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Luke 7:11-17 The Great Consolation Sermon preached Mothers Day 2014

Opening

If you get a group of preachers together - now that would be an exciting crowd, wouldn’t it? - and you took a survey, and asked them what is their least favorite Sunday of the year to preach, I guarantee that a majority would say, “Mother’s Day.” Now it’s not because we hate motherhood, along with America and apple pie. It’s because we’re afraid, of screwing it up.

I am reminded of a story of a pastor’s conference. Among the speakers were many well known motivational speakers. One such boldly approached the pulpit and, gathering the entire crowd's attention, said, “The best years of my life were spent in the arms of a woman that wasn't my wife!” The crowd was shocked! He followed up by saying, “And that woman was my mother!” The crowd burst into laughter, and he gave his speech which went over well.

About a week later, one of the ministers who had attended the seminar decided to use that joke in his sermon. As he approached the pulpit one sunny Sunday, he tried to rehearse the joke in his head. But it seemed a bit foggy to him that morning.

Getting to the microphone he said loudly, “The greatest years of my life were spent in the arms of another woman that was not my wife!” His congregation sat

shocked. After standing there for almost 10 seconds trying to recall the second

half of the joke, the pastor finally blurted out “ was!”

I can't remember who she

and

It’s just difficult to preach a mother’s day sermon rooted in the scriptures and the gospel; it’s really hard to say something with substance to actually help and bless mothers; and often we preachers end up feeling we’ve delivered a pile of sentimental claptrap when we try to preach a Mother’s Day sermon; often we end up avoiding it altogether.

But enough whining - it’s a lot harder to be mother, than it is to preach about it.

I starting thinking about this - what you all, and I suppose all parents, go through.

Your body is no longer your own - you make room for a new life - in some cases multiple new lives like the families who’ve had twins and triplets - and your body is never the same again - and getting adjusted to the hormonal changes leads to a high incidence of post-partum depression. You lose control over your own body to give life to a new

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person.

And then, you lose control over your life. Sleepless nights feeding a squalling infant - shuttling children around to soccer and dance and swim lessons and meets - cooking them meals and washing and folding their clothes, worrying about them during sleepless nights, praying for them - I mean, you get it - your life and your heart are not your own.

I read a helpful piece of advice for mothers that says, “Unless you deliberately set

aside a little time for regular relaxation, you will not be able to care efficiently for

your family. Therefore, plan to relax a minimum of an hour and a half fifteen years.”

every

Sometimes, it just wears you down, doesn’t it?

“It was one of the worst days of my life,” wrote Clara Null of Oklahoma City in

The Christian Reader magazine. “The washing machine broke down, the telephone kept ringing, my head ached and the mail carrier brought a bill I had no money to pay. Almost to the breaking point, I lifted my one-year-old into his highchair, leaned my head against the tray and began to cry. Without a word, my

son too his pacifier out of his mouth

and

stuck it in mine.” 1

And then they grow up. A child that grows into an adult is one person, one human being - but they are so different from stage to stage. Helpless infants grow into headstrong toddlers; then they’re off to kindergarten and before you know it they’ve turned ten years old and you blink twice and puberty hits and all of a sudden they are embarrassed of you and have these wild mood swings and then you’re just trying to get through those years and then boom - they’re off to college or out of the house and they’re all grown up.

Two of our three children are in town this weekend - so I’ll talk about the one who isn’t here - our son Peter - here’s a picture of him when he was a little guy

- so I’ll talk about the one who isn’t here - our son Peter - here’s

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.

I

know, he was adorable.

There is one Peter Bowerman - but there were also multiple Peter Bowermans. The cuddly infant who would bury his head in the space between your neck and shoulder. The delighted little fellow who took his first walk around the room. The four-year-old who would wrap his arms around my legs and cry out “Daddy’s home.” The seven-year-old with a baseball bat in his hands taking a cut during a coaches’ pitch game. The thirteen-year-old whose voice suddenly got cracky and squeaky. The fifteen-year-old who brought home his first girlfriend. The eighteen-year-old who we left at college. And now, the grown man who is married and has a son of his own.

Looking at that picture this week - I would give a lot just for five minutes with that Peter again, to feel his little hand in mine, to have him sit on my knee, to see him smile. Feel that way about all three of my children.

Parenthood, especially motherhood, is about a series of losses - as one version of the child grows into the next. You want them to grow up, that’s our job, to help them to grow up and go out on their own - but it can rip your heart out doing it.

Being a mother, means joy and wonder and love, but is also means inevitable loss.

And Mother’s day is hard for some of us - despite the cards and flowers - it’s a hard day for those of us like me and Susan who have lost our mothers, it’s hard for couples struggling with infertility; it’s hard for mothers who are burdened by regrets of mistakes they feel they made raising their children; and it’s hardest of all, hardest of all, for mothers who have faced the inhuman pain, of losing a child.

Scripture Passage

Context - it’s a short little account in Luke that has huge meaning. Jesus cites this event later as a sign for John the Baptist, rotting in jail and doubting his faith, to know that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. Giving a son back to his mother.

We get no backstory - how old was the son, what did he die of, and so on. But really don’t need it. We can surmise that she raised and loved her boy, that he went through all the stages our children do, and that when he fell sick, she prayed and wailed for God to heal him, she stayed by him day and night, and when he died she felt crushed that there was nothing she could do to save him.

