Preached May 12, 2013, at Throop and Dunmore UMC's.
On my Facebook page the week before Mothers’ Day, I asked this question:
Mothers Day is this weekend, and I have found the day problematic the last few years. The brokenness of this world gives the lie to what Mothers' Day traditionally highlights in so many ways; friends who were unable to have children, friends who have problematic or broken relationships with their own mothers or children, children who have lost their mothers far too early, stepmothers, and the view of motherhood and womanhood that the holiday projects onto so many women, an image that just doesn't fit so many. In a Christian church, to go to scripture for help also just doesn't help, the choices and actions of mothers there are so complicated. As the poker dealer says, "no help there."
So, what is Mothers Day for you? As a child, do you see it is a blessing or a duty? If you are a mother, do you expect a certain kind of observance, and are you disappointed if it doesn't go as you expect?
It was a large and varied response. Some women wrote about how wonderful it was to be able to celebrate their own mothers, others were honest about the coercive nature of the day, still others were truthful about their own difficulty with the day because of their not having had children, or missing their own mothers.
By doing this day today, even though all of the pain and capitalism, everything that insists on its own way even when they deal relationship with a mothers doesn’t exist, there is still something that is at its root, isn’t there?
There is something within us that is being spoken to.
We talk about caring, we talk about softness, we talk about nurture. There is something there. And I think this little passage from Luke is what we’re talking about.
In this part of Luke’s version of the story, Jesus knows what is coming. He tells the disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, because the prophets can’t be killed outside it’s walls, which is a little bit of foxhole humor, I think. But then he says that all he’s ever wanted to do was to gather the people of Jerusalem (and by extension, all of the people of God) together and keep them warm and protect them, like a hen gathers her brood.
It’s not a paternalistic image; it’s not swords and shields. It is maternalistic; it’s protection, and warmth. It is nurture.
It is not just mothers that can do this (and I’m not just writing that because I am a single dad); as I preached at Throop last weekend, there was a fretful baby, and the baby was being calmed by her father. Both genders have within them the ability to be nurturing.
Being caring, supportive, and loving, does not depend on ovaries. This is Jesus, a man, saying he would gather the city as a hen gathers her chicks.
When we celebrate Mothers’ (or Fathers’) day, maybe we should say instead “Happy Nurturers’ and Protectors’ Day.” These are the traditional gender roles for these days, we can all acknowledge, but I know of a couple women who can strip a machine gun and clean it lickety-split. Who are tough enough to take with me if I go down a dark alley. I know women who run marathons, and who teach karate. I, the male, the man, can do none of those things.
We all have nurturers in our lives, we all have people who have shown interest in our lives. They have not all been our mothers. But we all know people who have gathered us up under their wings.
People who were able to do for us what Jesus wanted to do for Jerusalem.