“Jesus Sounds Like a Mother” Easter7C Rev. 22 and John 17:20-26
Delivered to Church for the Highlands
Sunday, May 12, 2013
7th Sunday of Easter and Mother’s Day
[A podcast of this sermon is available on iTunes here. ]
A mother was serving pancakes to her two sons who began arguing about who would get the first pancakes. The mother asked the boys what they thought Jesus would do? When the boys didn’t answer the mother said Jesus would have said, “Please let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.” In reply, the older brother turned to his younger brother and said, “You be Jesus.” [i]A mother’s instructions are always applicable–don’t eat anything green, change your underwear, pick up your underwear, tie your shoes, say please and thank you, get along with your brother and sister. While always applicable, they are not always applied. Mothers and children here today know this is true. This doesn’t change the fact that mother’s never stop giving instructions nor do they stop praying for their children to follow the instructions.
As I read through the Scripture for today, I couldn’t help but think of how Jesus’ words in them sound like those of a mother. There is the motherly concern, the giving out of instructions, the nurturing words of intimacy, and the concern that everyone just get along. As we hear these words, we can know that, though spoken long ago, they are for us today. As children of God today, in our time, we find that these motherly words of Jesus’ instruction and prayer are what we need.
Our reading from Revelation 22 is powerfully nurturing. As John was hearing these words in the midst of his detention and in the struggle of his people, he must have found great comfort in them. How could he not, with words like these, “See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates, and, The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift. John wrote these words as much as to himself as he did for the churches who would hear them one day. They were instructions on what to know when going through intense suffering and difficulty. They were reminders that, though things were upside down in the world, with evil winning out and while good was dying out, the battle wasn’t over. God wasn’t done with this world. The cross of Jesus wasn’t the end of the story, but a new beginning in one that had a victoriously good ending. John was reminded of this as he wrote, sharing the words of Jesus with himself and with his world.
Further words of motherly instruction and prayer are in John’s Gospel (17:20-26). John recorded Jesus’ prayer for his disciples, that they would get along with one another, [add text] . Note that Jesus did not pray for them to be famous or successful or anything else we might expect from someone giving their last charge to an organization of people. No, Jesus prayed for their unity. He prayed that they would have solidarity with one another, so that they could be effective in the world. All he wanted was for them to love one another in the way that he has loved them, the way that God loves him, and the way that he loves the Father and them. Jesus prayed that they would share in this unique oneness with God and each other. Sounds like a mother to me.
My mother died in 2000, which seems like a lifetime ago. I miss her, as I am sure you miss your mother if she is not here today. If you are like me, you hear your mother’s voice at certain times in life. Maybe it is as you are in a quandary of some sort and the wise words of your mom clear the fog in your head. Or, maybe they come to you as you are having words with your child, like saying how nothing good happens after midnight. As soon as the words leave your mouth, you are reminded that you once heard them from your mother. It could be that you channel your mom as you speak words of comfort to a heart-broken child of your own, like you were in her care one time not so long ago. I love what Abraham Lincoln said about his mother’s words, I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.[ii] A mother’s words just have a way of clinging, don’t they?
Have you heard the words of Jesus for you as you go along in life? If you are, or ever have been, like John, maybe you’ve heard the words while you are struggling along in the midst of the feelings of separation and hardship. Sometimes all you can utter is the word, Come. Maybe on a good day you can even get to that whole phrase, the ancient words, Come, Lord Jesus. If you are like John, and all the others whose robes have been dipped in blood through hardships, you long for your Savior; even for just a word from him. The words of Jesus break through the darkness of the dark night of your soul and bring refreshing revelation that Jesus’ arrival is near. You can just hear the words, See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me. With these words your back straightens up, your chin lifts higher, and your perseverance through your difficulties is empowered like never before. The words bring you hope, serving as further instructions and invitation, Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
It could be that you are like one of the churches to whom John was writing, being in a place where you have forgotten the instructive words of Jesus. Some of these Christians set out hot and on fire for God, only to get so caught up in their own glory that they became lukewarm at best. They just needed a reminder of what Jesus said and what he expects. You may be in the same place in your life today as well. You were doing everything like Jesus said it was to be only to find that you drifted away, little by little, until you became neutral and ineffective. If so, these words are for you.
But, Jesus’ motherly words are not only about instruction and invitation for us. They are words of prayer for you and me, as followers of Jesus today. His prayer for them echoes down through time for us as well. What Jesus wants most for us is that we understand the dynamic kind of relationship we can have with God, our Father, and with each other, as sisters and brothers in Christ. The need for oneness and unity in the body of Christ remains a top priority, does it not? The things that threaten to divide and diminish the body of Christ are still great enough that they must not be scratched off Jesus’ prayer list. The rewards that come from such oneness with God and each other are so powerful and productive that they will never be left off when Jesus prays for his church. Are we, though, putting feet to his prayers? Are we remaining aware of the dynamic oneness we can have with God? Hear again his words, As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Such oneness in the body of Christ begins with you seeing that you are one with God, even when you feel alone and separate and distant from God. Through Christ, you are one with God. So, why live as though you are separate from God? As you grow in oneness with God, you answer the prayer of Jesus, for yourself and for the body of Christ. The body acts in the world as one as you live as one with God. The world stops and notices when we become answers to Jesus’ motherly prayer.