Here is your Son, Here is your Mother
John 19: 25-27
During the summer of 1997, I worked at a camp in Pennsylvania, called Camp Hebron. While I was there, I got to do a lot of different things—from maintenance to working in the kitchen, but most of the summer I was a camp counselor.
I had a great time; it was challenging at times, but overall it was a very good experience.
While I worked there that summer, I got to know the camp pastor a little bit. He was a guy from India who was spending part of his time in the U.S. as the pastor for the staff and the campers at this camp.
His name was Sonny, and I loved hearing him talk with his clearly articulated Indian accent.
One evening after he had addressed a group of campers at a campfire, he was talking to a couple of us counselors before we went off to our cabins, and he described his experience growing up in an Indian village. He talked about needing to collect cow dung from the fields to fuel their fire in order to cook food. As a child of the family, it was his duty to do this task.
And so he described going out with a basket on his head to collect dung from the field as part of his growing up experience.
And if I remember right, he talked about how they would collect the dried dung in the baskets, and then carry it back home with the baskets balanced on their heads.
Then he told us how now and then, as they would walk home, it might start to rain.
You can imagine it wouldn’t be the most pleasant experience.
I remember that story…but what I remember most was the lesson he taught us by telling it.
He looked at us, two or three camp counselors, worn out from a week of working with and keeping track of children, he looked at us and said that carrying dung in the rain like that taught him this attitude towards life: In Sonny’s own words, in a way that only he could say it, he said:
“It’s not important that this gets done…but it’s important that I do it.”
I’ve been trying to figure out just what he meant ever since he said it.
I think it has something to do with Mothers Day…and I’d like to explore why I think that with you this morning.
…The typical mothers day sermon I’ve heard tends to emphasize the act of parenting. They’ve tended to really emphasize the importance of family, the important gifts that mothers give to their children—gifts of time, care, nurture, comfort, education, and more.
The more creative ones I’ve heard incorporate some kind of poem about mothering, or they include some kind of list of what mothers do using the word “Mother” and making sure they have something for each letter of the word.
But this week as I went to my meetings and listened to people talk, as I helped plan upcoming events and generally busied myself with all of this important stuff—that line that Sonny said came back into my mind—it’s not important that this gets done, but it’s important that I do it.
And I started to think about all the things that mothers do as they raise their children. Wiping runny noses, wiping up spills, cuddling with them, playing with, speaking to, and laughing with their child…and I started to understand a little bit better what Sonny may have meant.
So it is with becoming Christian people.
It’s a process, not a goal.
In the passage I chose for this morning, Jesus speaks from the cross. He looks at his mother and at his disciple, and he redefines their relationship, in terms of a process—not a goal.
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
Here is your son, here is your mother. In another setting, before he got to the cross, Jesus asked the question “who were his mother and sisters and brothers?”. He went on to say that anyone who does the will of God is his mother and his sister and his brother.
That’s not your typical mother’s day message, is it?
I’ll say this morning, that it takes a lot more than having a baby to be a mother. And in the same way, it takes a lot more than church once a week to follow Jesus.
So—what have you been doing? Where are your priorities?
Just last week, Christine and I had the roof on our house replaced—it was time, it needed to be done. Water was coming in, there were chunks of shingle missing here and there, they were curled and cupped—it was important to get done.
Here at church, as you all might know—the basement was flooded during a heavy rain. Water in the basement is always a problem that needs to be dealt with. And so we had an important issue to take care of in the basement and in the alley.
There is no lack of things in any of our lives that need to be done.
But often those kinds of emergencies are all we end up doing—and so we spend our time taking care of all of these important things…and we avoid the practices that are important for us to do.
And then we wonder why God seems silent and why we’re not growing more mature in our understanding of scripture or in our relationships with other Christians or why more people don’t come to church. We wonder why nothing seems to change.
For hundreds of years, Christian people gave a lot of attention to doing things that helped them to become Christians. They met together, they prayed together, they studied the scriptures together, they fasted, they shared their possessions, they defied the empire that claimed the place of God.
They looked unimportant to the world because they devoted themselves to practicing things that didn’t necessarily need to be done.
But they recognized the importance of doing them.
*We do not become Christian people by accomplishing Christian things.*
*We become Christian people by doing what Christians do.*
Like a mother cares for her child and in so doing becomes more of a mother, so we practice our Christianity and in so doing become more authentically Christian.
This sermon is not important to get done this morning, but it is important that I do it.
Coming to church is not important to get done—but it is important that we do it.
The disciple that Jesus loved took this mother as his own. He accepted her—brought her into his life, into his house. It’s one of those Christian practices called hospitality, one of those things that’s more important to do than it is to get done.
And it’s not even as important for the one receiving the hospitality as it is for the one offering it; because what we do forms who we are…and so I’ll ask again, what are you doing?
This disciple, who had journeyed with Jesus for so long—who had received his teaching, eaten at his table, and now stood at the foot of his cross—this disciple understood what Jesus asks of all who follow him. To take in the widow, to practice hospitality, kindness, to be God’s family to those who have none.
Here is your son, and here is your mother. It’s about more than just a family connection.
Therefore, in the words of 1 John, Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. As we go from here, remember that our faith is like motherhood in this way: that it’s not about what you get done—it’s about what you do.