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  • Writer's pictureHenry Rafferty

Mother: Another Word for LOVE

Old Testament Reading- Proverbs 31:25-31

New Testament Reading- John 19:25-27

By Henry J. Rafferty CLP -May 9, 2021 Mother’s Day

Most Mothers mother most motherly, say that five times fast! I just made that up while writing this sermon, but after thinking about it all week, that is what I thought about when I think about Mother’s Day. I mean it in the nicest way, and I know it sounds funny, but it really makes a lot of sense, most Mothers mother most motherly. Think of all that little tongue-twister says, most mothers, take care of and love, most, in a caring and loving manner. What a lot we can use the word mother for, a noun, a proper name or title, a verb, an adverb, but all meaning the same thing, all describing one thing-a mother.

Mothers are known for their

UNFAILING LOVE and for their CONSTANT CARE when it concerns their children. Mothers are also known for their protection, and I dare say, protection like no other, FIERCE PROTECTION. We see it even in God’s other creations. Just try to walk up to a bear cub and pick it up, I promise that you will be lunch in the blink of an eye. This is a rather large animal, so it is not hard to imagine its fierceness, but how about something smaller. While I was walking through the plants in the field at the nursery, I came across a ground nest, really just a rocky depression with three eggs in it. This was the nest of a bird called a Killdeer, a small bird about the size of a cardinal with longer legs. The killdeer starts out by making loud noises and trying to lead me away from the nest by running slowly away, trying to entice me to follow and to divert attention from her well camouflaged nest and eggs. When this doesn’t work, she splays out one wing and spins around on the ground making a terrible racket, trying to fool me by pretending to have a broken wing, again a diversionary tactic to entice a prey response. Lastly, if these things don’t work, this little bird will flare out her wings in an effort to make herself look as big and as menacing as possible and will charge me as she lets out her most vicious sounding cackles. Imagine, this little bird against someone my size, it would be like us against King Kong, but this little bird is a mother, in fact, her eggs haven’t even hatched yet, but she is already displaying one of the best qualities of a mother, that fierce protection.

How about the care that a hen will give to her chicks? At night when it is cold, she will let her little one’s crawl under her where they will be nice and warm and as they grow, she will spread out her wings to accommodate her growing brood to keep care of them. She will do the same if threatened by anything by wrapping her wings around her young in protection. A predator would have to kill her first before she would allow her chicks to be harmed.

We had three cats at our house. They were born at the nursery in an old, galvanized bucket filled with burlap in the bottom. We found these three little kittens and were watching them one day while the mother cat was there. The next day, I went to look in on the cats when I found that they were gone. I thought that odd, but I had known barn cats to move their young in other instances. I waited and watched for the mother cat and soon I saw her going into the top of the barn where I saw her carrying her kittens, one by one, up to an old box in the top of the barn, where she would hide them from our prying eyes. I marveled at this, God really fills mothers with a gift of caring and protection.

Did you ever watch a program on lions? Who does all the work? The lioness! She cares for the cubs, she washes them, she protects them, and she feeds them. It is not usually the males that make the kill for the pride to eat, but the lionesses. Don’t get me wrong, the male has his part to play in the life of the pride too, but that is another sermon.

So far, we have talked about animal and bird mothers, but what about human mothers? What can we say about human mothers, that they have a lot of the same qualities of mothers from the animal kingdom, yes, but I think much more than that. What do we say about our mothers?

When I was being ordained, I was asked if I thought God was a man or a woman. My answer, neither God is God. We refer to God as Father, because that’s what Jesus called Him. We say, He, Him, His, because that is how the Bible treats Him, but not because He is an actual man. God is God, and I believe that God embodies both qualities of creation, the masculine and the feminine, man and woman, mother and father. So where does all of creation get their qualities for being a mother and a father? from God. God gave to our mothers an ability to love that cannot be surpassed on earth. Like the little bird in my story, it starts before we are even born. Our Mother is caring for us while we are still forming, she is nourishing us with the food that she eats, talking to us, and rubbing her tummy, caressing us before we are even a day old. After we are born, she continues caring for our need’s day and night, year after year, never caring as much for herself as she does for her children. Semper fidelis is the motto for the Marine Corp, it means ‘Always Faithful’, if I could give a motto for Moms, it would be semper amandum, which is Latin for, ‘Always Loving’. That is the quality that God gave of Himself to make mothers, His unfailing and never-ending love. We see this displayed in Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:37 when He looks out at the teachers of the law and Pharisees of Jerusalem and says, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” God has always loved His children, even when they didn’t love Him in return, that is the special quality of a mother.

One of my most beloved verses in the Bible is Proverbs 31. I chose it for a reading in our wedding because I think it is a beautiful description of the gifts that God blessed a mother and a wife with, “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” Proverbs 31:25-31

Our Gospel lesson today also tells us something about how God views mothers. John 19:25-27 tells us, Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” What do we notice about this passage? First, who is near at the cross when Jesus was crucified, but His mother, Mary. This brings to my mind Luke 2:35, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Imagine how Mary must have felt. Here is her beloved Son, nailed to a cross, dying and what does He do? Jesus tells His disciple John to take her in as his own mother and for her to care for John like her own son. They are each to care for each other and not just as caregivers, but as a mother and child.

Jesus knew the power of that relationship. He knew, as no other, the real qualities of a woman and a mother. He also knew that this quality is not limited to blood ties, but to others as well. Many women in my life have blessed me by treating me as one of their own, what a joy it is to feel that warmth. My mother has two blood sons, but many sons and now daughters to love, and she does it without a thought. That is a mother. Maybe you are a mother of your own blood children or maybe they are stepchildren. Maybe you have fostered children or raised a younger relative. Maybe you have stepped up to the plate when someone else struggled with their own children or maybe you never had children of your own but have been like a mother to some or to many. Any way you look at it, that is a mother. That is the quality that God gave you from His very being, that part of Him that pulls us in under the protection and care of His wings. Unlike the teachers of the Law and Pharisees, let us be willing to allow God this act of motherly love. Mothers give us faith, mothers give us comfort and care, mothers give us instruction and wisdom, mothers give us fierce protection, and mostly mothers give us their unending and always supportive love. Thanks be to God for His gift of our mothers. AMEN.

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