Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Easter 6 Sermon (May 9)

On this Mother’s Day, we pray for all the mothers among us today: for our own mothers, those living and those who have died; for the mothers who loved us and for those who fell short of loving us fully; for all who hope to be mothers someday, and for those whose hopes to have children have been frustrated; for all mothers who have lost children. We pray this all in the name of our one, holy and living God, who has chosen to be our Mother in all things. Amen.

Today as we celebrate Mother’s Day, it is the right time to remember the mothers of our faith who have helped spread the good news, who taught others about faith and perseverance, about love, joy and hope.

Our first reading tells us about a woman named Lydia, who was a worshiper of God from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. She listened to what Paul said, and the Lord opened her heart. When she and her household were baptized, she offered hospitality to Paul and others at her house. She caught the fire of the Spirit that day, and as Lydia’s heart was opened by God, she opened her house to Paul & others. One wonders how many heard the Good News that day at her house. It is people like Lydia, who not only heard the word of God, but responded to it in their lives, that helped spread it.

A few centuries later it would be another mother passing on her faith to her family. Monica mother of Augustine of Hippo, helped her son’s conversion and embrace of the Christian faith. It was Monica’s care and guidance that would help Augustine embrace what his mother long held even when he had wandered far from his childhood upbringing. Augustine is an important figure in the early church and his writings, such as his Confessions of St. Augustine & The City of God, would be two important cornerstones for the Western Church. Even as Monica lay dying in a foreign city, she still passed on her faith to her family.
“It does not matter where you bury my body. Do not let that worry you. Nothing is far from God, and I need have no fear that he will not know where to find me, when he comes to raise me to life at the end of the world.”
Her hope and faith would live on in her sons, for she not only heard the word of God, she passed it on. A millennium after Monica, Dame Julian of Norwich was a spiritual mother to anyone who sought her help. She was an anchoress (a type of religious hermit) and lived in a small dwelling attached to the Church of St. Julian in Norwich (England) and was known for her knowledge of the Lord and her good counsel. Such care for others was for Julian connected with our loving God, in her words…
God chose to be our mother in all things
and so made the foundation of his work,
most humbly and most pure, in the Virgin’s womb.
God, the perfect wisdom of all, arrayed himself in this humble place.
Christ came in our poor flesh to share a mother’s care.
Julian likewise sought to care for all those who came to her, with such words that God had given to her:
“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
And passing along wise counsel, she passed along the faith to new generations of Christians in England. In Lydia, Monica & Julian we find the foundations of our faith. Today we are the children of the faith that they passed on to others. Whether they shared it with disciples, their children or anyone who came seeking God, these mothers to our faith helped carry on and plant what we harvest today. So how do we, following their example share that faith today?

Mother’s Day has become an important day to remember the mothers in our lives & those who have given us motherly care but also a day when we can begin to transform our world and help mothers throughout the world live the fullest of lives with their children. When Mother’s Day was conceived a century ago, those celebrations called for an end to war and now we see in many celebrations the honoring of women for the work they do providing for their families, we hear calls for the changing of unjust laws, we see mothers risking jail or death for a better life for their communities and the world, and many working for a safe and healthy world for all families.

Today, is a day we can act and empower women around the world, for this is our act of faith today. It is up to us for we have been given the Spirit to act, to live into the fullness of life that God has given to us. For it all belongs to God and we are called to share it with others, like Lydia, Monica & Julian. And as Anselm of Canterbury put it nearly a millennium ago, it all rests in Christ’s goodness and motherly care for us all. So let us end with Anselm’s words (see this blog post). Amen.

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