Jubilate (Mothers’ Day)
May 11, 2014 A+D
St. John 16:16-22
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The most painful labor in the history of childbirth was that which preceded the birth of the Christian Church. No one, not even Eve herself, has ever born the curse from the garden more fully than Our Lord upon the cross. To say that He had sorrow is to show the shallowness of our own sorrows and discontent. For all of our sorrows are caused by sin and to some degree, though don’t make too much of this, we deserve what hurts us. But the Lord Jesus Christ did not deserve the sorrows that caused His sweat to fall like Blood and yet, though innocent, He bore the full brunt of His Father’s wrath and Hell’s fury.
Yet even that sorrow, as terrible as it was, turned to joy. On Easter evening the risen Lord came into the upper room in joy. He was filled with joy because He beheld those that He had brought to life. He was filled with joy not because He was living, but because they were living and thus did He no longer remember the anguish of the cross.
Think about this. Who is happy when childbirth is ended? Not the child. The child is not happy. The child is angry, confused, and scared. That is why he wails. The mother is happy, not just that the pain has subsided and the worst of the ordeal is over, but that a child has been born into the world. It could be that in a few weeks that child’s cries will become a burden and harbinger of weariness and exhaustion for the mother, but that is not the case with that first cry. That first cry, no matter how angry or how selfish it is, nor how tired the mother is, that cry fills the mother with joy because the child is alive.
And what does that mother want to do more than anything else? She wants to comfort the child. She wants to calm and soothe him. She wants to whisper her love to him and sing lullabies. That is the joy of mothering.
And that is how the Lord comes into the upper room. They are gathered in confusion and fear. They wail like selfish children unaware of what their Lord has done, thinking only of themselves. But He comes in joy. He comes in joy because they are alive. They have been saved. Their cries and complaints are those of children. They cry without understanding. So He seeks to comfort and soothe them. He whispers the Holy Spirit into them and sings the lullaby: “Peace be unto you” and He forgives their sins, welcoming them into His Family.
Billy Collins wrote a poem entitled The Lanyard that is quite fitting on Mother’s Day. In it, he describes running across the word “lanyard” in the dictionary and remembering how he crafted one for his mother when he was a child away at camp. After introducing his topic, he writes:
“I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.”
Then he thinks a bit about what his gift meant. He writes:
“She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.
Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.”
Finally, Collins gets to his point:
“And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth
that you can never repay your mother,
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.”
The strange thing that Collins hints at in his rueful admission is not the arrogance of the boy who thinks that a worthless lanyard woven out of boredom would make him even with his mother, but that the mother is glad to have it and is not in the least bit concerned with being “even.” She loves him so she loves his gifts.
And you guys thought that you didn’t like poetry. That poem didn’t even rhyme, but I bet it caught you by surprise.
What is true of mothers and mothering, is even more true of the Lord. He does not seek to be “even” with you or for you to pay Him back for what He has done. Yet the gifts you bring, the praise you sing, He joyfully receives and even loves. He loves your tithes and your prayers and your small gestures of the faith. Though they be as insignificant as a worthless lanyard or even as thoughtless, does not matter to Him, for He bore the sorrows willfully, even gladly, in order to have you, alive, a part of His Family.
That Sunday evening in Jerusalem the disciples were calm. Like infants, content at their mothers’ breasts, the disciples received the Word of the Lord and the breaking of the bread as their only need and nourishment. They cared for nothing else. They didn’t even grieve for missing Thomas because their sorrow turned to joy and in Christ they were content. But there were more “little whiles” to be endured and like infants, they needed constant attention. They grew scared and confused again. They did mourn. So the Lord comforted them anew, again and again, as many times as they needed plus a few more, for our cups runneth over. The Lord is glad to do what mothers do: to soothe and calm and forgive. For the Lord is love and mercy and grace. He paid the price for your redemption without a second thought or regret.
That is how the Lord looks upon you. He looks at you with the same tender mercy and compassion that He had for the apostles. He does not grow weary or faint. He is not ashamed of you. He is not angry at you. He does hold the cost of your redemption, even of your complaints and crying and backsliding, against you. He is better at mothering than any earthly mother. Though it cost Him such a terrible price, though it was sorrow unlike anyone else has ever known, He remains joyful at your life, patient and gentle, eager to feed and to comfort you.
You have sorrow now, to be sure, but the “while” of “a little while” is winding down. Soon your hearts will rejoice with the same joy that Jesus knows in the upper room, for you will be one at will and desire and joy with your heavenly Father, and no one will take it from you.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.