A sermon delivered by Rev. Dr. Randy K. Hammer, May 13, 2018 (Mother’s Day)
Luke 2:41-51 GNT
“Jesus, you get down from there right now before you fall and break your arm!”
“Jesus, put down that sharp carpenter’s knife before you cut off your finger!”
“Jesus, wash the mud from your hands before coming to the table!”
We may have never thought of Mary having uttered such scolding words to the boy Jesus. Many of us may have grown up with the idea that Jesus was the golden child, perfect in every way, never sinning, never even making a mistake, never causing his parents any grief.
But considering that Mary scolded Jesus when he was lost from them a couple of days, isn’t it quite plausible that she might have scolded him on other occasions as well. Can’t you just see Mary grabbing boy Jesus by the shoulders, looking him sternly in the eye, and saying, “Son, why have you done this to us? Don’t you know your father and I have been worried sick about you? Why, we didn’t know what had happened to you, thinking you might have been kidnapped, sold into slavery, fallen off the wall of Jerusalem and broken your neck, or God only knows what might have happened to you!” When we take what is written in the biblical story and then read between the lines, all kinds of possibilities come to light.
Two chapters later in Luke, when Jesus is grown and begins his ministry, the townspeople don’t seem to look upon Jesus any differently than anyone else whom they had watched grow up in the village. “Is this not Jesus, the carpenter’s son?” they said of him (Luke 4:22). They couldn’t believe that the little boy they had watched grow up in the streets of Nazareth was capable of saying such things. The truth is, if Jesus truly was human, as Christian theology early on decreed that he had to have been, then Jesus of necessity would have done things all boys sometimes do, trying the patience of their parents.
Now, let it be said that there is no way to verify the historical authenticity or 100% accuracy of this boy Jesus story. No one was there with pen and paper to record it. Perhaps a version of the story was passed on through oral tradition. But the gospel writer Luke certainly had his literary and theological reasons for including the story of the boy Jesus in the Temple in his gospel. And, as you know, Luke is the only place we find this story, the only canonical story the early Church left us having to do with the life of Jesus between his birth and when he began his ministry. There are some questionable stories about the boy Jesus in non-canonical writings that the Church early on decided were not inspired or worthy of consideration by the faithful. But this story in Luke of the boy Jesus is all we have to work with from the Christian canon.
At any rate, there is much truth at the heart of Luke’s story and including, perhaps, a Mother’s Day lesson or two as well.
As Luke tells the story, Mary was worried; and rightly so. Jesus was an exceptional child; there is no question about that, as Luke’s story points out. But even exceptional children can cause their parents to worry. And the truth is, worry is a universal trait of motherhood.
It would be nice if motherhood was all sunshine and roses, all fun and games, all joy and no sorrow. But we all know that is not the case. From the moment a child is born until a parent and child are separated by death, worry is part and parcel with parenthood. And much to our surprise, a parent’s worry over a child doesn’t end when that child graduates from high school or college or gets married. In some cases, the worries are only compounded, as some of us well know.
And then there are the scoldings. “Jesus! Why did you worry us so?” Even the best of mothers resort to scolding their children every now and then, especially when it comes to trying to keep them safe.
When our daughter was two years old, she wandered off from us in a Memphis shopping mall, as all children are prone to do. Now, we had heard horror stories of children being abducted in Memphis department stores and shopping malls, so for a few minutes we were quite panicked. Maybe those stories were urban legends; I don’t know. But that didn’t matter. We were momentarily mortified nonetheless. Don’t you think we scolded her a bit after we grabbed her and hugged her?
And when our son was small, he had a habit of darting across driveways, parking lots and highways without looking. Two or three times – again while we were living near Memphis – he ran out into the path of an oncoming car. Luckily, in all cases the cars saw him in time to stop or he made it across in the lick of time. Don’t you think we gave him a good scolding after we grabbed him and hugged him?
What mother or father, in the spirit of Mary and Joseph, has not scolded a child: “Why did you do that? Don’t you know you frightened me to death?” “You almost gave me a heart attack!”
But wrapped up with all the worry and necessary scoldings, there are the treasures of the heart that come along with motherhood. Luke reports that after the worry and after the scolding, as Mary had time to reflect, she “treasured all these things in her heart” (2:51).
So many are the joyous times that become treasures of the heart: bath time with baby and watching baby kick in the water and laugh; reading a story at bedtime; snuggling close to watch a movie together; kicking a soccer ball or passing a softball; special programs, recitals and award ceremonies at school; family camping trips; the list is endless. Such times prove to be the best blessings of life and become true treasures of the heart. And the treasures of the heart are the best treasures of all.
Just as we may have grown up with the idea that Jesus was the perfect, sinless, golden child, we may have had the idea that Mary was the perfect, angelic, flawless mother. The Church has sort of perpetuated the idea that a sinless son had to come from a sinless mother. But the truth is, Mary was human too; she had to have been. And as a human, Mary likely made mistakes as a mother.
When I was a child, the church I grew up in and the church my mother grew up in had special Mother’s Day programs when we sang songs, and recited poems and speeches about mothers. Mother’s Day sort of carried the connotation that this is the day we remember all those angelic mothers, especially the ones who are no longer with us. But the truth is, there are few, if any, perfect mothers, or fathers, and there never have been. Most parents make mistakes, jump to conclusions, may be too demanding, can be short-tempered, and sometimes set a bad example. That has been my experience, at least. So mothers (and fathers), if you don’t feel like you have been the perfect parent, go easy on yourself. You are in good company. There likely is no perfect mother, and no perfect father, including Mary mother of Jesus and his father Joseph. That is the way I see it, at least.
But motherhood is to be celebrated nonetheless. Because mothers do make great sacrifices, work long and hard, have the most important job in the world, exert a tremendous amount of influence upon the future leaders of the world, and often get little recognition for the lives they live, the work they do, and the sacrifices they make.
So today, mothers and grandmothers, we celebrate you and give thanks for you. And my prayer is that each of you may be greatly enriched with motherhood’s treasures of the heart. Amen.