Mother's Day Sermon
by the Rev. Lee Woofenden
British Columbia, April 11, 1997
Isaiah 9:1-7 To
us a child is born
Mark 3:20-21, 31-35 Jesus' mother
"Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and
mother" (Mark 3:35)
have a prayer that starts, "Holy Mary, mother of God."
This always puzzled me. How could God, the source of all
creation, have a mother? Mary was the mother of Jesus. Yet he
never calls her his mother. Listen to this exchange from the
gospel of John:
On the third day,
a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was
there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to
the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to
him, "They have no more wine."
"Woman, what do I have to do with you? My hour has not
come yet." (John 2:1-4)
hope it wasn't Mother's Day when he said that!
was not offended. She turned to the servants and said "Do
he tells you." Jesus was not just being provocative. He was
teaching us about his relationship with Mary. He wanted us to
know that Mary was no longer a mother to him as we usually
Mother and Brothers
did not recognize Mary as his mother in our New Testament
reading either. The story takes place at the beginning of Jesus'
ministry, right after he had chosen his twelve disciples. When
his family heard about the crowds that were gathering around
him, they thought he was out of his mind! They went to the house
where Jesus and his disciples were, but the crowd was so big
they couldn't get in. When he heard they were there looking for
him he said:
"Who are my
mother and my brothers?" Then he looked at those seated
in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and
my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister
must have been hard for Mary to accept. Yet she did accept it.
She stayed with him through his ministry and became one of his
followers. When Jesus was on the cross, she was there with the
apostle John. Jesus saw them and said to her, "Woman, here
is your son." And he said to John, "Here is your
mother." After this John took her into his own house (John
19:25-27). Though Jesus did not recognize her as his mother, he
cared deeply for her, providing for her even during his dying
was one of the three women who went to the Jesus' tomb to anoint
his body with spices. With Mary Magdalene and Salome, she saw
the angel announce Jesus' resurrection. Surely from this
experience Mary knew who Jesus really was: Christ the Lord.
the resurrection, the Gospels no longer call Mary the mother of
Jesus. They refer to her as the mother of James and Joses, two
of Jesus' brothers. Mary and Jesus' brothers belonged to the
early Christian community. Two of the brothers--James and
Jude--wrote letters that are now included in the New Testament.
Each one begins by acknowledging Jesus as Lord.
Us a Child is Born
Bible shows that Mary is no longer the mother of the Lord in any
literal way. But there is a way that not only Mary, but all of
us, can be a mother to the Lord.
year at Christmas we celebrate the Lord's birth. When Jesus was
born as a baby, he needed loving care just as every other baby
does. Like other babies, he spent nine months in his mother's
womb. After he was born, Mary nursed him, cared for him, and
raised him until he was able to live on his own.
the same way, the Lord does not come into our lives fully grown.
He starts as a little baby--a tender beginning of Christian
faith and life--needing to be loved, fed, and cared for.
Gradually, with our care, he grows into a powerful, loving
presence, guiding us in what is good and right every day. As we
read in Isaiah:
To us a child is
born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his
shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty
God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
the Lord in Children
day reminds us of another way of mothering the Lord. Babies are
born with no knowledge of the Lord. His presence in their lives
has to be developed through both teaching and
example--especially the teaching and example of their mother and
school, children learn academic and practical subjects. Only at
home and at church do they learn about God and religion. Only at
home and at church do they get the knowledge and guidance they
need to become Christians. Because of this, I am especially
happy that the Cambridge church has plans to start a Sunday
School next fall.
do we mother the Lord in our children? One way is to be open
about our own faith, and answer religious questions as they come
up. Children are curious about God, the Bible, and the spiritual
world. They really want to know! We mother the Lord in them by
feeding their desire to know about him.
few weeks ago at supper, my four year old daughter Heidi asked,
"Where is heaven?" What a good question! I had to
think for a minute. I imagined her eyes glazing over as I
explained the difference between physical matter and spiritual
substance. That wouldn't do! Taking my cue from the Lord, I told
her that heaven isn't just a place we go after we die; it is
what happens when people who love each other live together. It
is heaven because everyone cares for each other and tries to
make each other happy.
the Lord in Ourselves
children ask questions we can't answer. Of course, it's okay to
say "I don't know." But what if "I don't
know" is the only answer they ever get to their religious
questions? Pretty soon they will stop asking. They may figure
that if we don't know anything about religion, it must not be
that important. But it is the most important thing there is!
What good is it if our children gain the whole world and lose
their own soul?
we want to mother the Lord in our children and grandchildren, we
have to mother the Lord in ourselves. If the Lord is still a
baby in us, he needs our care to grow to full adulthood. A
mature faith expressed in our lives is the strongest basis for
mothering the Lord in others.
do we mother the Lord in ourselves? The first step is to learn
about him. If we are presented with spiritual questions we can't
answer, if we run up against issues in our own lives that we
don't understand, it is time to learn more about the Lord. A few
minutes each day reading the Bible and other books about our
church's teachings will provide a rich source of knowledge that
can nourish the infant Lord in us. Our church is also available
to provide the spiritual nourishment we need.
learning by itself is not enough. As we learn about the Lord, we
need to put our new spiritual knowledge into practice. Children
are especially quick to notice when our actions don't match our
words. Every mother and father knows only too well how it feels
when our children use our very own words to point out something
we have done wrong. I can still hear Heidi's voice saying,
"That's not a very nice thing to say, Papa."
Lord Full-grown in Us
we mother the Lord in ourselves, his presence in our lives will
grow. Spiritual issues that used to stump us will start making a
little more sense as we open ourselves to the Lord's teaching.
Even more important, our sense of God's love working in us and
through us will grow stronger and stronger. We may continue in
the same daily routine, but our care and concern for the people
around us will grow. Whether we are caring for our children,
working at our job, or taking part in family and social
activities, we will find new happiness in serving others.
as Jesus grew from Mary's son into her Lord and God, the infant
Lord we have mothered inside ourselves will grow up and become
our Lord and God. The roles will be reversed; God will mother
course, God always was our mother and our father. We just didn't
realize it. He comes to us gently, like a baby. He lets us
mother him in ourselves and in others until we can see him and
relate to him as he really is--as our heavenly father and our
"This Little Piggy" is ©Tom
and used with his permission by Moon And Back Graphics to
construct this set
Music: Words of
© 1999 Bruce DeBoer