• Lex McDonald

Honor Your Mother

Isaiah 66:13

As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

Honor Your Mother

This year, I will miss seeing my mother on Mother’s Day. She lives in a retirement facility and, although she is in good health for age 93, she is under severe quarantine and should not have visitors. But at least I will be able to call her.

We know that many miss seeing their mother – particularly those whose mothers have left this life. Without the benefit of being able to talk to her, those who have lost their mother may feel a measure of sadness today.

But they will think about her. And many will feel her presence in a real and direct way. They will find themselves drawing on the lessons she taught and the love she gave.

The Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce, Dean of the Howard University Divinity School, wrote about this a few years ago in a piece called “Why God Is a Mother, Too.” She used the term “absent presence” to describe how it is that those who are gone from this life are still with us.

She writes, “I experience what is known in theological terms as the “absent presence” of my grandmother. Though gone from my life, though absent from my everyday reality, my grandmother’s presence and wisdom are still here with me, guiding and shaping me. As a Christian, it is the same “absent presence” as my relationship with God: the knowledge that I am loved by the Divine, even and perhaps most especially in those experiences of absence and loss.”

“Absent presence” is the reality of where we live. Years ago, when I was a corporate human resources manager, I was responsible for employee training in avoiding harassment in the workplace. We used a labor attorney to conduct the training, and in the classes she offered this guideline for avoiding sexual harassment: ‘Don’t say or do anything that you wouldn’t say or do if your mother was standing right next to you.’ Although it was not specific behaviorally, the definition worked for most people.

It is a pretty good guide for all of us, all the time: Act like your mother is watching, and don’t embarrass her.

There is also this: If you want to make your mother proud, live a life of love and service.

Dr. Pierce offers this memory, “My grandmother’s kitchen was a theological laboratory where she taught me how to love people just as naturally as she taught me to make peach cobbler and buttermilk biscuits. I watched and listened as she ministered to the sick and the lost, with a Bible in one hand and a freshly baked pound cake in the other, despite having no official ministry role.”

So for all of us, the opportunity is there today to care for the sick and the lost. On Mother’s Day we are sensitive to the reality that not everyone has the benefit of a wise and strong mother. And yet, we all have the opportunity to live a life that embodies these qualities.

In our world today, and in the economic situation in our country right now, working class families are at risk, and single mothers and their children are particularly at risk. They are far more likely to experience unemployment, lack of safe affordable housing, and food insecurity. They are far more likely to be without health care and the overall economic resources needed to survive this current crisis.

So, the image of going out into the world to minister to the sick and the lost with “a Bible in one hand and a freshly baked pound cake in the other” is one that we can claim today.

It has been said that “As mothers go, so goes the world.” For us, the call is to care for and protect the weak, the vulnerable, the dispossessed, and those on the margins.

Answering that call is one of the most basic and yet powerful ways we know to honor your mother.

A hymn for today is “O Lord, May Church and Home Combine.” It offers these words as a prayer:

O Lord, may church and home combine to teach thy perfect way, with gentleness and love like thine, that none shall ever stray.

May steadfast faith and earnest prayer keep sacred vows secure; build thou a hallowed dwelling where true joy and peace endure.

May we keep the knowledge that we are loved by the Divine, as a mother loves her children. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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