Easter 7 - Sunday After Ascension - Mother’s Day 2018
“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.”
1 Peter 4:8-10
8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace
Dear Fellow Redeemed:
This “Mother’s Day” sermon is intended for all who have, or have ever had, a mother.
The LORD uses the love a mother has for her nursing child as an illustration of His own love. It’s as if He is asking, “You wonder how great is my love for you?” And then he answers, saying, “Here’s how great it is: even though it might not seem possible for there to be greater love than that of a mother for her nursing child, Mine for you is greater.” So both things are emphasized: God’s perfect love that never fails, and what everyone presumes is the case, a mother’s great love for her child.
A mother’s love is no accident. God has created the vocation of motherhood with its characteristics. Vocation is about God working in us in our various situations, and according to our various gifts and abilities, to see to the needs of our neighbors. He blesses our neighbors through us. Within this vocation of motherhood, then, He provides for the mother’s immediate neighbor’s (that is, for her children’s) needs. Through her, He lovingly provides for them. On this day devoted to mothers, we recognize this and give thanks to God for it.
In our study of family vocation on Sunday mornings this year, we’ve talked a lot about the vocation of motherhood. This sermon owes a debt to some of the thoughts from that study and its sourcebook by Gene Edward Veith Jr, and Mary J. Moerbe.
There’s a commercial that has been running on TV lately for a certain breakfast cereal. The commercial targets women especially. It promotes the idea of this cereal’s potential to help them fulfill their potential as women. One of the young actresses in the commercial says, “Women are amazing. Our bodies grow babies!”
Yes; that is amazing. It is amazing that God has seen fit to bring about new human life through motherhood in this way. Obviously, He is the One behind this vocation. He provides an environment within a human body in which a growing child can be protected, and can receive its necessary nutrients and everything it needs (the body changes, even, to make all of it possible over the course of nine months).
“Our bodies grow babies” might not even be the worst way to describe it. After all, there can be a certain amount of this nurturing and protecting and providing that’s happening before the mother even knows she’s a mother. Even after she is aware, God’s miraculous process within her simply continues (this is what the Psalmist was referring to when he said [139:13], “…you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.”).
What a gracious gift to all of us: motherhood. What a gracious response by the LORD to people who sinned and corrupted His creation. Through this vocation of motherhood, salvation would come. God would provide it through the woman’s own seed (Genesis 3:15). His eternal Son would come as that seed. He would take on human flesh. He would come as the One to destroy the devil’s work (1 John 3:8).
Of course, this was accomplished. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Gal. 4:4, 5). To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name (Acts 10:43).
In our Gospel lesson, Jesus tells His disciples that they must bear witness about Him (John 15:27) so that others might hear, and believe, and be saved. Certainly, we think of Christian mothers as those through Whom God makes Himself known to children. We sit on our mother’s lap to hear her read to us or sing to us God’s Word, and to have her pray with us. We try her patience as children in church Services, perhaps with her spending much of the time in a nursery with a crying or fidgeting child or children.
That reminds us that sin has a big impact on motherhood, as on all other things. “In pain you shall bring forth your children (Gen. 3:16),” God said to the woman when He was confronting her with her sin. Pain in bringing forth children would only be the beginning of sin’s impact on motherhood. The woman would suffer as a sinner herself, in a sinful world. She would be the mother of a child who is a sinner.
Paul writes in our epistle lesson: 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace. This passage doesn’t talk specifically about mothers and children, of course.
It uses the phrase one another a couple of times, though. It talks about the loving service that all believers are to provide for their neighbors within their vocations. It fits well enough. Mothers are to keep loving their children earnestly. They’re to show hospitality to their children without grumbling. They’re to use their gifts to serve their children as good stewards of God’s varied grace [this really applies in a lot of ways to fathers too, doesn’t it; though we’re talking about mothers today?].
Keep loving one another earnestly. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. Do this even though you haven’t slept a decent night in a week…or a month because that baby won’t…stop…crying-a! Keep loving one another earnestly. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. Do this even though the spaghetti you just put on your child’s high chair tray is now across the room running down the wall, and your teeth are clenched, your muscles constricted, profanities at the edge of your lips…sometimes maybe said.
