Sunday, May 11, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Easter (Mother's Day Message)

“When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:16–22)

Mother’s Day is generally not all it’s cracked up to be. I’ve never met a mother who was completely confident that she is a very good one. It can be a reminder of shortcomings. It can bring back guilt or regret. Some mothers have children or grandchildren who have abandoned the faith completely and live in unrepentant sin. Some of us had good mothers. Some of us frankly had bad mothers – who perhaps mistreated us.

Some mothers have been abandoned or mistreated by their own children. Some want to be mothers but can’t for a variety of reasons. Some mothers and daughters fight and sometimes sons fall out completely with their mothers. Some mothers have lost children.

Hallmark cards, flowers, and chocolates are fine but cards eventually go in the trash – flowers fade – and a sugar high only last so long. Mothers are not perfect – from Eve in the garden up till now we all bear the marks of sin. And it’s a strange thing to celebrate mother’s day in a society that values something wickedly called ‘choice’ over life itself.  

But the author of life has a message for us all. Our Gospel appointed for this morning, the 4th Sunday of Easter, seems fitting for mother’s day. Jesus is speaking on Maundy Thursday – the night of his betrayal. He is speaking about the salvation he is going to accomplish – there will be weeping and lamenting – the cross is not going to be pretty. Blood, sweat, and tears will be shed.

Jesus compares his work of salvation to a woman in childbirth. Jesus says “She has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the pain, for joy that a human being has been brought into the world.”

Now I’ve been in the labor and delivery room a couple times and we are preparing ourselves again. Blood, sweat, and tears are part of the package deal. After the fall God said “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” and so it is. Husbands in the delivery room ironically speak the same words that Jesus says seven times in this mornings Gospel text - “In a little while.” “Just a little while honey.  It will all be over. Just a little while now” – the same words of Jesus.

It doesn’t feel that way of course for the wife but it is nonetheless true. For when a mother gives that last cry of relief and a baby is laid upon her chest – “that little while” is gone. She is so overcome with joy the pain of childbirth is already a distant memory – it doesn’t compare with the joy that has been brought into the world.

Jesus this morning compares his act of salvation to childbirth. He will endure that agonizing “little while” of Good Friday – he will moisten the earth with blood and sweat and tears. He will labor for our salvation. He will cry out in agony – and in victory at last he will say – “It is finished.”

In a little while, three days later He will be raised from the dead. Four Sundays after Easter we are still rejoicing in this great victory.

Today is called Jubilate Sunday which simply means rejoice. But how much joy do you have in your heart? Probably not much. Now over half of Americans are on anti-depressants or anxiety medications. Therapists are more visited than pastors and joylessness across the board is on the rise for everyone.

Generally our troubles and sufferings comes from our own sins and not from others. We’ve exchanged the truth of God for a lie. We’ve forgotten the commandments of God. We have lived as if God did not matter and as if we have mattered most. We have insisted upon our own ways. We are more at home in this sinful society than we are at home in God’s Word. We’re more familiar with our tv guides than the bible.

Repent. Last week we heard about Jesus the Good Shepherd who seeks out his sheep who love to wander. And today as we contemplate the reality that we have all come from our mother – we should also remember that we have all been born again – in baptism- as children of our heavenly Father.

This morning Jesus speaks words of comfort to his disciples. He says “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

Jesus is speaking about His Resurrection. He is speaking about His coming again on the clouds of judgment. He is speaking about the raising of the dead, the resurrection of our bodies from the graves, and the life of the world to come.

The most profound thing we can say on mothers day is that God himself has one. Mary rejoiced when the angel Gabriel visited her with the news that she would bear God’s own Son. This is why on Christmas we sing joy to the world.

And for repentant sinners who gather this morning – there is joy for you. For mothers who are far from perfect there is good news. In Jesus you are the perfect mother. And for those families who are broken – you are in good company with Eve, Sarah, Rebecca, and Mary. In Jesus – families are made complete. 

This morning we thank all mothers and indeed all women. For what is motherhood but a desire to care for the weak and help the most helpless?

But above all we thank God our Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Most of all, because we are born again, all of us, born by baptism into the holy family of God – with God as our Father and the church as our mother. And only in him are mothers made perfect, sons and daughters reconciled, and children return home.

We all have a “little while” more to go in this life of labor.  Like childbirth – blood, sweat, and tears is part of the cross we all bear. But our dear Lord has already showed us the way and says “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” At last we will find our rest. We will see him face to face. Our hearts will rejoice – and our joy will overflow. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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