|"The Ascension" Dosso Dossi, 16th Century|
“Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them…” (John 17:7-8)
As I compose these reflections, a lady in my congregation is lying in a hospital bed. She is ninety years of age, and, quite frankly, I don’t think she’s doing very well. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she were called home to the Lord by the time I get around to turning these written reflections into a preached sermon on Sunday. I’ll be sorry to lose her. She’s been a member of my parish ever since it was founded, and she’s an awfully sweet and faithful old gal.
Her sixty-year-old daughter is by her bedside now—just as a faithful child should be at a moment like this. She knows her mom’s time is probably short, but she’s having a hard time keeping that torturous vigil. If you’ve ever been in her place, you know how tough this is. Even though your mom is old, sick, and suffering, it’s still hard to let her go. She’s still your mom.
Unfortunately, we all face a time when we have to let our mothers go. They also face a time when they have to let us go, too. You know what I mean—kick us out of the nest and see if we can fly on our own. It’s time to see if we can hunt our own prey, make our own decisions, create our own meaning and purpose based on the guidance they’ve given us.
There’s an old saying that learning doesn’t start until the lesson is over. That is, if we still have our teachers with us, if we can rely on them for direction, we don’t really know what we’ve actually learned. It’s only when they’re gone that the lessons become internalized and become part of us. So, in a sense, our teachers—and our mothers are some of our most profound instructors—never really leave us.
I am eternally grateful that my mom was a woman of faith who often spoke about her understanding of God to her children. She shared bedtime prayers with me and my sisters when we were little, and she was once my Sunday School teacher. She was also devoutly Lutheran, and, as I’ve often told people, some of the things I heard in lectures in seminary I’d already heard from my mother. What had been given to her, she passed on to me. I am where I am today because of her.
The gospel lesson in the Revised Common Lectionary for Easter 7 (John 17: 6-19) is part of a farewell discourse from Jesus. He knows he’s going away, but he’s given the disciples the truth and wisdom which he received from God. It’s theirs now. Now they have to make choices on their own (See the First Lesson from Acts 1: 15-17, 21-26). Now they are the ones entrusted with God’s word. This is when they make that big, scary jump from being disciples (students of Jesus) to being apostles (representatives of Jesus). I’m sure none of those guys wanted to see their friend and teacher go; nevertheless, they had to let him go or they’d never be grown-ups in the faith he had given them.
But here’s the comforting thought: Jesus delivers this discourse in the form of a prayer. “Holy Father,” Jesus prays, “protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” (v. 11) It’s awful nice to know that someone is praying for you, isn’t it? That’s what moms do for their children, and that’s what Jesus is doing for us.
Mother’s Day is May 13 this year, on Easter 7 and three days after the Feast of the Ascension. Maybe we can observe it by contemplating the things our moms taught us, or by considering the prayers they might be praying for us—whether they be prayed here on earth or before the throne of Heaven.
A blessed Mothers’ Day, my friends. Thanks for stopping by.