This message was prepared for Mother’s Day at Berkeley Springs Presbyterian Church in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, which is not currently meeting in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic. My hope is that the video below (once the link is available) and the sermon text that you can read below will help you to worship–especially on a Sunday when you are unable to worship together. I went with the theme of “Hi, Mom!” because the message is for the church where my mom is a member and a church that ministered to me as a child. But I don’t want to give away more than that without you looking to see what it is all about. The passages are selections from the Gospel of Matthew.
Hi, Mom! Even before photobombing selfies was a thing, people would stand in the background of a live video feed and wave while saying aloud or holding signs saying, “Hi, mom!” And this video message is not only going live on just any Mother’s Day—it is going live on Mother’s Day while many are shut in their homes to avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus. You have probably seen stories of people standing outside of nursing home windows to wave to their moms. You may even drive by your mom’s home today to say hello from a safe distance. It was more challenging for kids to make something for mom this year since they couldn’t do it at school and it would not surprise me if not as many cards are sent in the mail this year since we’re making fewer trips to the store. In some places there are even travel restrictions—the rumor I heard was that Maryland State Police may pull over vehicles with New York license plates like mine and tell them they have to go back to New York. So I may not be the only one making a video for Mother’s Day to say, “Hi, Mom!” But it is my privilege to not only wish my own mom a happy Mother’s Day with this video but also to wish all of the moms out there who watch this a happy Mother’s Day. In particular, allow me to wish a special Shalom to all of the mothers who belong to Berkeley Springs Presbyterian Church and for me to say happy Mother’s Day to the church itself. For those who don’t know, I was a member of this congregation as a child back in the 1980s. My parents and grandparents were members of Berkeley Springs Presbyterian during that decade until we moved away and my parents are members there again these days. Thus I get to say, “Hi, Mom!” to my mom and to this particular church of which I am a son. In the church, Mother’s Day is an opportunity not only to recognize moms but also to recognize that the whole congregation is a mother to the next generation of those who learn to put their faith in Jesus. This is not some clever metaphor that I’ve invented in order to comfort those who are unable to have children or who have lost children even though Mother’s Day is a difficult day for many Christians. Nor is this a clever metaphor that I came up with to keep the men who may be listening from tuning out because they think the message is not for them. Scripture itself speaks of the church as a mother. The comparison comes naturally. After all, the matriarchs of Israel were not only types of the bride of Christ—His church—but they were also mothers to Him and, therefore, to future generations of His church. You can find sermons on my website that will further elaborate that point. [Here is one] But today we will look at a few rather shocking passages where Jesus speaks of mothers in the Gospel of Matthew.
- When the mother and brothers of Jesus were standing outside asking to speak with Him, Jesus didn’t say, “Hi, Mom!”
- Jesus doesn’t sound like your typical conservative “family values” political candidate in these passages; please forgive me for the analogy—but He sounds more like Donald Trump on Twitter. President Trump is divisive and provocative whether you love him or hate him or a little of both. And Jesus is being intentionally divisive in these verses. He’s not saying slogans like, “The family that prays together, stays together #MyFamilyIsMyIdol.” To the contrary, Jesus says things like, “I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law #HiMom!” Then He adds another tweet to the thread: “And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. #HappyMothersDay!” And to said thread Jesus adds, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. #FamilyValues!” Or consider this gem of divisiveness: “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household. #TheseMightyWorksAreFromGod.” And here’s another one: “Leave houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, or etc., for my name’s sake, and receive a hundredfold and eternal life #NewWorldOrder.” (And that’s just it: Jesus wasn’t an adorable kid saying, “Hi, Mom!” Jesus was shaking things up.)
- Jesus was being divisive and provocative because the gospel was divisive and provocative. The gospel has always been divisive and provocative because apart from Jesus there is no good news. Thus the good news about Jesus divided families in the days of the early church and it still divides families today. Now you may love your mom and dad and your children no matter what choices they have made or will make in life. But people have not always and do not always think and act that way. In the days of the early church, some Jewish people followed Christ. But others didn’t want to have anything to do with Jesus and disowned those who did. Likewise today, I could suggest that you ask someone who grew up in a family of atheists but now is a follower of Jesus how becoming a Christian has changed their relationship with their parents. An even closer analogy might be the all-too-common practice of parents in Muslim communities to disown a child who confesses Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior. That child’s family then becomes his or her enemies. The parents may not even be regulars at the mosque. They may be Muslims in name only, but their children are forbidden to go to church. So when you tell someone about Jesus, you may be asking them to give up everything. In extreme cases, a family might persecute their own child even unto death for converting to Christianity. They take seriously the quip, “I brought you into this world and I can take you out of it.” It is in just such a context that Jesus promises, “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt 10:39). (Jesus understood the stakes. He understood the consequences. Eventually He would experience it Himself when He died upon just such a wooden stake. So when the mother and brothers of Jesus were standing outside asking to speak with Him, Jesus didn’t say, “Hi, Mom!”)
asked, “Who is my mother?”
- There is an obvious answer to the question. Like all of us, Jesus has a biological mother. We know a fair amount about his mother Mary from the New Testament Gospels. He even had biological half-brothers and half-sisters. The names of his half-brothers were James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. James and Jude would eventually become followers of Jesus and write letters that are included in the New Testament. Their father Joseph, who also raised Jesus as his own, was a carpenter. Of course, the reason that the Gospel of Matthew mentioned some of these details is that familiarity with and within the family caused some people to be offended at Jesus. Thus the saying, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” (Nevertheless, Jesus tells us that He came to set family members against each other in order that some might be saved. His calling was to tear families apart. But He didn’t just tear families apart for the sake of tearing families apart.)
- Jesus answers the question, “Who is my mother?” by stretching out His hand to His disciples and saying, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matt 12:50). His disciples are His mother and His brothers. He says, “Hi, Mom!” to the church. Yes, Jesus tears apart biological families because the gospel is divisive but then He puts together a unified church family. In this new family, sons are not set against their Father in heaven, daughters are not set against their mother, and daughters-in-law are not set against their mother-in-law. By faith in Jesus, He is our elder brother and the church is our mother. Indeed, in this new family, sons of God are at peace with the Father, daughters are being discipled by their mother, and daughters-in-law (or better yet, daughters-in-the-gospel) are being discipled by their mothers-in-law (or mothers-in-the-gospel). Thus before we say, “Hi, Mom!” we have to ask with Jesus, “Who is my mother?” So this Mother’s Day you might think about those people who have been like your mothers-in-the-gospel. These are women that you have looked up to for guidance and direction, women who set an example of a living faith that you want to imitate, and other women who do the will of our Heavenly Father. You might also think about those churches who have been a mother to you in faith and think about how you can honor her. And yes, whether or not they approve of your faith in Jesus, you might say, “Hi, Mom!” to your biological mother, or your adoptive mother, or to other women who raised you. I know that not everyone is as lucky as I am to have a mom who is a believer in Christ. Indeed, some have been disowned by their mom because they now believe in Jesus. And there are many people whose relationship with their mom is somewhere in between these extremes. Nevertheless, because you have experienced the love of God in Christ Jesus, you can love such a mom no matter what choices they have made or will make in their life. You can truly love your mom only because you love Jesus more. You have been set free to love your biological or adoptive mother because the church is now your mom. In any case, won’t you join with me and say, “Hi, Mom!” and find some way to show her God’s blessing today. Amen.