Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta
“Good News on Mother’s Day” (1 Peter 2:4-10)
May 10, 2020
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
First of all, on this Mother’s Day, kudos to all the moms out there…there is not a more demanding or all-consuming job than being a mom. There is no close second. If not for our moms, we would literally not be here. And yet unending, impossible expectations placed on moms continue to increase—expectations to be ever present, ever wise, ever caring, ever involved with their kids at school and in their extracurricular activities, ever a good role model—and funny and compassionate and energetic and of course, cool. Mothers are simultaneously care-givers, taxi drivers, nurses, conflict mediators, chefs, and activity coordinators—and that does not include the insane amount of time and energy devoted to their kids’ hygiene. And of course many also work outside the home. No wonder I once saw a magnet on the refrigerator of a stressed out mom that read the following: “I’ll have a Café-Mocha-Vodka-Valium-Latte to go, please! Better make that two, and sprinkle a little Xanax on them while you’re at it.”
Social media has magnified these expectations on moms, as described in an article from the British newspaper The Guardian:
The popularity of social media has probably exacerbated this phenomenon because parents can look at what other parents are doing—even in ostensibly private moments—and judge themselves in comparison. In fact, recent research has linked greater Facebook use to feelings of depression due to the way individuals tend to compare themselves to others…mothers who were more frequent visitors to the site and who managed their accounts more frequently reported higher levels of parenting stress (Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, 5/10/16).
And of course that is just Facebook…you can add Instagram and Snapchat and other social media to the fun and games of self-judgement. Even moms who avoid social media often still judge themselves, or are perhaps judged by their own moms, or mothers-in-law, or their spouses or ex-spouses, or even their kids.
A brief word of grace to all you moms who may be judging yourselves unfavorably in comparison with other moms, or being judged by others as not quite being the mom they think you should be…God is not judging your performance as a mom. God is too busy loving you to judge you—and it is okay to let yourself off the hook, and take a deep breath, especially on this Mother’s Day.
For some, Mother’s Day is not a great day, especially for those who have been rejected by their moms or whose relationship with their moms is strained at best—as Sigmund Freud famously quipped, “If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother.” In an article in Psychology Today Dr. Hal Shorey gets right to the point, “Nothing can feel more heart-sickening than being invalidated, pushed away, or rejected by your parent…Your age is irrelevant. Some of you reading this will be in your early 20’s and some will be in your 80’s. This applies to all of us just the same.” He gives two examples of how this rejection can manifest itself:
Jennifer’s mom rarely acknowledges any of her accomplishments, and Jennifer is a high performer at work and has achieved some truly amazing milestones for her age. But her mother only notices shortcomings and criticizes inconsequential aspects of Jennifer’s life (like the color of the dishtowels).
And here is the second:
Aisha learned from a young age that the only way she could escape her mother’s wrath and rejection was to acquiesce and appease her mother by apologizing and showing her understanding of how wrong she (Aisha) was. Her mother then shamed her for being acquiescent and apologetic. “You’re so weak,” Aisha’s mother would tell her (5/10/19).
This rejection by a mother can also manifest itself, ironically enough, in the guise of suffocating overprotection. On their epic 1979 double album The Wall Pink Floyd has a song about this very thing, entitled accordingly, “Mother” (Sigmund Freud’s favorite Pink Floyd song by the way…now you know). In this song the insecure son, who is dealing with the hurts and dangers inherent in growing up in our world, asks, “Mother, do you think they’ll drop the bomb? Mother, do you think they’ll like my song? Mother, should I build the wall?” As part of her response this troubled boy’s mother responds:
Hush now, baby, baby, don’t you cry…
Momma’s gonna make all your nightmares come true
Momma’s gonna put all her fears into you
Momma’s gonna keep you right here under her wing
She won’t let you fly, but she might let you sing
Mama’s gonna keep baby cozy and warm
Ooh baby, of course mama’s gonna help you build the wall
The gospel on this Mother’s Day (and every day) is that in spite of whether you may have been rejected by your mother (or rejected by anyone else) you have never been rejected by God. In fact, when it comes to God, it is the exact opposite, as we read in today’s passage from the First Letter of Peter:
Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:4-5; 9-10).
