Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mother's Day Sermon 2008

There is not a topic more dangerous, or diverse as motherhood! There are those who defend motherhood as the most sacred of all purposes in life, on the other hand, there are those who would not even consider raising children, for any number of reasons! Added to the preacher’s burden of reflecting intelligently, and faithfully is the added twist, Pentecost falls on the same day!
On the one hand you have a national holiday, an international day, on which we honor mothers and on the other the sacred celebration of Pentecost, the birthday of the church, a time to honor the Spirit of God which fuels our faith.
On the one hand I want to read letters like: (Slide)

My mom is pretty she clensth hosus and sweeps the floor she cooks dinner and she takes me to peano class. And she does the londeries and washis the dishes. My Mom has short brown hair and she works in her iciss. Happy Mother’s Day. I love you

or (slide )My Mommy is nice, She has long hair it is redish black. She takes care of derek and me. She brush my hair and makes my yummy lunch. She tucks me in to bed. She is the boss of my Daddy. She takes me to ballet class and Jimmasticks. I love her!
On the other hand I want to emphasize the third person of the trinity, and how we are given gifts of spirit and how important it is for each of us to acknowledge this gift.
So, after much research and careful thought, I would point us to the
The "Mother's Day Proclamation" by Julia Ward Howe (slide) which was one of the early calls to celebrate Mother's Day in the United States. Written in 1870, Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation was a pacifist reaction to the carnage of the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War. The Proclamation was tied to Howe's feminist belief that women had a responsibility to shape their societies at the political level.
Mother's Day Proclamation
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

As I read that I reflected on how many mothers this day are mourning their sons, daughters spouses and even parents who were lost to war. There are those who have lost their mothers to mental illness, or any number of diseases. So observance of mother’s day is often a memorial day, a trip to the cemetery or to take part in events such as the Revlon Breast Cancer walk, that several of our members took place in yesterday at the L.A. Coliseum. (slide)
What is good about these observances is the hope that fuels the desire to remember. The hope is that peace will settle in around the earth, that cures for disease, both physical and mental will be found, and mothers everywhere both two legged and four legged, webbed and winged will be able to raise their children in peace.

This tradition is continuing today:
The San Luis Obisbo Mothers for Peace came together in 1969. A young mother had written a letter to the editor of the local newspaper asking that people who shared her sadness and frustration at the needless loss of life in the Vietnam War join her in searching out ways to act effectively as a group. The shared values and compelling need to act that originally brought the group together have continued to characterize the Mothers for Peace.

(slide)The Peace Alliance is a nonpartisan citizen action organization representing a growing constituency for peace. Peace is not a utopian ideal; it is an issue critical to our national and human security. Either we continue reactively addressing ever-increasing levels of violence and the consequent human and economic costs, or we take a fresh approach. This isn’t about the politics of left or right; it is about what is practical and effective. We must create the possibility for applied peace-building to identify and resolve conflict before it erupts into violence.
The possibility of peace is not a false hope, a insignificant hope or a naiver hope. Rather by remembering our mothers, we remember how tough the battle is sometimes, we pray for peace, knowing much work has to be done.
We live in a world where the health and welfare of all is too often ignored, instead we suffer from “Get all I can, as long as I can” syndrome. Remember how mothers remind us to share?
As we turn to the Corinthians text, the varieties of the spirit all point to peace:
“To each is given the manifestation of the spirit for the common good”
Those manifestations of wisdom, knowledge, healing, faith miracles, prophecy, discernment, are all born of one spirit that seeks to unite us in the Kingdom of God.
Yes the spiritual gifts are for others, to unite us together in peace. This is the hope of God unrevealed in the Acts passage. The spirit is revealed to a diverse and sometimes warring group.
Very often our cultural differences keep us at war, language differences often lead to misunderstanding, conflict, political differences lead to power struggle, and in recent history the withholding of aid to those who suffer.
It has been amazing to me that the military government in Burma will not allow aid into their country after the devastating natural disaster. On the other hand I have been comforted by the outpouring of the offer of aid even before the government has requested it. The wonderful generous spirit of others reveal a deep connection with those who are suffering.
The hopeful message of Pentecost is that barriers can be overcome. The same spirit infects and affects us all, young and old, male and female. Regardless of any differences on the surface, we are all of one spirit.

If my childhood is any indication Mothers are good at keeping the peace. When I would get into arguments with my brother and sister back in chicopee, massachusetts, it was my mother who found a way to bring us together. In the extended family it was my grandmother Marshall who kept us united even as our family grew and spread out across the United States. It is only when I grew up and became a parent myself did I appreciate the way she held us together.

Now what does all this have to do with Pentecost? As I was reading the scripture three themes stuck out, first the image of a variety of gifts, and second, that this variety of gifts came from the same spirit, and finally this unifying spirit caused men and women, boys and girls to have visions and dreams.

Pentecost is also about the birthday of the church, as a response to the spirit working in us. This church celebrates a birthday, but the greater church, the worldwide church also celebrates a birthday, and in this moment we are connected both to the past and the present work of the Spirit, and the work of the churches around our world.
We celebrate the variety of gifts.
As I look around today, I see a variety of people, each of you who is unique and have particular talents.(Name a few). We have a number of people who speak a variety of languages (point to a few). I am grateful for this variety, it is a living example of what Paul was trying to say in I Corinthians. But in his view, it was important to note that all these gifts came from the same spirit. There was no hierarchy of gifts, they are all given freely by God, and we celebrate all of these today.
Some are more visible and some are in the background, but we celebrate the richness and the blessing of these gifts to the world. To continue the theme of peace, the way to true peace is for each gift to find expression in our world.
Recently, I was talking to one of our younger clergy about what his experience with working with youth. He was successful in building up the youth group in his church because he said, he did not tell them what they needed to do, but rather was more like a coach, finding ways they could each contribute to the life of the group using their unique skills and talents. The youth led youth group gave a place for them to try new things, to make their visions for what the group could be a reality.
Each of us is given a unique DNA for what we are able to contribute to the world to make it a more peaceful place, a place where all of God’s creation can live and thrive. The same is true for each congregation, as a group we have a DNA, and have a way to contribute to the world. This variety of gifts makes life more interesting, more dramatic, and more of a challenge.
For us on this mother’s day, this day of Pentecost we celebrate the one spirit that unites us all, of different cultures, backgrounds, languages, but one spirit. We celebrate the witness of mothers everywhere who work for peace so their sons and daughters do not have to go to war. We celebrate the spirit in each person we meet.