Today, being celebrated as Mother’s Day, provides an opportunity for us to focus on mothers: maternal mothers – our mothers, other mothers, grandmothers, great and great grandmothers, mothers in or outside of marriages, step mothers, non-biological mothers, mothers in Sunday Schools and Day Schools, mothers in Day Care, mothers in children’s homes, mothers in holding areas for care of children from injustices. We hail them today for their goodness throughout all ages.
We also remember those mothers who have been unkind to their children in many ways and to varying degrees, and to those families we do the Christian thing to encourage forgiveness and let love, the love of God that is shed abroad in our hearts, let it be to pulling force towards healing and reconciliation.
And there are those children who suffer from their mothers’ negligence of all kinds leading to even death. It was in the news last Thursday, that a “16-month-old baby boy died after being left for hours in hot car in Burnaby” – a very painful Mother’s Day for this family. And the RCMP, once again, warned “We’re in a heat wave right now. Please don’t leave your children unattended in a car — any age”.
In a final category, I want to extend the meaning of a mother to those father’s who have indeed played the role of mother to children over the years.
Whatever the family situation, my words are constant – take a look and consider three choices: hate, indifference and love and I invite us all to ‘choose love’ for Christ’s sake.
So whether moms are beside you in the physical or in the spirit, I hope you will find it comfortable right where you are to breathe a prayer of thanks to God for your mothers who contributed to giving you life; pray for the mothers in our church today. Breathe also a prayer for all these mothers who we try to remember in the various categories mentioned earlier. Yes, and let us say a prayer of thanks to God for ourselves who are mothers and the role that we also played in raising and supporting other people’s children. I think it is also OK to remember some of the challenges that we faced. It was not easy for many of us. But look at us now – we made it and they are all gown, some of us are boasting grands and great grands. Today is a beautiful day to give thanks.
Turning to the readings for today, the fourth Sunday of Easter, we are reminded that today is normally called ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’. It is reasonable to ask the question as to why the love affair that we have grown to have with the Shepherd’s Psalm, Psalm 23 – the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want Psalm, why should it be placed with Luke’s story of a dead girl which Peter prayed back to life and John’s eschatological theme in both New Test readings. The framers of the liturgical calendar seem to want us to exegete the readings a little deeper. A closer look at the texts should remind us of the Abraham story of how he found a lamb caught in the thicket which he used as the sacrificial lamb, instead of crucifying his son Isaac. We know also that the Jewish animal sacrifices in the temple were mainly unblemished lambs.
Now we see here in the Psalm that the Lamb for which the Good Shepherd is mirroring, is Jesus himself, the sinless One who lived among us, the unblemished Lamb who became the ultimate sacrifice for us. Jesus was the Lamb prepared: though preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies – they crucified him!; thou anointest my head with oil – reminding us of the woman with the alabaster box; my cup runneth over – oh the gall and the blood and water which flowed from his side. My friends, it is only when we are mindful of this deep meaning, that we can understand what we are feasting on at the Table that is prepared for us each Sunday. And since we happily say “The Lord is my Shepherd, we should happily see ourselves as the sheep, the lamb of this Shepherd, ready at all times to be slain for Christ himself, giving us a little clearer understanding of why Psalm 23, is frequently used at funerals and its close link to “ashes to ashes”.
This caring Jesus is always with us performing his caring role as the Shepherd to the sheep literally, for we do not make this journey alone. We cannot. We will need the support of others who God will raise up. The widows and women here, represent support for us, especially at times when things seem dismal and daunting. We have a church community that plays such a role in our lives and so we pause, and rightly so, to remember especially our Mothers today in the context of our worship and we honour and thank God for you and for them all. Equality, we know, is still a challenge today. We thank God for those Activists who continue to call for better treatment of our women for we know that Jesus was continually calling for oneness of all people.
As we take a look now at Tabitha or Dorcas in our story we think about those mothers today and how domesticated they were and educated in their own way. She is the only named female disciple in the bible and one worth studying. The text tells us that she was devoted to good works and acts of charity. Tabitha’s discipleship means serving God by serving those whom God loves. As a Jewish follower of Jesus she lived the principles of “loving-kindness” according to the command of God. She was special to them in the community. As a disciple, she imparted knowledge and as a craft woman, her skills and talents made her useful and valuable to those around her. She shared what God gave her with her community and they were grateful and wanted more of her. They showed gratitude and appreciation, by clutching to the tunic and other clothing as representing her in the moment and they desired her return to them. This is such a good example for the world today. Be useful. Let your work precede you. Let your work speak for you.
We also see here the importance of community and the need to both help one another and to seek help in time of need. Jesus taught to ask for help. Had Dorcas been selfish, she would not have had all these women caring for her and seeking out healing for her. This is an important lesson from this story.
Another great and final lesson is to recognize from the text is this, that our source is in God. They sent for a man of God in the time of need. They did not rely on their own understanding or resigned to the idea that death was a finality. Here then is the link pin as we continue in this season of Easter, my friends. The resurrected Christ is with us doing marvellous things in our sight, and he uses whomever he wills. They sent for Peter, the one who was rebuked several times, who got it wrong several times, to the point of even betraying his friend, but over time, he got it right. Peter, the one who witnessed several healing miracles by Jesus: the healing of Jarius’ daughter for example and no doubt remembering Jesus’ response to them that she is not dead, she is asleep. Peter would have remembered that, and how Jesus said “Talitha Koum” – Little girl I say to you get up” (Damsel, I say unto thee, arise). And the 12 year old girl arose and they were astonished!
So as Peter approached the house, he would probably recall Lazarus being called forth from the dead by Jesus. And surely one he would never forget that of the healing of his own wife from a terrible fever. It is this same Peter that they sent for, the same Peter who was walking into the temple with John when the blind man called out to them for alms, to whom they said “Silver and gold I have none, but in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he did! He got up and went into the Temple, walking and leaping and praising God. It is the same Peter to whom Jesus commanded after his resurrection “feed my sheep, feed my lamb”. Peter was backed by spiritual credentials, earned over a long period of time, one who knew the heart of God and in like manner, Christ expects much of us too today.
There is a call to keep our minds on the good things, the things which will nurture our souls, even as mothers nurtured their young ones. Our Good Shepherd of the flock continues to make a way for all of us when there seems to be no way. It seems to me that there is a call to us this morning to see ourselves as dead once again to the things that can so easily beset us and to continually encounter death and resurrection in Christ alone: renewal and rebirth which will follow us through to eternity.
Let us allow ourselves to be brought back to life by the words “Tabitha kumi”, whether you are young or sweetly and handsomely matured. We are all called to “get up” – a resurrection call through the voice of Jesus to hear him in a world where there is so much noise and respond positively; for daily we die and daily we rise again to life. We are Jesus’ sheep. We hear his voice and know his and will follow his voice. We will not go astray for in him we have eternal life. We will never perish and will never be snatched out of his hand. What an assurance that we have this morning my friends from our Good Shepherd that he holds our hands and we shall lack nothing.
Today we are assured again that goodness and mercy shall follow our mothers, indeed all of us who remain obedient to the voice of Christ to do his will, and the promise is true, that we shall dwell in the house of the Lord, forever and ever and ever!
Amen and amen!