Fullness of Joy for Mothers

Sermon for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Mother’s Day)

Dear mothers and children of mothers: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Mother’s Day has its origin over one hundred years ago. If it wouldn’t have been started back then, it is unlikely it would be started in modern times. Motherhood was valued and held in high esteem one hundred years ago; it was exalted and praised. Not so much today. Today, motherhood is despised and held in low esteem. Everything good and beautiful about motherhood is scorned. Through in vitro fertilization, children are produced in petri dishes. In daycares, children are raised by strangers instead of their mothers. In schools, children learn that they don’t even need a mother – having two dads is just fine. And to top it all off, 315 children in Canada are murdered in their mother’s wombs every day, just because they are an inconvenience to their mothers. A woman’s career is now deemed to be so important that children can legally be murdered just so that the mother can act like she is not a mother.

How backwards our society has become! For women, submitting to and being attentive to a man is praiseworthy so long as that man is your boss and not your husband. Caring for children is seen as commendable and admirable so long as the children are someone else’s, not your own. Motherhood is seen as being the opposite of success. It is in fact seen as a failure. It is scorned and despised.

Indeed, from external appearance it can be understood why this is so. Where is the success in submitting to a sinful husband who is unable to love you as Christ loved the Church? Where is the success in sacrificing for your children who are ungrateful and even unaware of most of what you do for them? Where is the success in the hours of thankless labour in housework, chauffeuring kids to hockey practice, and preparing meals? Where is the success in always putting others ahead of yourself? If the only success for mothers is being remembered on one lousy day of the year for what they have done, that’s not all that great of a success!

But what does God say about motherhood? Eve, although created before the fall into sin and thus the most beautiful, wise, and perfect woman, is not named by Adam for any of these attributes, but for the fact that she is the mother of all the living (Gen. 3:20). She is named for the fact that she is a mother.

Does God not hold motherhood to be the most honourable vocation for women? After all, Jesus was born of a woman, His mother Mary. He was not born of man. Joseph had nothing to do with Jesus’ conception as He was conceived through the Holy Spirit. Jesus had no earthly father even though Joseph stepped into the role of father for Him during His childhood. Yet God gave the Saviour to the world through a mother.

One of the points of contention during the Reformation was that motherhood as well as fatherhood were not considered honourable vocations by the Roman Catholic Church, but inferior even to manmade observances (cf. AC XXVI.8-11; LC.I.4.105-107). The Roman church invented all kinds of supposed good works for women: going on pilgrimages, taking vows of chastity, and joining a cloister and becoming a nun. These were thought to be superior to the God-ordained vocation of motherhood.

The Reformation, however, shed the light of God’s truth on motherhood. The Large Catechism says in the discussion of the Fourth Commandment, “God has given this walk of life, fatherhood and motherhood, a special position of honour, higher than that of any other walk of life under it” (LC.I.4.105). Yes, we have the command of God to love our neighbour, that is, everyone even our enemies. Yet, in the Fourth Commandment, God gives us the command to honour our fathers and our mothers.

This is true for both fathers and mothers, but today, since I am speaking specifically about mothers, I will say that God places mothers next to Himself by commanding we honour our mothers. “Honour includes not only love, but deference, humility, and modesty directed (so to speak) toward a majesty concealed within them. Honour requires us not only to address them affectionately and with high esteem, but above all to show by our actions, both of heart and body, that we respect them very highly, and that next to God we give them the very highest place. For anyone whom we are wholeheartedly to honour, we must truly regard as high and great.” (LC.I.4.107)

A mother is God’s representative to her children. That’s why God commands us to honour our mothers. This is true regardless of how lowly, feeble, poor, or eccentric they might be. They are not to be deprived of their honour because of their weaknesses or failings, because motherhood was instituted by God and He ordained that mothers are to be honoured (cf. LC.I.4.108).

Despite our failings to hold motherhood in high esteem or to honour our mothers as commanded by God, God sent His Son, born of a woman, to die for our sins. Jesus died for our sins against our mothers. He died for our sin of not honouring our mothers. He died for our excuses of pointing at our mothers’ failures as if that was reason to not honour them as God’s representatives.

But Jesus also died for mothers, including His own mother. He died for the failures of mothers to act as His representatives. Jesus died for the times mothers have neglected their children and for the times mothers have not raised their children according to God’s standards. Jesus died for every sinful thought that has despised motherhood and thought of motherhood as a failure. He died for our sins of not seeing motherhood as the most honourable vocation for women. Jesus died for mothers who have aborted their children.

Let’s face it: motherhood is not always easy. In fact, it’s almost never easy. Yet, even in the midst of difficulties and trials, mothers can have fullness of joy. Jesus says, “Abide in my love.” Our Gospel reading immediately follows last week’s where Jesus says He is the vine and we are the branches. So Jesus is exhorting us to remain in Him. Remain connected to Jesus, receiving His forgiveness and strength. That’s how mothers can have fullness of joy, even in the midst of the trials of motherhood. That’s how mothers can have fullness of joy despite their failures to live up to God’s expectations of motherhood. That’s how all of us can have fullness of joy as we receive forgiveness from God for our sins against our mothers.

Remain in Jesus’ love. Jesus is present in His Word, giving you His forgiveness. Jesus’ true body and blood are present in the Sacrament of the Altar, giving you His forgiveness and strengthening your faith. Jesus continually gives His love to you so that His joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. Jesus continually gives His love to mothers so that they may have joy in their sins being forgiven. Jesus continually gives His love to all of us so that we may have joy in our sins being forgiven.

Even though society despises motherhood, God does not. God holds motherhood as good and beautiful; as the most honourable vocation for women. Jesus died to earn us forgiveness for the times we have shown scorn towards our mothers and motherhood. He died to earn forgiveness for mothers and the times they have despised their role as mothers. So abide in Jesus. He continually gives you forgiveness for all of your sins and strengthens you in your life. He continually gives you His forgiveness so that His joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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