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Acts 17:26-28; John 14:15-20; May 14, 2023; Sixth Sunday of Easter; Mother’s Day

There’s a parable I really like by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach. It goes like this:

A wandering man once came upon a tree with sweet fruits, a pleasant shade, and a stream of water flowing beneath it. The man ate from its fruits, drank from its water, and relaxed in its shade. As he was about to depart, a refreshed traveler, he turned to the tree and said:

“Tree, oh tree, how can I bless you? Shall I bless you so that your fruits should be sweet? Oh, but they already are! Shall I bless you with a pleasant shade? Oh, but you already have it! Shall I bless you so that a stream of water passes beneath you? Oh, but one already does! All I think I can bless you with then is that the trees which are your offspring shall be just like you.”

The parable is really sweet, right? That our offspring could all be so lucky to be blessed just like us. But personally, I also kind of like my own adaptation which ends not there, but here, with the tree calling back to the man, saying

“Well, if you can bless my offspring for real, bless them to be something freer and safer than me; so that the world won’t steal from their fruit, and take from their water, and then have the audacity to sit in their shade.”

I have a friend, a mother, who once told me that the most frequent critique she’s heard from her colleagues is that she has a “resting B—- face.” But as she reminded me, just as she reminds all of them, she wouldn’t have that face if the world would quit giving her reasons to wear it.

Yes, I imagine it isn’t easy being a mom today. Because I mean, shoot, it isn’t easy being a dad today. All of our offspring are collectively facing seemingly endless invasions from every outside influence in life. Their innocence, their fruit feels like it’s being stolen; their hope, their water looks like it’s being polluted; their shade and sense of security appears so noticeably diminished, that even in the former safe havens of sanctuaries and schools, it feels like a balancing act and a tightrope walk every single day.  Doesn’t it?

Just this week, my son came home with a story about a kid in his class who was suspended because he brought a bullet into school and said that he wanted to hurt people. This is true, this happened. A bullet. And my son, you might remember, is only seven years old…

See, I think that when it comes to our offspring most of us want our kids to inherit a life that is NOT like our own; for our own today is riddled with too much anxiety about what they, and we, are all dealing with and facing. I imagine that most of us instead want a life for our kids, and for ourselves, that is freer and safer than this one; a different life where water runs clearer and fruit doesn’t spoil, and where trees are protected for their beauty and their shade and their oxygen.

And so really, regardless if you have offspring or not, or if you are a mom or not, all of us here, I think, clearly care about this next generation (see, our capital campaign), and thus, I think all of us have a motherly-like interest in our children and what comes next for them; especially, and because truthfully, it seems that just too many of them are not okay. …and if they’re not, know it’s not always because you’ve done a bad job, it’s just there are so many moments in between.

Caring for our children today really doesn’t come easy, now does it? No… not really. So, I imagine then that for some, today isn’t this wildly celebratory and happy-sort-of day. In fact, I’d wager that many here live in homes which have already been worried sick; and are facing anxiety and depression; illness and crisis; or, have tried but couldn’t; or, have never had the chance to, but always wanted to…

And while I really don’t mean to be a downer today…and I promise I’ll greet everyone with a smile at the end by the door… it’s just, it’s just that I am around too many folks who amidst the flowers and the brunches, also feel the pangs of sadness, as well as other things like regret, or guilt, or fear. And so, I think the Spirit has urged me to leave room in here, in this safe space, in our sanctuary, for people like them and perhaps for people like you too. So that all of you know that this church is with you, supporting and loving you all the same.

Some weeks ago, when I prayed about this message, the first words that kept coming back to me were “Iron and Wine.” And that’s not because I was drinking wine, or maybe I was. But it also just so happens to be the stage name for Sam Beam, the guy who wrote the song that I asked Russ Starke to sing for you all just a minute ago. Now, Upward Over the Mountain isn’t exactly the cheeriest Happy Mother’s Day message one can offer, that I will give you. But there is something in it that is so real and so raw, that I think gets to what a lot of mothers and us mother-like-figures deal with when thinking about our kids.

Now I’m pretty sure my wife doesn’t like the song. In fact, she’s told me so on numerous occasions that she doesn’t. But, I love it; and I think it’s because it acknowledges the ups and the downs and the messiness and randomness and surprises of it all. Because it’s really not like Instagram or the movies, now is it? Those little white lies that they feed us. Parenting and growing up is more like a bunch of stops and starts, and farts and throw ups, failures and achievements, and mostly in the end something like acceptance and hope. Hope that everyone will be okay, even through the thick and the thin.

“Mother I made it…Mother I lost it…
Mother forgive me…Mother don’t worry…
But may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten…”                                         

                                                -Iron and Wine; Upward Over the Mountain


Our scripture today tells us that we are God’s own, and that God is not far from any of us. And that none of us will ever be orphaned, for with us and in us, God’s Spirit lives and abides.

In every corner then, my friends, where we find ourselves resting and rehabbing, or where we come upon our children sleeping or crying; and in every prison where we feel stuck, or where our offspring have dwindled into a puddled mess on the floor, try to have hope that God is still there with them.

For as we are also told elsewhere in scripture — in all things present and in all the things to come, in every height of desire and in every anxiety of depth, in all of life and in all the things that feel like death, we have been given hope that nothing in life can ever divide us from God, and that we are never alone, for we now and have always been God’s own. God’s offspring.

And so if we care about our children in the way that we do – in the ways that I know that we do – just imagine how much more a perfect being must be able to.

And so I leave you (or try to leave you) today with that hope, and with the hope that you will all have a wonderful day; and that everyone, parents and kids alike, will in the end get over the mountain and be okay…

But also, I hope that each of you remember that if today or in the days to come you feel like the fruit has gone bad, and the water gone brown… please, please know that this church, and this minister, but better yet and above all, this God, is here to sit with you in the shade, and listen and support and love you always.

My friends, may the Son bring hope even where it’s been forgotten.


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