Easter 6 Year B 2021
O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
O God I thank you for the lanterns in our lives who illumined dark and uncertain paths calmed and stilled debilitating doubts and fears with encouraging words, wise lessons, gentle touches, firm nudges, and faithful actions along our journey of life and back to you. Amen (Marian Wright Edelman, “Lanterns” A memoir of Mentors)
Happy Mother’s Day!
I know Mother’s Day is a bittersweet day.
Some of us do not have or never had a good relationship with our mothers.
Some of us lost our mothers at an early age never got to know our mothers personally.
Some of us might yearn for motherhood and may have miscarried or never carried our own children.
Many of us have adopted or fostered children into our family.
Motherhood is complicated and unique to each of us and our story.
Here is where the scriptures meet you in your own complicated story.
Hannah – the mother of Samson, strongest man in the bible- was barren most of her life.
Sarah- wife of Abraham gave up trying to have children and sent in Hagar to Abraham, of course this only made life more complicated later.
Rebekah- the mother of Jacob and Esau declares that she would rather die than carry the twins because they are struggling so much even before they were born.
Anna- who we hear about in the gospel of Luke, spend her life praying in the temple- no child of her own but beholds the infant Jesus when Jesus is presented.
Mary- the mother of Jesus is called at a young age to an unexpected pregnancy, challenging truths to tell, and the courage to walk alongside Jesus all of her life, even to see her young son die on a cross.
None of these women walked alone, there were siblings, spouses, those who struggled with them. Their faith and assurance carried them through their hardest times and gave them their sense of hope and joy.
I want to give you an image to think on, There is an icon painted by Johann Georg Melchior Schmidtner that depicts Mary, the mother of Jesus holding a rope that is full of knots. In the icon she is looking lovingly at the knots and untying them. She is surrounded by angels, two assisting her and many gazing around her. In the image she is taking the knots and untying them one by one. Loosening them, untangling them, letting the rope return to its smooth state and moving to the next knot. She is not frustrated, rather she is caring, she is working through one knot at a time as a loving parent would with each challenge that is presented.
As children of God, adopted into the family through baptism, our story becomes a blended one. We are all able to claim the love of god through this adoption, and in this adoption that John speaks of in our epistle lesson today, we are reminded that the love that we learn through scripture, through Jesus’ life and teachings gives us hope when expectations are dashed. When knots form and when we seem all tangled up.
Both our gospel lesson and epistle lesson speak a lot about Love. Both written by John, they are both descriptive and repetitive. And if something is repetitive in the bible, we probably should pay close attention to it.
Today’s reading in the gospel is during Jesus’ last discourse with his disciples, the reading follows after the lesson about “I am the vine and you are the branches” as Jesus sits with this disciples and speaks in love to them. He says to them, “you are going to have your expectations dashed, there will be knots in your stomachs about how to move forward, life is going to seem all tangled up.
I am here with you.
You are my friends, you are my companions.
You are the people I break bread with.
Remember the sacrificial love I have shown you, you have felt, and you too have shared in those moments. Know you are not alone and I am with you.”
This sort of love, of being with, being present, sitting with you right where you are is the love that we are to live out.
This message of enduring love is the core message of all of our scriptures.
Never does God abandon God’s people.
Rather, God compels his disciples, his friends to share that sort of knowledge with those they know, to strive for compassion for all of creation.
I have another Mary to share with you today: Marian Wright Edelman is the founder and president emeritus of the Children’s Defense Fund. Born in Bentonville, SC, the daughter of a school teacher and preacher. She was the youngest of 5 children. Her father died when she was 14. Calling her parents tall oaks, like the oaks of righteousness mentioned in scripture, she witnessed the love of family and mentors all of her life. In her “memoir of mentors” called “Lanterns” she tells the stories of those who were lanterns on her path, encouraging and believing in her potential as a scholar, lawyer and educator.
She was the first African American woman admitted to the bar in Mississippi in 1964 and much like Bryan Stevenson’s move from his home state of Delaware to work in Montgomery AL, she moved from Yale Law School to where the work she could do was most needed. Marian moved to Mississippi to practice law and work in the civils rights legal work that needed to be done. Her work continued to develop and create the Child Development Group of Mississippi which would eventually drive her to Washington DC to found the Children’s Defense Fund whose purpose is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.
Because of the lanterns of loving care and accountability in her life, she strove within her entire professional career to provide those same lanterns for each child.
This is the love that Jesus shared at the table with his disciples, compassion and fighting for a way in the darkest of nights. Seeking all to come within his embrace.
Jesus says, Friends, when it gets hard,
Come back to the table, sit with me and be present.
Remember me and my love for you in this meal.
Remember the love that healed the unclean, the outcast, those called other.
They too are friends.
Be strengthened and have courage mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers in Christ- we are family and together we can create change through sacrificial love.
We are commanded so to do.