May 10, 2015 – Rev. Jan Hryniewicz
Text: Proverbs 1: 1 – 9 and 2 John 1: 4 – 6:
A young child noticed a streak of gray in her Mommy’s hair and said: “ Mommy, your hair is getting gray already!”
Mommy replied, “Every time I worry about you…or when you do something that I have asked you not to do…. I get another gray hair.”
The child said: “Mommy….Grandma’s hair is all gray! You much have been really naughty!!”
Mother’s day is not a religious holiday…..it is a day of gratitude set aside as a
time to remember with gratitude our mothers and those who have been nurturing spirits in our formative years and beyond.
A teacher gave her class of second graders a lesson on the magnet and what it does. The next day in a written test, she included this question: “My full name has six letters. The first one is. I pick up things. What am I?”
When the test papers were turned in, the teacher was astonished to find that almost 50 percent of the students answered the question with the word “Mother”. It’s Mom the Magnet!
I have to share this amusing tale by the late and very funny Erma Bombeck:
For the first four or five years after I had children, I considered motherhood a temporary condition – not a calling. It was a time of my life set aside for exhaustion and long hours. It would pass. Then one afternoon with three kids in tow, I came out of the supermarket pushing a cart (with four wheels that went in opposite directions) when my toddler son got away from me.
Just outside the door, he ran toward a machine holding bubble gum in a glass dome. In a voice that shattered glass, he shouted, “Gimme! Gimme!” I told him I would gimme him what-for if he didn’t stop shouting and get in the car. As I physically tried to pry his body from around the bubble gum machine, he pulled the entire thing over. Glass and balls of bubble gum went all over the parking lot. We had now attracted a crowd. Donna Reed would have brushed away his tears and granted him absolution on the spot. I wasn’t Donna Reed. I told him he would never see another cartoon as long as he lived, and if he didn’t control his temper he was going to be making license plates for the state. He tried to stifle his sobs as he looked around at the staring crowd. Then he did something that I was to remember the rest of my life. In his helpless quest for comfort, he turned to the only one he trusted his emotions with – me. He threw his arms around my knees and held on for dear life. I had humiliated him, chastised him and berated him, but I was still all he had. That single incident defined my role. I was a major force in this child’s life. Sometimes we forget how important stability is to a child. I’ve always told mine, “The easiest part of being a mother is giving birth. The hardest part is showing up for it each day.”
This is traditionally the day when children give something back to their mothers for all the spit they produced to wash dirty faces, all the old gum their mothers held in their hands, all the noses and fannies that were wiped, and all the bloody knees that were “made well” with a kiss. This is the day mothers are rewarded for washing all those sheets in the middle of the night, driving kids to school when they missed the bus and enduring all the football games in the rain. It’s appreciation day for making them finish something, not believing them when they said, “I hate you,” and for sharing their good times and their bad times. Their cards probably won’t reflect it, but what they are trying to say is “Thank you for showing up.” Erma Bombeck
I just love that! And , it is all about “showing up” …being there when our children need a nurse, a cheerleader, a companion, a listening ear, a compassionate presence…a mentor. …someone to laugh and cry with…someone who forgives and never stops loving. And of course, fathers share the same job description!
On one of the glorious mornings we had this week, I was out early watering our garden……grateful that it has apparently survived the ice and snow which had it buried deep. I was thinking how pleased I was……and yes, proud of each lovely green plant emerging through winter’s waste stretching toward the sunlight. It reminded me of how alike gardening and parenting are. Some plants have fared well the winter’s storms and seem strong and healthy, while others appear to be struggling. We pull away weeds that threaten them, water them gently…. taking time to make sure the roots are well watered and nourished and not just the surface earth. So like the way we protect our children…..worrying about their ability to survive the storms, the wounds to their body , mind or spirit, any challenges and obstacles in their path.
We take care to nourish and nurture them …being generous with our love and attention….taking great satisfaction and joy watching them thrive and reach their potential. …. in spite of the ground hogs and bugs, storms or drought. …or dogs bounding about chasing a ball!
I believe it is part of our DNA…. designed by a Creator with whom we share the nurture gene.
I came across this entry in a nature blog I read:
“I WATCHED recently as a mother bird gave her timid youngster a gentle, but firm, nudge which sent the small robin sailing off the edge of the nest. The bird seemed certain to sail right into the
ground, but at the last moment began using the small, inexperienced wings which lifted it to the safety of a nearby tree.
That same day, I listened to a lonely couple as they talked about the emptiness in their lives since an only child had moved to a distant city. And I thought about the difference in birds and people. Birds do not have the same sense of continuing family togetherness as do humans. It is a mother bird’s innate responsibility to teach her youngsters to fly as quickly as possible, to abandon the security of the nest for the great adventure of life which awaits in the big, bold, frightening world outside the protection of the tree-home.”
I know that most all of you here are nature lovers, aware of the marvelous miracles of rebirth and beauty we see every day, mindful of the practical lessons we can learn from the rituals and instincts of our animal friends and plant companions. The nurturing instinct appears to be part of the energy of the universe….. the design of a wise and compassionate Creator.
There are thousands of heartwarming stories about the nurturing instincts of animals that I am certain you have seen and heard. I spent too much time looking at the incredible videos that make me weep they are so sweet and inspiring. One site I visited was called Maternal instincts: What Animals Think and they included this story of some orphaned bunnies and a one legged pigeon!! How unlikely!!!
We are endowed with a maternal and nurturing instinct which is so strong it crosses cultures and physical boundaries.
