- Church of the Ascension
- May 8, 2016
Holidays and special days—they are almost every day of the year! In just this month we have Brothers and Sisters Day; Star Wars Day (“may the fourth be with you!”); Cinco de Mayo; Space Day; No Socks Day (that’s today, by the way!); Limerick Day; Chocolate Chip Day (that’s next Sunday, in case you are interested); Turtle Day; Tap Dance Day—and lots of others I had not heard of before.
We honor those who have fought and died for us, on Memorial Day, of course. And today is Mother’s Day—in case you just came in from another planet.
Like many special days, the original intent of Mother’s Day is forgotten. It has been blown out of proportion by businesses that hope to cash in on our sentimentality.
Cards, flowers, going out to dinner—all very nice things—these have nothing to do with how Mother’s Day was originally conceived—to say nothing of it’s being the day with more phone calls than any other day.
There are several people who had a hand in making Mother’s Day a holiday—including Frank Hering, known as the Father of Mother’s Day. The best known are Julia Ward Howe, and two women who shared a name, mother and daughter, Anna Jarvis.
Anna Jarvis lived in rural WVA. She saw how poor practices of hygiene and nutrition were leading to high rates of infant and child mortality.
Before the Civil War she started “Mother’s Day Work Clubs” to help women learn how to take better care of their children. After the war these groups were used in her effort to bring about reunification and reconciliation of divided families.
In 1872 Julia Ward Howe organized a Women’s Peace March in Boston, saying that “no more sons should die in war.”
Well, that worked out, didn’t it?
Anna Reeves Jarvis, the daughter, worked hard to get Mother’s Day recognized as a day to honor women’s work and to promote peace. In 1914 President Wilson declared the 2nd Sunday in May to be Mother’s Day, and the Hallmark Moment began.
The younger Jarvis got disgusted with the commercialism that took over her mother’s idea. She spent the rest of her life fighting to get Mother’s Day off the calendar.
We are living with the unintended consequences of Anna Jarvis’ work to bring health and peace to the job of mothering.
Like every holiday, there are many who revel and enjoy and make a big deal of the event, and there are others for whom the day is painful—a day they would like to ignore and forget. Let us remember them, even as we may be celebrating.
Today is also the day to honor Julian of Norwich. She was a 14th C mystic whose name comes from the Church of St. Julian where she lived. She was an anchoress—she lived in a room built outside the church walls.
There was a window to the outside where she prayed with people from the city, and was fed by them, and a window into the church so she could participate in worship.
Her book of 16 “showings,” or revelations, is thought to be the earliest book in English written by a woman.
Along with Julia Ward Howe and the Anna Jarvises, Julian is also a woman to remember on Mother’s Day. She wrote of Jesus and God as being our Mother.
“It is characteristic of God to overcome evil with good. Jesus Christ therefore, who himself overcame evil with good is our true mother.
“We received our ‘Being’ from him—and this is where his maternity starts—and with it comes gentle protection and guard of love which will never cease to surround us.
“Just as God is our Father, so God is also our Mother.”
Just as mothers are known for fiercely defending their children, she wrote, “For I saw no wrath except on man’s side, and (God) forgives that in us, for wrath is nothing else but a perversity and an opposition to peace and to love.”
She wrote that God sees us as perfect and waits for the day when human souls mature so that evil and sin will no longer hold us back from being our true selves.
In her visions, God showed her the world no bigger than a hazel nut. This is good to think about from time to time, as is her most quoted line, God showed her “that all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
Those are beautiful words, and they look lovely embroidered on a pillow, but they can be difficult for us, too.
In her visions Julian saw God’s ultimate plan for all creation. That is what she is writing about. The ultimate time is not yet with us. The world is filled with hatred and division. We are called to use our lives to work with God to help bring this harmony and peace. “So that all may be one,” as Jesus prayed.
We know from experience that God does not magically fix whatever is wrong. We have to be doing something about it.
We are encouraged to pray, to open ourselves to how God might be directing us, and then to do it—with God’s help.
In case you were wondering—this is not just a history lesson—Mother’s Day, Julian and the Gospel are all connected.
The prayer of Jesus that we just heard is about us and for us. We are the ones who believe in Jesus through the words of those earlier disciples.
Jesus said, “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
We have this love, Jesus says, “so that the world may believe that (God) sent me.”
On Thursday we celebrated Ascension Day. Jesus departed from this world and left the Holy Spirit in his stead. The wonderful thing about the Spirit is that, while Jesus could be in only one place at a time, the Spirit is everywhere all the time.
The women who worked so hard for a mother’s day for peace were moved by the Spirit in their work. The world that is not moved by the Spirit rejected the idea of peace. So we have flowers and cards and phone calls instead for Mother’s Day.
And there are still many women, and men, working for peace and unity. Working to dispel hatred and violence. Working to educate mothers about childbirth and child rearing—the same issues that moved Anna Jarvis in rural WVA.
We can all find some cause, or some people, that move our hearts, and that can benefit from our help.
This kind of work is Spirit-powered.
There are people who spend their lives praying for others, helping others experience the abundance of love that God has for each of us.
We don’t have to wall ourselves away like Julian. We can pray sitting in a comfy chair at home. We can pray while we are stopped in traffic, or in the supermarket. Wherever we are we can lift up our concerns to God.
This kind of work is Spirit-powered.
If you have ever had an “aha!” moment when you felt love or compassion in a new way, that was a Spirit powered moment. Maybe it was something you said or did for someone else. Maybe it was something someone else said or did for you.
A friend said that she’d seen a troubling movie that has moved her to finally do something about alternative power for her house. She was given a nudge to do something she’d thought about, but put off. That was a Spirit nudge.
Sometimes we do something, and later reflect on it in amazement. We realize that we have done something unexpected, out of character, unplanned, and we have shared God’s love. That was a Spirit nudge.
Be ready for a Spirit nudge any day, every day.
I started with a list of some of the special days or holidays in May. Holiday means “holy day” so every day is a day to be aware of God’s Spirit present and working in our lives. I admit that some don’t fit this description—such as “no socks day”!
Next Sunday is Pentecost, when we celebrate the Spirit coming to the disciples. We don’t have to wait—at our Baptism the Spirit came to stay!
Every day is a day to be aware of the Spirit’s presence. Every day is a day to feel a Spirit nudge. Every day is a day to find ways to share God’s love to the world.
We are the way the world knows God.