Mother's Day 2007
By Charles Rush
May 13, 2007
2 Timothy 1: 5-7
(mp3, 5.3Mb) ]
ppy Mother's Day! We gather today to praise our Mother's and our mentors in the faith. And it is probably true that it is less complicated to praise women than men in this regard.
I remember as a
child, the banks of the Mississippi river flooded pretty bad and one of my schoolmates,
Leonard, was sent to Memphis to live with his Uncle and Aunt
while his family dealt with the flooding. A week later, Leonard returned by bus
in a bit of a surprise to his family and neighbors. A note accompanied Leonard
that said, "We are returning our nephew… please send the flood."
Boys come with
more issues and these grow with them well into manhood. By contrast, how
wonderful it is to see matriarchs that make judicious use of their authority.
Several months ago, I was returning to Newark from Atlanta, late at night… you know the drill.
Our plane landed with quite a boom, causing all the passengers to jump, yelp,
and groan at the same time.
We get to the
gate, everyone is filing off, the crew is thanking us, along with the Pilot. It
was late, everyone was quiet and getting to where they needed to go. An elderly
Grandmother from Atlanta was in front of me. She stopped the
pilot and said, "Sir, was that just a rough landing or were we shot down." Pilot, aged 42, got that 'Sorry Mom'
look on his face.
lesson lifts up the value of Matriarchs, the way that the faith and the values
of the Spirit are handed down concretely through three generations (From
Grandmother to Mother to Timothy). How important that is for strong families
and equally important for strong spiritual families as well…. So often, they
give us that sense of identity, that we know who we are, that existential
self-worth that turns out to be critical for us to thrive.
blessed to watch it this year. One of our granddaughters lives on a few hours
away and we have seen a lot of her as the kids have been home. Both
grandmothers live in Summit, also a blessing.
granddaughter comes to visit, she just runs for either of her Grandmothers. And
then she just wants to sit in their lap. It looks like she is hard-wired for
this comfort. Before she could really have any cognitive function that would
make this connection, it is like she already knows her grandmothers and they
are bigger than life. It is astonishing to see.
something subliminal that Grandmother's communicate to babies: it is accepting,
relaxing, safe, loved. And that doesn't end with babies either.
You may know of
the singing group, "Sweet Honey in the Rock". It is a women's group.
Their material is wonderful. They have a song entitled "No Mirrors in My Nana's House". It
turns out that the woman that wrote the song grew up poor, in one of those
great, extended families in the South. And her Nana helped her get dressed
every morning. Nana had a very modest house, no mirrors.
One of her
friends asked her, "How did you know what you looked like before you went
to school each day?" This is what she said, "My Nana told me. I would
say, 'How do I look?' And she would tell me. She would tell me I was beautiful.
She said my skin was smooth and golden brown, kissed by the sun, and she said
my eyes shone like silver moonbeams. In my Nan's house, there were no mirrors, so I
saw myself through my Nana's eyes who loved me and the beauty of everything was
in her eyes."[i]
I never knew that
my skin was too black.
I never knew that my nose was too flat.
I never knew that my clothes didn't fit.
I never knew there were things that I'd missed,
cause the beauty in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun);
...was in her eyes.
There were no mirrors in my Nana's house,
no mirrors in my Nana's house.
And the beauty that I saw in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).
The world outside was a magical place.
I only knew love.
I never knew hate,
and the beauty in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).
...was in her eyes…
"Chil', look deep into
"Chil', look deep into my eyes."
Of course, this
capacity isn't 'Hard-wired', it is the Spiritual dimension of our calling to be
matriarchs. We have to access that capacity. We have to open ourselves to it…
But, Man, what a powerful spiritual ability to heal and grow. Once you see what
it can be, why wouldn't you want to participate in it?
it is not just acceptance and self-worth, we are here to praise Matriarchal
mentors because they also inspire us morally. It is so important. We remember
those examples that gave us that sense of responsibility and ownership so that
we not only could make it on our own, we wanted to…
One of my
grandmothers would occasionally call to me when I was young. "Charles Thomas may I have a word with you."
Charles Thomas… when I would hear those two words, a wave of undifferentiated anxiety
swept over me, the same feeling I had when I had to report to my football
coach. Usually I would walk in the room, shut the door, and every time I would say, "Yes Ma'am".
