of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus would probably say things like:
“Forgive others and forgive yourself.”
“Today might be painful for you, and while I haven’t brought this pain into your life, I am here with you now. I will carry you through.”
He might even say, “There’s somebody out there who needs you. Would you be a parent?”
There are so many women, biological Moms or not, who have been called by God and who have responded to that call, pouring themselves into our well-being. So many women who every day model the selfless love of God. We are the beneficiaries of that love, and so today, we have the opportunity simply to pause and say, “Thanks.”
Let us pray…