Acts 16:9-159During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them. 11We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.
John 14:23-29 (NRSV)
The Father will send the Holy Spirit
Jesus answered him, "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
"I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, 'I am going away, and I am coming to you.' If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.
Today we celebrate Mother’s Day and as I stand to proclaim good news, I have been made acutely aware of the fact that for some this is a day of great joy and for others it is a day of tremendous sorrow. Wherever you may find yourself on this spectrum, I honor your feelings and hold you in my prayers.
As I meditated on the lectionary scriptures it occurred to me that for some of us this is rightfully a day of great rejoicing. Perhaps you had a little one, running around at 6am, bringing you breakfast in bed and a gift made at school for her Mommy. Or maybe you had a teenage boy sneak up behind you, give you a quick hug, and a gruff, “I love you,” before running away. Or perhaps you will get a call later this evening from a child who is now grown and living far away, raising children of her own, who will be thinking of you and wanting you to know that she still cares and now values your new role as a grandma. Finally, you may have a mother who is yet alive and who continues to brighten your days with her smile, love, advice and prayers.
For others of us this may be a sad day. Some of us are thinking of mothers who have died and flown to Jesus. Others of us have lost children to illness, accident, separation, or violence. Still others of us have broken relationships with children--or mothers--and forgiveness has not been quick to come. Finally, there are undoubtedly some amongst us, who have a brutal ache in the chest every Mother’s Day, because you have desperately wanted to have children, but have none.
On this day, and in this place, we recognize that there are many ways to feel on Mother’s Day. And for most of us, there is both joy and sorrow, and that’s okay too.
As we allow ourselves to be honest with God and with each other, I pray that we will all be able to give thanks as we recognize and celebrate all of the women in our lives who have been used by God to offer us motherly care.
I don’t know about you, but God has used innumerable women to bless my life, love me well, and offer me motherly care when I have needed it most. I have but one biological mother, yet I have many spiritual mothers who have cared for me along the way.
In this category I think of my stepmother who raised me and my sister during our teenage years. I think of my Sunday school teacher who faithfully opened up the Bible to me, week after week when I was a child. I think of my Mama Riddick, an older mother of the church, who carefully watched over me during my college years so I would not get into trouble while I was away from home. And I think of one of you—who recently came into my office and said to me, “I haven’t known you that long but I want you to know I love you and you are a good kid!” (giggles…)
To every woman who has ever lifted a child up in her arms and given her a kiss, bandaged a scraped knee or arm and put a child back on a bicycle, or mentored a child in any other way—this day is for you!
Today is a day to celebrate the many ways in which the Holy Spirit moves in the female heart to offer tender loving care and unconditional love to those in need.
In Jesus’ final days he said to his disciples, “"I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you… And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.”
I am so grateful for the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. I am so glad that Jesus did not leave us comfortless, but sent forth God’s Spirit into the world to be our teacher and guide. I am so thankful that Spirit continues to blow on--and through--each of us, helping us to believe.
Well, in today’s scripture reading we see the work of this Holy Spirit in a wonderful way. Paul has a dream, inspired by Spirit, which leads him to the city of Philippi to share the good news about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection!
When he arrives, it appears that he is unable to find a synagogue, so he goes outside of the city gate and down by the river where God fearing people were known to gather under the open sky, hoping for a travelling teacher to share scripture and pray with them.
At the river, Paul encounters a bunch of women waiting for a word from God. Now, we all know that he could have said, “Let’s go! This isn’t going to be worth our time. It’s just a bunch of women gathered here.” But, he did not.
Instead, the Holy Spirit led him to sit down and visit a while, sharing his faith in Jesus—who lived, died, and rose again to atone for our sin and make provision for our eternal life.
Well, amongst those gathered was a woman named Lydia. She was a very, very wealthy and powerful business woman, who sold purple cloth.
In her day, purple cloth was said to be “worth its weight in silver.” It was a very rare commodity and hard to make. Only those with wealth and power were able to have even just a little bit purple on their clothes and it was usually reserved for nobility or royalty.
Lydia could have been a proud and haughty woman unwilling to learn or to pray, but she was not. When she heard the words of Paul, the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus opened up her heart to believe the good news.
Immediately she and her entire household were baptized, after which she offered the disciples a place in her home to continue the work of evangelism in her city.
Lydia is a wonderful example for all of us on this Mother’s Day weekend. Although we do not know anything about her family situation, we do know that she had a household of folks who believed and were baptized with her. Was she married? Did she have children? Did she care for her aged parents? Did she have brothers, sisters, nieces, or nephews? Did she have servants who cared for her, and for whom she cared? We do not know because scripture and tradition are fairly silent on these matters.
But, we do know that she must have offered motherly-care to her family members and friends. We know this because she is remembered as a God-fearing woman. We know this because on the Sabbath day she was gathered with other women at the river. We know this because she was a businesswoman who worked hard to provide for the needs of her household. And we know this because when she got a-hold of The Word regarding Jesus, she did not keep it to herself, rather she freely shared it with her household and then her city—allowing her home to become The First Church of Philippi.
So, what can we take away from today’s Gospel and Epistle readings? Well, first of all it is important to be a God-fearing person, ready to listen and learn from scripture, and to pray whenever possible. Secondly, it is important to hear and heed the word of God, trusting the Holy Spirit to lead you aright. Finally, it is important to share the good news with your family, friends, and city, so that they too might have the joy of knowing Jesus!
I believe—by faith—that all of us knows someone who lived into these principals throughout his or her life. If it were not so, we would not be in this room today. Someone offered us motherly-care, teaching us the scriptures, praying over our lives, and leading us into a relationship with Jesus.
Whoever that person was, let us give thanks for every single woman (and man), inside, and outside of this room, who has ever been used by the Holy Spirit to offer care, unconditional love, and faithful witness to us. And let us give thanks to the Lord our God, who has loved us with an everlasting love and with loving-kindness drawn us into the eternal circle of God’s love, hug, and smile.
The world is a better place because of all of the people like Lydia, who have been led by Spirit to open up their hearts and homes to Jesus and to God’s children. And we are all a better people, for having experienced the love of God, as revealed in Christ Jesus, that will never, ever let us go.
Alleluia! He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Let us pray:
Thank you for all of the people who have ever offered me motherly love. Thank you especially for Jesus who allowed Love to abandon him to the cross all in order to make atonement for my sin and gift me with eternal life. I am amazed by your love and pledge to share it with others. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
If you have questions about how to become a friend and follower of Jesus, please see the devotion entitled, “Come to Jesus” @ http://bit.ly/JVhaL