God graciously invites everyone “rejected by mortals”—even if that includes your mother, to come to God who is “a living stone”, and to be “a holy priesthood” in the church, the “spiritual house” where no one is rejected. This same God “called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”—out of the darkness of rejection to the marvelous light of God’s acceptance and grace. God graciously invites the rejected who “were not a people” to be “God’s people”, and comforts those wounded by the judgment of others with mercy.
The reality of God’s love for the rejected can change your life, even for those whom you would think had already experienced it. In 1992, at the height of her successful Christian music and television career, Shelia Walsh checked herself into a hospital due to her crippling depression. In her 2015 autobiography Loved Back to Life, she describes the pain of being rejected with a powerful metaphor:
Every once in a while, a ewe will give birth to a lamb and reject it…If the lamb is returned to the ewe, the mother may even kick the poor animal away. Once a ewe rejects one of her lambs, she will never change her mind. These little lambs will hang their heads so low that it looks like something is wrong with its neck. Their spirit is broken. These lambs are called “bummer lambs.” Unless the shepherd intervenes, that lamb will die, rejected and alone.
Very bleak…but here is the gospel…
Do you know what the shepherd does? He takes that rejected little one into his home, hand-feeds it and keeps it warm by the fire. He will wrap it up with blankets and hold it to his chest so the bummer can hear his heartbeat. Once the lamb is strong enough, the shepherd will place it back in the field with the rest of the flock. But that sheep never forgets how the shepherd cared for him when his mother rejected him. When the shepherd calls for the flock, guess who runs to him first? That’s right, the bummer sheep.
And as we were reminded last week on Good Shepherd Sunday, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who loves his sheep so much he lay down his life for them—especially good news for bummer sheep who have been rejected by their mothers, good news for all sheep, including you. And yet this Jesus the Good Shepherd who never rejected people was himself utterly rejected. As we also read in today’s passage, Peter described Jesus as “the stone that the builders rejected”:
For it stands in scripture: “See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,” and “A stone that makes them stumble” (1 Peter 2:6-8).
On this Mother’s Day it is important to remember that Mary, the mother of Jesus the Good Shepherd, never rejected him, ever. She accepted him into her own womb, although it would cost her decades of gossip, decades of judgement, and yes, by some, decades of rejection. Moreover, scripture tells us the world rejected Jesus outright (John 1:11)—and that the night before his death, even his own disciples rejected him and took off (Matthew 26:56).
And yet even on Good Friday as Jesus was rejected even to the point of an imaginarily awful death, his mother Mary did not reject him, but was right there at the foot of the cross that whole dark day. Any of you who have watched your children suffer, especially at the hands of others, knows that it does not get any worse than that. But Jesus’ mother Mary stayed right there. Even when the whole world rejected him, even when his own disciples rejected him, Jesus’ mother did not—she stayed at the cross. Mary did not try to build a wall to protect Jesus—“Momma, should I build the wall?” “No.”
As bystanders and passersby mocked her son, Mary stayed. She wanted, more than you could imagine to comfort her son—perhaps take him under her wing—but was forbidden by the assigned Roman soldier. Mary stayed. She saw the nails that pierced the hands she once held when her son was a little boy, nails that pierced the feet she once tickled when her son was a little boy. She watched him breathe every labored breath until his breathing stopped.
And later she watched as a soldier pierced the side of her beloved son to confirm he had died, and in that moment what the prophet Simeon had told many years before her the day she carried the eight-day old Jesus into the temple to be dedicated to God, indeed a sword pierced her “own soul too” (Luke 2:35).
But because God’s love is stronger than death, later Mary was overwhelmed by joy, probably laughing and crying at the same when she saw her risen Son.
You see, the good news of the gospel on this Mother’s Day is that Mary’s love for her Son, whom she never rejected, mirrors God’s love for you. This is true right now— whether you are in your 20’s or 80’s or any other age.
God will never reject you; rather, God will always accept you and always love you.
Scripture assures us that Jesus, “the stone that the builders rejected,” even now says to the rejected, bummer sheep the world over, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).