And that’s only a glimpse into the infant and toddler stages. The mother must keep loving her children earnestly, must keep showing hospitality to her children without grumbling a long ways farther. Jesus’ own mother had to weep beneath her thirty-three-year-old son’s cross. Mothers are still mothers at the time of their children’s marital, and financial, and adult emotional difficulties, and their grandchildren’s illnesses. Long after their children have grown and left their homes God is still working in the mother’s vocation to provide needed loving counsel, and support, and encouragement for those who will never stop being her children. “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Possibly. But not as a rule.
That’s a lot to live up to. Every mother must look in the mirror sometimes at the exhausted, baggy-eyed reflection, and say or think to herself, “I resent this, at least a little bit.” “This is way more…” It is a heavy burden for her that her resentment might find its way into the things she says to the children, and into her attitude in general.
Keep loving one another earnestly. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. Sin has a big impact on motherhood (and fatherhood, by the way). A mother is a sinner in a sinful world, raising a sinful child (or children). If she were being asked to do this herself, it certainly would be an overwhelming burden (by herself I don’t mean, without the father around - many women suffer that; I mean, without God working in the midst of her vocation to provide her with what she needs to serve her neighbor - the child or children). Because He is doing that. He is working within her vocation to provide her with the things she needs to do profoundly important work.
This is not only the 7th Sunday of the Easter Season; it is also the Sunday After Ascension. 50 And [Jesus] led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy (Luke 24:50-52). That’s the portion from Luke’s gospel that describes the Ascension.
It makes sense that the disciples were joyful on this occasion. The Christ Who had died bodily, and risen bodily from the grave, had now ascended bodily into God’s kingdom of heaven. His human body went into heaven, where only perfect individuals can be. Because of His sacrifice for us, and the forgiveness that comes to us from it, perfecting us, Paul can write to the Corinthians: 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ (1 Cor. 15:22-24).
Those who belong to Christ now belong also in His kingdom - those whose carrying out of their vocations hasn’t been without sin, hasn’t been without falling short of God’s glory, but who have been perfected in Christ - forgiven in Him. You who have failed in your vocations as mothers, and as the children of mothers are forgiven and perfected in Christ. You are those who belong to Him through faith. His kingdom stands open to you as to all others who are perfected in Him.
God be praised for loving us with the most perfect love - greater even than a mother’s love for her child. God be praised for loving us also through the honored vocation of motherhood. What a gracious gift to all of us: motherhood. Redeeming it after the first mother’s sin, God’s eternal Son came through that vocation so that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name (Acts 10:43). Even though sin has had a big impact on motherhood - both for mother and children, God has redeemed both in Christ. His blood covers our failure to keep loving one another earnestly, His blood covers our failure to show hospitality to one another without grumbling. He is the mother’s constant companion in her vocation, loving her, and providing her with everything she needs to serve her children according to God’s gracious will. In the Name of the crucified, risen, and ascended Lord Jesus Christ: Amen.
Other Lessons This Week:
I Samuel 10:1-8Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, “Has not the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies. And this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you to be prince over his heritage. 2 When you depart from me today, you will meet two men by Rachel's tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah, and they will say to you, ‘The donkeys that you went to seek are found, and now your father has ceased to care about the donkeys and is anxious about you, saying, “What shall I do about my son?”’ 3 Then you shall go on from there farther and come to the oak of Tabor. Three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there, one carrying three young goats, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. 4 And they will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall accept from their hand. 5 After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim, where there is a garrison of the Philistines. And there, as soon as you come to the city, you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying. 6 Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man. 7 Now when these signs meet you, do what your hand finds to do, for God is with you. 8 Then go down before me to Gilgal. And behold, I am coming down to you to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, until I come to you and show you what you shall do.”
The Epistle - 1 Peter 4:7-11
The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
The Holy Gospel - John 15:26-16:4
“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
16 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.