Fortunately these sessions were few. Fortunately, my grandmother never abused
the entrée. But every time, there was something important that I was about to
be taught. And the truth was this. I could handle offending God and I could
take whatever punishment the President of the United States might dole out, but to offend my Grandmother
or have her be genuinely disappointed in me, that was more than a body could
I was amused to
see an interview with Tim Duncan, probably the Most Valuable Player in the NBA
for the past 4-5 years. You may know that he is a graduate of that outstanding
institution of higher education, Wake Forest University. One of the guys from ESPN was
asking him about all the young buck players now that go straight from High
School to the Pro's and the other new trend of more and more College Juniors
skipping their senior year to go straight to the Pro's. Tim Duncan did not do
that but stayed his senior year to graduate from college. The reporter asked
Tim Duncan why he stayed in college for the full four years. He got this
furrowed look on his face like this was a trick question or something. He said,
"Are you kidding me man?"
The reporter said, "No, why did you stay?" Tim said, "My
Mom." What other reason in the world could there be for doing anything
completely. Somehow, I find it deeply gratifying that in the world of sharks,
agents, scoundrels, thieves, and NBA owners, the voice of Tim's mom was louder,
clearer, and had the ability to trump money, vanity, and hype.
And the same
thing is quietly true across our country with less fanfare and celebrity. David
Bunting and I went to see the graduation of the inmates from a college program
that we support at Christ Church for prisoners at Sing Sing prison in
York. These guys finished high school in prison and finished college. So they
were in the joint for some serious time, usually for doing some bad things. As
they received their diplomas, almost all of them gave a tribute to Mom. It was
moving in its own way, just thinking that Mom was probably the only one not to
give up on them, to stay with them through it all, and keep them pointed in the right direction, regardless of how many times
they goofed it up.
That is the
very unromantic stature of a Mother's moral presence. And we need moral
character. We need to be people of serious moral substance, as well as people of
joy, celebration, passion. I was reminded of this reading about the woman that actually first proposed a day
to honor Mother's. She did it to promote peace, that
Mother's might never have to have their sons
die in useless military
campaigns, a sentiment that frankly has relevance at the moment.
The woman was Julia Ward Howe. You probably
know her name
vaguely. She wrote the lyrics for "The Battle Hymn of the Republic". [Mine eyes
have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord/ He is trampling out the vintage where the
grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his
terrible swift sword/ His truth is marching on.] She was an abolitionist
in the 19th century and that poem, first published in the Atlantic Monthly became the unofficial hymn of the Union army in the Civil War.
But the scope
and depth of the aftermath of that war, turned her focus again to the horrors of war
itself. Particularly, it was the Franco-Prussian war just a few years after the
end of the Civil War, in 1870-1871 that gave rise to a new German military caste and political order
that I am sure appeared to be the wave of the
future at the time, not only of Europe but probably the future for the United States as well.
Julia Ward Howe
was a suffragist in the 19th century. She had watched men with exclusive control of the
political process. She had watched as war was increasingly used to settle
conflicts and like so many of the women suffragists of the day, she had a simple plea that there simply must be a better way and that the
contribution of women could only elevate the mode of conflict resolution between
So she called
for a Mother's Day of Peace, for women to come together and unite their voices in moral protest against the over use of
violence. And this was her original declaration.
then, women of this day! Arise all women who have
hearts, whether your baptism be that of
water or of fears! Say firmly: "We
will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
"Our husbands shall not come to us reeking with
carnage, for caresses and applause. "Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we
have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience.
"We women of one country will be too tender towards those of another country to
allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says,
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice! Blood does not wipe out dishonor nor
violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as the means whereby the great human family can live in peace,
And each bearing after her own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of
Those words are spoken with an
authority that only people who have lived through the horrors of war and
experienced the very unromantic reality of its aftermath can speak. The point is not to quibble with one line or another, but
to note the overall moral courage and
fortitude that the original leader had before the
Floral industry and the Greeting card business dumbed it down and fluffed out the
holiday until it had no moral fiber in it.
We need Motherly Mentor's with moral backbone, Motherly
Mentor's who are confident about what they bring to the table that is missing if they are not
present in leadership. No, the Motherly Mentor's entry in the lexicon of life
that carries the subtitle "Courageous Moral Force" is not yet fully
So Happy Mother's Day to all of you
Motherly Mentors. Yours is a high and holy calling, from changing diapers, to
hugging your Godson at his graduation, to walking in a March on Washington. We need
your wings of refuge, support, and compassion. And may God grant you a vision of
what you should be about in this next chapter of your life and who else you can
include in your influence. May God grant you joy and spiritual gravitas at the
same time. For better and worse, nobody else is going to do this, nobody else can
do this, but you. Amen.
[i] Dynamic Preaching,
vol. 22, no. 2 (April-June, 2007) p. 47.
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