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May 13, 2018, 12:00 AM

Mother's Day

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and Jesus the Christ and Happy Mother's Day. I can not imagine a text that is better for today than our first reading with the instructions for selfless giving. That is so much of what we celebrate when we celebrate motherhood. No, it is not a one for one but it certainly comes close and so let us dig in and see what we can find.
We start with "if you want to make my joy complete" then be of one mind. I don't know about your mother but in my house when you came to play you were expected to play by the rules and part of the rules was that you treated each other well and got along. If you could not get along then you needed to leave and return tomorrow or when you were ready to get along. So, Paul and Mom are happier when we can all get along.
For Paul, the ability to do get along with one another is rooted in the love and comfort we experience in being united with Christ. In my world the ability was rooted as a child in a source of love and comfort better known as Mom. We learn to love therefore from Mom and Christ but it does not end there because we get to mirror what they show us toward those around us. This mirroring of love for each other then helps us to be of one mind. Have you ever tried to express anger for an extended period of time and also love toward the same person, it just is not tenable. At some point you have to choose and Paul and Mom say choose love and from than become of one mind because it will make them happy and who does not want to make Mom happy.
Speaking of learning by watching the example the next part in our text states, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit." In my experience it is the case that the work we associate most closely with motherhood could not be done if it were rooted in selfishness. Patching wounded knees may have long term intrinsic value, but is nothing I have ever seen done, by someone who is psychologically health and is also considering what they will gain. Nor do I think changing diapers, giving up your meal or other desires so the child can have what they want nor helping with homework are things done with personal gain as the primary motive. Maybe some cook because of the love for cooking, but again in my experience, the sort of cooking that puts meals on the table day in and day out, is done out of love not because of what you gain from it.
The same we learn is true for Paul. Paul is sharing the Gospel message and building up churches because it is the right thing to do, not because he thinks he is going to get rich at it. No getting rich building up churches I believe is a fairly modern invention and tends to be less about the Gospel and more about the wealth and thus is the perfect foil for what we are talking about in not doing anything out of selfish ambition. So, following Paul's example we do the work of the church, we build the church and we share the gospel, because it is the right thing to do and we are willing to do that because of what we learned in the first paragraph when it talks about the love we first knew.
Continuing we read,"in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others." In many ways this simply expands what we have already discussed. Here is something that if a mother is to be accused of anything it is in my experience that they have valued the self too little, not too much. As such they however make good models for what this behavior looks like. We are to take the interests of the other as our guide. Tell me how many parents truly love being at Chucky Cheese, be honest, and yes I know there are a few, but even among them how many actually love the place and how many love to see their children having fun. The parties and outings to Chucky Cheese are an act of love, as are any number of other activities we undertake as parents. That my friends is what I think is being commended here. We are commended to ask what does the other want and need and then let me help to make that happen.
Next we see the same in a different way. Christ was God and could have done otherwise but chose to become the servant and again as least among us. Those who choose to become parents are choosing to become servants and at times for those whom, at least in the early years, you control their lives (or at least in theory are supposed to be able to control their lives). People who choose to become parents could have chosen personal gain and in comparison, in financial terms, others are often better off. Instead parents choose to take on servant leadership roles and then especially the mothers are, as Jesus was, willing to give their life, if that is what is required to serve and protect the child. I suppose that the implication of this might be difficult, because we are talking about serving our brothers and sisters in Christ even if it means losing our own life.  Yet, is that not pretty explicitly stated in other parts of the bible when we read things like “rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.” We are called to give even to the loss of our lives in service to the other. I will note at this point the assumption of reciprocity by Paul, which did not happen for either Jesus or in most cases Paul or Mom and yet all continued the work they were doing.
We read next, "Therefore God exalted Jesus to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow." And here we are today honoring the people who do the mothering of our world, those who give so freely and completely of themselves for the benefit of the other. We place mothers in the highest place and they command a respect that few if any other roles in this world will get you. Thus I would argue that we could also write that Mom is given the highest place and the name that is above every name, that place of great honor that comes with the willing sacrifice of self for the benefit of the other to conclude we are to model the servant leadership of Jesus putting others before ourselves and maybe one of the best examples we have of this in our world is the example so many mothers provide for us. So, Happy Mothers Day and may God lead, guide and empower your steps as you seek to serve.

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