First ucc – Carlisle 05/12/19
Mother’s day life giving acts John 11
Today is a day that we have the opportunity to recognize and honor the mothers and moth figures in our lives. Perhaps we have a chance to offer a card, a gift or something else special to the people we view today as the mothers and mother figures around us. Some of us may be blessed to have our biological mothers still in our lives, and this is a chance for people to rejoice and celebrate the power and presence of mothers. Other people may be able to lift up the mothers and mother figures in their lives. This is a day to recognize blessings and joys around us.
What are some of the accomplishments that mothers can demonstrate? I am not sure there is truly enough time in this worship time or perhaps even in this day to be able to give a full accounting of the skills and successes. One apparent act that could be mentioned is the act of giving birth. This is a gift that some women are able to offer in this world. But not every mother is able to share this gift. We must realize that are many, many other ways that women can serve as mothers. Whether it is foster parents, grand parents, step parents or other connections to children, the role of being a mother can take many shapes and forms, guiding shaping caring for, teaching cooking, living as an example, these are but a few things that can begin to describe the mothers and mother figures around us on this day.
I think there is one basic gift that mothers offer to the people around them. That is love. That is one of the fundamental qualities of mothers and mother figures. I am speaking of constructive love shown up other people, which builds up younger lives and leads them on to learn and live with love in their own hearts.
Love is truly a life giving act. For it allows growth and development in other people. Whether the love is shown in corrective action, or soothing words, or in behaviors that allow for the blossoming of a person, love is something truly impacts us and builds up people, relationships and the surrounding community. And it is my feeling that mothers and mother figures frequently demonstrate love to the people in their lives.
As I look at the scripture for today I am struck by this idea of love. While we are able to see acts that involve the divine presence of God, we can also witness the love that Jesus has for the people in this passage. The entire chapter 11 of the Gospel of John looks at this story about Lazarus, his getting very ill and dying. Jesus then comes and interacts with the family members and then makes the choice to raise Lazarus from the dead.
It will be helpful to have some context for the gospel passage today. The beginning of chapter 11 identifies a man named Lazarus was very ill. It is said that he was from Bethany and the connection to Mary and Martha shared. We have heard about Mary and Martha before today in other Biblical stories. He was the sister’s brother. The love that Jesus has for Mary Martha and Lazarus is clear from the beginning of this chapter. It is not entirely clear what were the intentions of Jesus as this chapter unfolds, whether he planned to come and raise Lazarus from the dead. While Jesus had love for the two sisters and Lazarus, he does not immediately go to their house upon learning about how gravely ill Lazarus was. In fact he stayed with the disciples two days longer than was originally scheduled. We may never know of his intentions.
As we continue through these verses leading up to the segment of text for today, we learn that Jesus, after the extra two days of staying put, Jesus then suggests that he and the rest of the disciples travel to Judea. This makes the disciples concerned.
The acts and work of Jesus as a prophet and minister have not gone unnoticed. The religious leaders have come to be perpetually against the work and words of Jesus Christ. Nonetheless, Jesus insists that they should travel to the home of Lazarus and his sisters. There is some misunderstanding once again between the disciples and Jesus, as they believe their teacher is talking about Lazarus just being asleep and will wake on his own.
This begins the passage for today. Jesus and his disciples arrive only to find that Lazarus has died. Not only that but he has been dead for four days. So the followers of Jesus and Jesus himself find that the family of Lazarus is acting out the ritual of Shiva. This was a week-long ritual that Jesus families lived out, a week long grieving and mourning period in Judaism for first-degree relatives. The ritual is referred to as “sitting shiva”. Following the initial period of despair and lamentation immediately after the death, shiva embraces a time when individuals discuss their loss and accept the comfort of others. Its observance is a requirement for the parents, spouses, children, and/or siblings of the person who has died. Typically, the seven days begin immediately after the deceased has been buried. It is necessary for the burial spot to be entirely covered with earth in order for shiva to commence. This state lasts for the entire duration of shiva. During the period of shiva, mourners remain at home. Friends and family visit those in mourning in order to give their condolences and provide comfort. The process, though dating back to biblical times, mimics the natural way an individual confronts and overcomes grief. Shiva allows for the individual to express their sorrow, discuss the loss of a loved one, and slowly re-enter society [Wikipedia]
Both Mary and Martha are filled with grief as they encounter Jesus. They both express that they wish Jesus had been there earlier, because they believe then their brother would not have died. Both Mary and Martha loved their brother and they miss him terribly. As Jesus is there with the sisters, as well as the rest of the family and surrounding friends and community members, Jesus is impacted by their collective grief.
Certainly Jesus had strong feelings for Lazarus and the rest of the family, but he empathesized with what everyone else is feeling. He is so overcome by the sadness of the people around him, that Jesus himself begins to weep. So he made the decision, and with love in his heart, he performed a life giving act. He used his divine power to resurrect Lazarus.
We may not hear about a mother in this passage today. But we can certainly see the love that is woven throughout this passage. The love Jesus had led him to perform this miraculous act for Lazarus. The love Jesus had for Lazarus and his family was overwhelming. The love that jesus had the for all of the people he encountered was steadfast and overflowing this is what I think we need to take from this passage today. We need to demonstrate love to the people around us. We must show love to the mothers and mother figures in our midst, in our lives. I think that love is something we often see from mothers, whether they be biological, or otherwise.
Thomas Edison once said, “I did not have my mother long, but she cast over me an influence which has lasted all my life. The good effects of her early training I can never lose. If it had not been for her appreciation and her faith in me at a critical time in my experience, I should never likely have become an inventor. I was always a careless boy, and with a mother of different mental caliber, I should have turned out badly. But her firmness, her sweetness, her goodness, were potent powers to keep me in the right path. My mother was the making of me. The memory of her will always be a blessing to me.”
Thanks be to god and may the people of God say together amen.