This is the message that I presented at Walker Valley UMC on the 5th Sunday of Easter, 13 May 2001. This also happened to be Mother’s Day. The Scriptures for this Sunday are Acts 11: 1 – 18, Revelation 21: 1- 16 and John 13: 31 – 35.
To prepare for this Mother’s Day, I started thinking about what it is that we got from our mother. To often in today’s society, Mother’s Day is often seen in terms of economic opportunities for the greeting card and phone companies. But what is it that we got from our mother.
For John and Charles Wesley, it was very simple. When they were growing up, education was essentially a hit or miss proposition. In the Wesley family, the education of the children was a task taken on by their mother, Susanna. She nurtured their minds and spirits, tamed their wills without crushing their spirits. She taught each child at a pace best suited for his or her own learning style. Later, in their adult years, she encouraged them and counseled them. And it was learning not just for the boys. It is noted that John Wesley’s sister, Mehetabel, was so advanced in learning that she was reading the New Testament in Greek at the age of eight.
The sense of social justice and compassion that John Wesley felt the church should show no doubt came from the heritage of Biblical instruction, academic excellence, and godly examples set forth by their mother.
Knowing the tone of life that was set by Susanna Wesley, I wondered what it was that I received from not only my mother but my paternal grandmother. I hope that as I speak of what my mother did for me, you will take a few moments and think about the person in your life whom you knew or know as Mom.
As I have said on at least one other occasion, my mother laid the foundation for my faith at an early age. From her, I suppose I get the drive to do well in everything that I did as well as the tenacity to see a job done and done right from her.
And it is to my mother’s credit that there is a bond of love between my brothers, my sister, and myself. You will find no more diverse group of siblings than that of my family and though the manner in which it is done may not seem like it, there is a love between us that developed because of our mother.
I know that I did not get my sense of social justice from her and it is certain that I did not get my political beliefs from her. But I did get a sense that it was all right to find my own path as long as I was prepared to face the consequences as well as enjoy the rewards.
I also got a sense of family love from my paternal grandmother. Though my roots lie in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, there is also a part of me that also comes from Missouri. And whenever I go back to Missouri, whether it was to visit friends at Kirksville or go see the my daughters in Springfield, it doesn’t seem right not to go by 3603 Union Road if I have the chance.
That was where my grandmother lived all the years that I knew her. And whenever I was on break from school, I knew that it was a place that I could go. At that house, there was a sense of love and warmth and family, a sense of haven from the world outside.
That is why the passage from Acts seems so appropriate for this morning. At first glance, it is hard to see how it fits into Mother’s Day (and I am sure that there are a few preachers this morning who have decided to pick something more appropriate to preach from today). But on a day when we speak of the family, to hear God speaking to Peter about who should be in that family is highly appropriate.
The early church faced a dilemma about who should be a Christian. There were some those who believed that you must first be a Jew before you could be a Christian. And that part of the Christian process was an observance of all the Jewish rituals. Of course, Paul’s preaching to the Gentiles ran counter to this very notion.
But Peter received a vision from God that showed him that no one who wanted to enter God’s family would be denied because of who they were or what they were. The love and grace of God were open to all those who put their faith in Christ.
The concept proposed by some that made Christianity exclusive also ran counter to what Jesus told his followers to love as others as He had loved them. The love that Christians have for others and the works that illustrate this love will be the ways that others will come to know Christ.
Jesus encourages us to open up our hearts and let others know that God loves them as much as He loves us. John, writing in Revelation, speaks of that love and how through that love a New World is created.
This is a day when we give thanks to those who have helped shape and nurture us, who guided and directed us, who gave us a sense of what love was all about. Since we have that type of love, it is easier for us to know the love that God has for us and it is easier for us to show that kind of love to others.
The task was given to each and every one of us so many years ago. To love as others as we were loved by Christ. In honoring our mothers this day, we honor our Father as well.