Losing a son in any age is horrible enough. But in Jesus’ time there was an extra burden.

Luke says that the man was the mother’s only son and that she was a widow, too.

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That’s shorthand for saying that the mother is not only bereft of her son, she will be destitute. Because there was no safety net in those days, no life insurance, no Social Security benefits or pensions - and no good way for a woman to earn a living on her own, aside from prostitution or begging. Family was everything and hers had been snatched away by death.

There are three accounts of Jesus raising people from the dead in the gospels. And in each one of them, the gospel writers say that Jesus gets emotional, gets emotionally involved. Like the story of Lazarus, when he weeps outside the tomb of his dead friend. And here - Luke says Jesus had compassion within himself, using a Greek word meaning that he felt compassion deep down in the gut. Compassion means to suffer with someone, and Jesus did in a raw and visceral way. He felt the enormous pain and grief of that mother.

Now if you think of this, it’s a little strange. In the account of raising of Lazarus, he’s about to raise his friend from the dead and tears will turn to joy. Here, he’s going to raise this mother’s son from the dead - and yet he gets emotionally involved. In the account of raising a dead girl, he says to her in Aramaic with great tenderness, “Talitha kuom,” which means, “sweetheart, get up.”

First thing this tells us is that Jesus was a real human being. It’s not like the Son of God was faking being human. Like a CIA operative, working in Pakistan - has to grow a beard, learn to speak the local dialects, dress like a native, walk like a native, pray five times a day like a native. If he’s really skilled, the operative may pass for a Pakistani, but he’ll never be one.

Jesus didn’t just take on a human costume - he really became one of us - and not only did he feel real human emotion, he felt it for us when we suffer. Jesus knows and feels our grief and pain.

Kathleen Norris quoted a saint of the church named Terese who said of Jesus, "When Jesus tells us about his father, we distrust him. When he

shows us his Home, we turn away.

‘acquainted with grief,’ we listen, for that also is an acquaintance of ours."

But when he confides to us that he is

Second thing that Jesus getting emotional around death tells us. He hated it, and what it does to us. It made him weep, it made him tender, it made him feel, and it made him act.

Jesus and the Kingdom

And so Luke tells us that Jesus raised the boy from the dead, and “gave him back to his mother.”

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Jesus cared about this mother who’d lost her son. And even though giving that boy back to his mother was great enough, there was something even greater behind what he did. Jesus came to bring the Kingdom of God - God’s loving rule breaking into a broken world shrouded in evil and death. And when Jesus did great miracles like this - he was announcing the Kingdom of God is here, and he was also pointing ahead to the day when the Kingdom would arrive completely. By raising this boy, Jesus was pointing ahead to the day when there is no more death, where there are no longer mothers crying at the funeral processions of their children.

There is a great consolation coming. Where as Julian of Norwich said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

And where mothers and fathers who have lost sons and daughters, will get them back, where those of us who are motherless children, will get back our mothers. Never to lose them again.

And there’s something else. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says something mysterious and wonderful about the world to come:

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we shall see face to face. Now I know only in part, then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

I think the Word is pointing to that time of reunion that is coming - and that we will not only see and hug one another, laugh together - we’ll know our mothers and fathers and children in a depth we never could in this life - our children - we’ll see and remember all of who they are, from the smiling toothless infant to the toddler to the teenager to the grown adult; all that was lost, is given back. And we’ll also see and understand our parents, see why they made the mistakes they did and be able to let it go. We’ll be able to understand ourselves, and forgive ourselves for the mistakes we’ve made, as God forgives us

God’s sacrifice of his son

But there was a cost for all this. That would leave the mother of Jesus weeping over the body of her son, crucified by the Romans, rejected by his people, deserted by his friends, snuffed out by death. To bring us out of the tomb of death meant Jesus had to enter it himself.

As Fred Craddock puts it, “Shall there be a thorny road for the flock but a primrose path

for the shepherd? Shall the scouts sleep on the cold ground in the darkness of the woods,

while the scoutmaster relaxes in a nearby motel?

waves along knowing he stands safe and dry on shore?” 2

Are

we to thrash about in the angry

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No, Jesus died for our sins, and went into the tomb, that we could come out, that the ones we love, could come out.

The Son of God died a real death

Father raised him from the dead - and because of that, everyone in Christ will live again, live forever, too. Tears of grief will be replaced by tears of joy - at the great reunion, the

great consolation, that God has planned for all who love him.

as

we will, our children will, everyone will

but

his

Conclusion

A couple was moving across the country. They decided to drive both cars. Their 8-year old son Nathan worried. “How will we keep from getting separated?”

Dad reassured him, “We’ll drive slowly. One car can follow the other.”

“But what if we DO get separated?” Nathan persisted.

“Well, then I guess we’ll never see each other again,” Dad joked.

Nathan quickly answered. “Then I’m riding with Mom.”

We will see each other again. In God’s everlasting kingdom. Amen

Endnotes

1. Dynamic Preaching, April-May-June 1998, p. 31.

2. Fred Craddock, “Jesus Wept,” in Journal for Preachers, Easter 2000, p. 37.

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