Here is the story of six days old bunnies that were orphaned when the bunny family was attacked by a wild animal. Only three survived and were not doing very well. They were in rehab. In comes Noah, the one-legged homing pigeon/rock dove that was also in rehab. Noah kept going over to the bunny cage and looking in…even sleeping in front of the door to the cage. Two days later, only two bunnies were in the cage. The third one was under Noah’s wing…sound asleep!
Now, they are all together, and the bunnies are doing GREAT. When the bunnies scoot underneath Noah’s feathers, he extends his wings out to surround them.. and they snuggle. When one of them moves and they start sticking out here and there, he gently pushes them back under him with his beak.”
Sounds like snuggle therapy to me! Incredible! The stories really are amazing and give evidence to the presence and power of the nurturing spirit present in the universe. And yes, we know about the survival instinct which caused the death of the mother bunny in the first place!
On this Mother’s day and every day, we pray that the home is a safe nest where lots of snuggling happens and children know they are loved and learn how to love in return.
Cecil Myers reports a definition of a happy home as given by a thirteen year-old boy: “A happy home is like a baseball team, with mom pitching. Dad catching, the kids fielding and everyone taking a turn at bat.”
Tragically, there are many homes in the world that are not happy…. they are not safe and not nurturing. There are homes poisoned by violence and anger, illness and ignorance…and we are called to be advocates for the children who are abused and whose needs are ignored in these homes. It’s critical that the church be a safe place where love abounds…..at place which teaches and demonstrates a lifestyle of love and kindness. Children and youth ministries are typically poorly funded….and that is tragic. I know! I have been there!
The book of Proverbs is like the Sesame Street of the Bible containing short snippets of wisdom and advice….for those on the run!!
Debbie read the introduction to the book of Proverbs, attributed to Solomon, son of David, king of Israel about the importance of gaining wisdom and instruction;
for understanding words of insight;
doing what is right and just and fair;
giving knowledge and discretion to the young—
The fear ( or respect) a better word, I think of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, and we are foolish if we don’t listen to the instruction.
Listen, my sons and daughters, to your father’s instruction
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.
I love the image of a beautiful garland of flowers on our heads….and I hope a dainty chain as a lovely necklace to wear always…as reminders of the wisdom we have gained from those who have nurtured and instructed us….from the Holy Spirit that reveals to us the wisdom of God….and Jesus…and prophets through the ages.
It is critical that parents and the religious community nurture children as they begin their spiritual journeys. ….to encourage them to find a spiritual path that supports and nourishes them. It is important that we share our faith stories with them and hold out the Light to them….to provide an anchor for them in the years to come when they are no longer in the protective nest.
The lovely passage from 2nd John is a simple, clear mandate to us all….to walk in love. These three brief epistles, 1st, 2nd and 3rd John, scholars believe were written in the second century anonymously by several authors in the Johannes community. 1st John is entitled Living in Love, 2nd John is entitled Walking in Love and 3rd John is entitled Walking in Truth. The challenge is to see Biblical love as contagious, dynamic and to understand that we are called to embrace and reveal it…to live it! As we have heard from the beginning, God’s command is that we walk in love.
Bottom line! It is love that nurtures us…. pure and simple…. and under the best of circumstances…. Mom’s are wonderful agents of love and nurture. That’s what today is all about. Thank you mothers and grandmothers and other nurturing agents who have loved us, sacrificed for us and shared their wisdom stories with us.
I want to close with an anonymous poem that will touch your heart as it did mine when I read it several years ago:
The young mother set her foot on the path of life. “Is
this the long way?” she asked. And the guide said:
“Yes, and the way is hard.
And you will be old before you reach the end of it. But
the end will be better than the beginning.” But the young mother was happy, and she would not
believe that anything could be better than these years. So she
played with her children, and gathered flowers for
them along the way, and bathed them in the clear streams; and the sun shone on them, and the young Mother cried,
“Nothing will ever be lovelier than this.”
Then the night came, and the storm, and the path was
dark, and the children shook with fear and cold, and the mother drew them close and covered them with her mantle, and the children said,
“Mom, we are not afraid, for you are near, and no harm can come.”
And the morning came, and there was a hill ahead, and
the children climbed and grew weary, and the mother was weary.
But at all times she said to the children,” A little patience and we are there.”
So the children climbed, and when they reached the top
they said, “Mother, we would not have done it without you.”
And the mother, when she lay down at night looked up
at the stars and said, “This is a better day than the last, for my
children have learned fortitude in the face of hardness. Yesterday I gave them courage.
Today, I ‘ve given them strength.”
And the next day came strange clouds which darkened
the earth, clouds of war and hate and evil, and the children groped and stumbled, and the mother said: “Look up. Lift your eyes to the light.
” And the children looked and saw above the clouds
an everlasting glory, and it guided them beyond the
darkness. And that night the Mother said,
“This is the best day of all, for I have shown my children God.”
And the days went on, and the weeks and the months and
the years, and the mother grew old and she was little and bent. But her children were tall and strong, and walked with
courage. And when the way was rough, they lifted her,
for she was as light as a feather; and at last they came to a hill, and beyond they could see a shining road and golden gates flung wide. And mother said, “I have reached the end of my journey. And now I know the end is better than the beginning, for my children can walk alone, and their children after them….[for I have shared my God with them.]
And the children said, “You will always walk with us,
Mom, even when you have gone through the gates.”
And they stood and watched her as she went on alone, and the gates closed after her. And they said: “We cannot see her but she is with us still. A Mother like ours is more than a memory. She is a living presence…….”