Happy Mother’s Day! Today we might have some guests in worship honoring their mother. On this special holiday, very often we celebrate in ways like attending worship together, preparing a holiday meal or going out to brunch. Several women I know have said that the best Mother’s Day gift is being together with their family, and it’s even better when they gather in church.
Our gospel lesson takes place over a major religious holiday and the whole family had traveled a long distance to Jerusalem. Every year they were able, Jesus family would make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover meal. Jesus is only 12 years old, but we can assume he has made this trip many times and felt comfortable on the journey; which might help us to understand what happened next. As usual, the family was together for the Passover meal, the celebration had concluded and so the group was heading home. Now we are not sure how many people traveled together, but it has the feel of a large community of family and friends joining together to fulfill this religious expectation. So I am sure the children would all hang out together, the women might be chatting on their journey, while the men oversaw the general group. Mary probably had to ask someone, a cousin or an aunt, to watch her younger children, to handle all the logistics in the change of plans, so that she and Joseph could find Jesus. They may have taken this in stride initially, thinking Jesus has fallen behind, but I am sure after three days have passed they are beside themselves with worry; searching high and low for their 12-year-old son. Scripture tells us they were filled with great anxiety!!!
If you have ever lost a child, even for a few minutes I am sure you can relate to their fear, panic, worry. When my family was in Disney World, traveling with another family, we lost Parker for 35 minutes! I am sure I have told you this story before. We were having a wonder time on this trip of a lifetime. We had just stopped to have some ice cream after riding the Pirates of the Caribbean. This was long before the movie fame, when Parker was only 4 years old. My husband Trey had taken Cooper to the bathroom leaving me and two other adults to watch three children. A doable task, or so I thought. I put my trash in the bin and turned around to discover that Parker was gone. Panic struck my heart, as I started searching frantically for my younger son. One adult stayed with the three children and the rest of searched. Soon I found a security guard and gave a description of Parker in his purple shirt and plaid shorts. This was broadcast throughout the park instantly. But the time kept passing and Parker was not to be found. I was praying and searching. Ultimately Parker is found at the loading area for the Pirates of the Caribbean. If you have ever ridden that ride, you know there is along lines through the dark tunnels waiting to board the boats. A Pirate walks Parker to us and we hug him so hard. Parker in his little 4-year-old mind wanted a toy gun in the shop at the end of the ride and the only way he knew how to get back to that shop was to ride the ride again. In Parker’s mind, he was never lost; he was on a mission.
In Jesus’s mind, he was never lost. He was on the mission of being in God’s house. He was preparing for his purpose in life, hearing scripture, worshipping God, being part of the faith community. Jesus said, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Jesus was focused on his needs and not so much on what would be helpful for the family or his parents. If we can only see our children’s behavior in a similar light, as a way of establishing themselves in the world, then some parental tension might decrease. Yet after seeing his parent’s anxiety, born out of love, scripture tells us that Jesus returned with them and was obedient.
You see not only were Mary, Joseph and Jesus on a physical journey, they were also on an emotional, and development journey as well. Jesus was starting to assert his independence, reaching for God, his life’s direction and starting down a path of his own choosing. We as parents start our journey with our children having a strong dependence upon us. As babies our children are helpless, needing us for food, shelter, emotional support, and direction. Then we, as mothers and fathers get used to having the ability to direct their life, make decisions. But as they mature, parents need to gradually let go, and trust their children on their own journey. For me right now, with two sons in college, I let go of what they are doing when and focus more on the deadlines for making sure their time in college goes smoothly, like housing and registration. Sometimes that works and other times they get to learn the hard way. But I get to let go. For Jesus’ family, this was a time of recalibrating the dependence/independence balance. Jesus was moving closer to God, moving towards independence and learning to navigate that shift with his parents. But then there is a great line in scripture about the parent/child relationship. “They did not understand what their son said to them.” How many times as parents have we been there, confused by their decisions, their choices, even their words. If you find you are at an impasse with your child, ask yourself if this is a time to shift the independence level, and a time to let go a little more.
All of us will have to entrust our children to God’s care eventually. As our children’s dependence on us decreases, our dependence upon God increases. Because when we let go, we are really giving them over to God’s care. We are trusting that God will continue to guide them, when we are no longer able. Letting go is one of the hardest things to do as parents, but we get to do so, out of love. Love for our children, love for God, and love for the people that our children are becoming.
Through this challenge, this time of great anxiety, this was a time Mary treasured in her heart. A time when love motivated her search; when love kept her going for three days; when love heaved a great sigh of relief upon finding Jesus safe and sound. Her love for God and her love for her son joined together when finding Jesus in the temple she experienced God being gracious to her and blessing her and making his face to shine upon her family. These are the times we treasure in our hearts. For whatever reason, we rarely treasure making endless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, helping with homework or reminding them to clean their rooms. Instead we treasure the times our love is called upon to motivate action, to test limits, to help us define the parents we want to be. And as we all know, our children’s job is to test every limit, and push every boundary. So out of love and commitment to our values we can pass these on to our children. “His mother treasured all these things in her heart.” Remember Mary also treasured Jesus birth in her heart, the moment of God’s fulfillment and her embarking on motherhood.
Now I know many people here are past that active mothering stage and this day is very much for you too. A day to say thank you for all the ways you have given of yourselves, held the boundaries and showed forth love; the way you selflessly give of your time, energy and love. And yet Mother’s Day can also be a time of sadness because of a mother’s lost love. If you find yourself missing your mother- honor the void created, the absence felt when a mother is not with you. Distance, dysfunction or death can cause the gap, and the pain is oh so real. Find a time to claim one sweet moment, one treasured memory with your mother or with a woman who nurtured you in a motherly way and celebrate that. A mother’s love can come to us from many places, people who nurture you in compassionate, caring and loving ways.
That reminds me of the story of Moses. How he came into the world, when the Pharaoh did not want male baby boys to live, for fear of the Israelites becoming too numerous. But because of the care of his mother, the help of his sister and the kindness of the Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses was not only allowed to live, but be raised in the Pharaoh’s household. The daughter of the Pharaoh took Moses into her home and her heart and raised him as her own. The love of this woman, and the home she provided prepared the way for God’s liberation of the people of Israel. All of this was made possible by a woman’s love for a child. I believe God provides people in our lives to give us the many blessings God wants to provide. Sometimes they come from our parents, our mothers and our fathers, and sometimes God finds other people to show forth this love. It is God’s way of reminding us we are loved by many people, especially those who share the faith and show forth love.
In honor of Mother’s Day let us think about the mantle of love in this church. The many matriarchs who have carried the mantle of love before and the ways we can treasure them and God’s love in our hearts as we carry on in love. Let us all treasure the many ways we have been blessed by a mother’s love and freely give that love to those we encounter. So that on our journey of faith, our trip to Jerusalem, we might move a little closer to God and a little less dependent upon ourselves.
“His mother treasured all these things in her heart.” Amen.